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Portland, Oregon, United States

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Graffiti Discussion continues

Since most people probably don't check back that far, I'm gonna copy and paste some comments on my older post about Ben's article in the CPJ.

Anonymous said...

It's the fault of the fucking system, the management, that the minimum wage workers have to clean the graffiti. Why can't they leave it?

And what makes it a "mockery"? You do, because you assign the word to it. I don't think it's a mockery, I think it's just someone expressing their feelings on wall, with a marker.

When people say it isn't art is what upsets me the most because I don't think it's anyone's job to criticize another person's art. It's totally dada and it's fine and shouldn't be removed by anyone.

What happened to free speech? anti-censorship?

December 18, 2007 2:27 PM

Ben Jammin said...

For my Anonymous poster.
I noticed you commented with some questions about my article. After reading your comments, I thought over my article and came up with a few things I wanted you to respond to.

I divided your comment into about 5 sections and I am going to go one at a time so I can keep my thoughts separated.

1.)“It's the fault of the fucking system, the management, that the minimum wage workers have to clean the graffiti. Why can't they leave it?”
Response:
I suspect that many building owners don’t want ideas represented on their buildings that were not discussed or agreed upon by the people who work or live in there. I imagine it is a bit like waking up with “balls” written on your face. You don’t want somebody else speaking for you on your buildings, any more than you want someone writing something you had no part in making and signing your name to it.

2.) “And what makes it a "mockery"? You do, because you assign the word to it. I don't think it's a mockery, I think it's just someone expressing their feelings on wall, with a marker.”
Response:
I decided the key things/questions here are:
“Why is graffiti a mockery of social change?” and “Is graffiti self expression?”

Graffiti mocks social change by presenting messages of change, in a form that undermines that purpose. “The violence, the crime, repetition of the old and worn-out, all of these things are outputs of our social system. Far from opposing the things wrong with our society this graffiti amplifies and glorifies the wrong by repackaging it as “rebellion”(or social change).” –I know it is dumb to quote yourself but it seemed like the correct thing to write.

There is also a chance that what you meant was that I personally have changed graffiti into a mockery and that I should knock it off. I would say that Is a very flattering thing to say but the damage is done. Now that I have seen the flaws in graffiti as social change I will not be able to shut my eyes to them. I will also say that since I have changed graffiti in to a mockery, the people doing it need to change their tactics so that they will no longer make a mockery of the things they want. I look forward to what they can create.

3.)“When people say it isn't art is what upsets me the most…
Response:
I think for this part I would need from you a definition of art. For me art is something that serves a social function. If a composition (drawing, music, etc…) does not propose something new it can very often serve to reinforce current climates. Those things I that do not propose something new would be closer to crafts then art. Using this definition, the graffiti is merely a craft displayed as a sad reflection of a struggling social system.

4.) “…because I don't think it's anyone's job to criticize another person's art. “
Response:
This is perhaps the key argument to your comment and for me it is, honestly, the most frightening.

Criticizing* is to look at what someone says, weigh its consequences, and respond. Thinking about what someone says is what gives thought and expression it’s power. If people are saying things, but no one is thinking about it, or criticizing it, and working to find the holes and fix them, speech might as well be white noise. It is criticism that gives art and thought its capacity to enact change.

When taught that questioning what someone believes is wrong or rude, we repress our ability to be skeptical. Ideas are left untested and unrefined because we are instructed to tolerate their flaws. Argument is all but completely devalued if we accept conflicting views instead of challenging them. All that is left after this kind of tolerance is comparison between alike and dislike. Conversation becomes a means of recording thought without examining its ramifications.
We become trapped in a sea of unrefined and thoughts because we are too afraid of seeming impolite or intolerant.

