Graffiti - The Unlawful Art

Graffiti - The Unlawful Art

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One day in the afternoon while I was surfing on the Internet, one of my friends forwarded a really interesting website addressed www.stillfree.com to me. At the beginning, I thought it was some kind of shopping promotional website but after clicking on it, an interesting video popped up. I saw a man being video recorded while he was climbing up a fence of a military airport. Then, he ran quickly towards the Air Force One, which is the personal aircraft of the President of the United States, and tagged a graffiti drawing on the jet. It gave me a big shock after watching the video because that man actually sneaked in to the US military airbase and tagged the Air force One aircraft. The event was being broadcast on some major TV channels. After making everything clear, I realized that video was not really took place at the US airbase and it was actually made up by a prominent fashion designer Marc Ecko.
The whole process of the video was so real, but it came up as a campaign video to promote the art of graffiti. There are many different points of view on graffiti and it has always aroused arguments on its legalization. Graffiti can be recognized as a form of art, or crime.
Graffiti consists of inscriptions, slogans and drawings scratched, scribbled or painted on a wall or other public or private surface. According to The Dictionary of Art, the word "graffiti" is derived from the Greek term "graphein" (to write) and the word "graffiti" itself is plural of the Italian word "graffito." Graffiti is also a form of self-expression. It is the means used to express the artist's identity, feelings, and ideas. The art of graffiti is also a kind of communication that links people regardless their cultural, lingual, or racial differences. When graffiti was first becoming popular, the tools being used were mostly wide tipped markers and spray cans.
Graffiti can also be analyzed according to the elements of lines, color, and structures that are present in the work in order to produce a narrative about it. The graffitist first does a sketch, and then he or she plans out characters and selects colors. Next, the artist selects his or her surface and does a preliminary outline, followed by a filling in of colors and ornamentation, and then the final outline is completed.
However, graffiti is not readily accepted as being art like those works that are found in a gallery or a museum.

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The Graffiti Control Program held by the City of San Diego once claimed that graffiti is not an art, but it is vandalism. It is because at the origin, most of the people paint on walls, buildings, fences and other surfaces without the permission of the property owners. In fact, the program spends more than $1 million on graffiti abatement education and enforcement. This amount does not include the millions more spent by other public agencies, utility companies and private property owners to remove graffiti from their properties. Nationwide, the American public spends nearly $12 billion each year to fight graffiti.
For Graffiti artists to practice their art, they’ve had to live in the most extreme situations. They have been chased by police or fallen off of buildings. They’ve done their art amongst the homeless or been in alleys. Graffiti does not mean the gangs are in a neighborhood. In most places, graffiti were written by “taggers”. A tagger writes his or her nickname (“tag”) such as “BUSTER” or “RLP” so that his or her peers will see it. Taggers vandalize all parts of the city, and are not necessarily tied to a specific neighborhood. In some part of the country, taggers have started to mimic gangs by becoming increasingly violent. Besides stealing most of the materials they use to tag (it is illegal to sell spray paint to minors), Many vandals have started to carry weapons to protect themselves from gangs or rival tagging crew. Therefore, the public would generalize graffiti artists as gangsters or criminal.
This form of “art” is seen by many people as a sign of urban decay and it maybe a crime. News from New York Times on April 14 2008 reported that Oakland University had to cancel classes, sports and cultural activities for to days due to the threatening graffiti found in three men’s restrooms. The action was done to ensure the safety of the entire campus community. Also, there is news reported that 5 people being killed by street graffitists as they tried to stop them from scribbling on wall. Those graffitists claimed that they carry weapons to protect themselves and their “territory”.
Their markings would qualify as crime if the initiative intentions were to be rebellious. According to the analysis of the NYC recorded crime statistics, graffiti arrests have been rising: from 1,237 in 2003 to 1,446 in 2004, 2,585 in 2005 and 2,962 last year. There were 1,583 graffiti arrests in the first six months of this year. According to the City Council, since 2002, New York City has removed more than 77 million square feet of graffiti. Last year alone, agencies spent about $13.5 million for paint, labor and equipment to clean up graffiti. The police Vandals Task Force, formed two years ago, have an intelligence database of more than 2,000 names that allows commanders to spot graffiti "hot spots." The unit also has reward money for graffiti information. About $25,000 has been given out so far. Personally I think the huge amount of money spent by the government to eliminate the unwanted graffiti can actually be used productively to invest in other ways, such as subsidizing local artists or art galleries. Perhaps by doing so, it can decrease the graffiti vandalism because graffiti artist has got their sponsors to buy materials or “tag” legally.
Graffiti could be an assault on property, either public or private. Graffiti artists have to show evidence and prove to public that their works are worth being appreciated. After all, it is a really sad case if an artist’s work is seen as illegal after all the hard work, isn’t it?

Works Cited
"Graffiti Control Program". The city of San Diego Gov. 10.24.2008 .
Philips, Susan A. "Graffiti Definition: The Dictionary of Art". Grove's Dictionaries Inc.. 10.24.2008 .
"Threatening Graffiti Leads College to Cancel Classes - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 14 Apr. 2008. 24 Oct. 2008.
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