“What happened to free speech? Anti-censorship?”
Tolerance is what has happened to free speech. It is a censor that operates by allowing thoughts to be spoken and then immediately sinking them into irrelevance, devaluing what someone has to say by allowing it to exist, and at the same time, depriving it of meaning and all capacity to enact change.
More deadly still, tolerance can be applied to ones self. There is little point in discovering new and better ideas when we are too afraid to implement them. Tolerating flaws in your own thinking put a hold on your ability to progress into better things. Tolerance hides beneath something seemingly polite and turns it into a graveyard for progress in yourself and others.
I fear I am being unclear. Please take this example. -The discussion that ends with the polite agreement to disagree.-
To agree that you will both remain set and stubborn in your thinking until the end of time. It is an ending to let you leave a conversation without coming to a conclusion and both parties having ideas with flaws unchallenged.
If I have found fault in the graffiti and the creator continues to use it, the creator is no better than the system he is a part of.
If you are anti-censorship I would ask you to please try and respond and criticize all the things you see that are wrong in life and in art. This repressive and “benign” tolerance is frightening when it is unseen. Please fight to find problems and push until they have been repaired. Don’t settle for “at least they are trying”.

Please write back, I would like, and need to be criticized. ; )


*(according to the Merriam- Webster online dictionary)
To Criticize: 1 : to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly
2 : to find fault with : point out the faults of

3 comments:

Ben Jammin said...

Conversation is not war. also i love you. also...Go LIME!

haxman29@msn.com said...

So I'm just gonna do a line-by-line of your post because a bunch of it is full of a bunch of crap.

-you said:
((Graffiti mocks social change by presenting messages of change, in a form that undermines that purpose. “The violence, the crime, repetition of the old and worn-out, all of these things are outputs of our social system. Far from opposing the things wrong with our society this graffiti amplifies and glorifies the wrong by repackaging it as “rebellion”(or social change).” –I know it is dumb to quote yourself but it seemed like the correct thing to write.))

First, I'd say that you give no reason at all to why what you're saying is true. Who packages graffiti, eh? Not anyone with any business interests, that's for sure. But aside from that, I'd say that political graffiti can help create social change by promulgating ideas that don't get much air time in corporate media. If capitalists get to reach huge numbers of people each day with their media, why shouldn't we get the same privilege? You say graffiti is just a repackaged form of the problems it claims to be attacking, and if making graffiti was *all* that taggers do, I'd agree with you, but (and this may be a new concept to you, so bear with me) people can do multiple things in their life. Most of the graffiti artists I know, and yes it's quite a few, are also involved in other radical movements such as Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass, or various collectively run institutions around town. In fact, I'd say that the very fact that you have any graffiti to complain about is evidence of its power for social change, since it could be viewed as an indicator of the growing popularity of radical movements.
Also, graffiti sets an example. It sets the example that anyone can turn their entire life into whatever they want it to be. It says that "If you want your life to be filled with beauty, you can do it, and you don't need to buy or sell anything to do it."

--you said:
((For me art is something that serves a social function))
WHAT?? Bullshit! You don't think ANYTHING that anyone does to express their thoughts, emotions, etc, is art? Not a single thing? Since when is poetry a "craft"? And besides, how does graffiti NOT serve a social function? It serves as a forum for those in opposition to traditional media outlets to express their views without having to go through the media they despise.
Also, I'd say that graffiti artists are constantly posing new artistic ideas. The idea of using the world around you as a canvas is a revolutionary, and until-now practically unrecognized concept. Think of the implications of making your entire life into a work of art.

It seems that you want graffiti artsits to find some other medium to express their views, but I defy you to find another medium that is as effective, and is also as free of hypocrisy or classism. Graffiti is a medium that is TRULY open to anyone to partake in. Even the poorest of the poor can scrounge up the 96 cents for a can of off-brand spray paint, and many just steal it anyway. (And shut it. Theft from Wal-Mart isn't crime it's heroism.)

(a)//(e)

haxman29 said...

HA. I feel like a fool, cause this was a comment on a blog that was quoting someone else's blog and I missed that! If you want to pass that on, though, that'd be great.