Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Writing on the Wall

One of the great things about working in the library is that I stumble across some very splendid books it wouldn't occur to me to look for.

I picked up the excellent Wall and Piece about graffiti superstar Banksy.

He has some very thought-provoking things to say about writing on walls:

"There is no elitism or hype... and nobody is put off by the price of admission."

"The people who run our cities don't understand graffiti ...they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless."

"The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back."

"...graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three kinds of people: politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers."

I have never really graffiti'd anything - except in chalk (made-up gods for the new religion I founded. aged 9 - which was frowned upon). Oh and I was a guest of the New Zealand Chalksters in Auckland last year - they take 'guerilla* poetry' out onto the streets quite literally with giant chalks - they make an impact but not a permanent (i.e. criminal) one.

What do you think? Free art or menace to society?

Scrawl your replies below...

Continued in this post

* No poems about gorillas, please.


  1. Having read the quotes, there isn't much I'm at odds with. In some respects, Art seems to have little value in our society unless it's beamed at us by those who control it. You know the sort of line, if it isn't hanging in a gallery, it really doesn't have credibility, the 'rubber stamp'. It's down to us, I guess, how we value Art and whether we always need to have it prescribed for us. Perhaps it's still a cultural hurdle, a place for everything and everything in its place?

  2. If I thought someone was going to permanently cover up a beautiful line of bricks that I'd laid, well - I don't know much about art, but I know what I like.

  3. I'd rather have advertising posters.

  4. I think some grafitti is amazing, and not a menace at all. It's a menace when is degrading someone or something though, you know, like toilet door grafitti in the pub? LOL ;o)

  5. I go along with free art. The only statement of Banksy's that I take an issue with is the one about people who run cities not understanding graffiti. How can the graffiti squads sent out to clean up the streets make the decision of what is art and what isn't? I don't mean that guys or gals who work on the graffiti squads are not well-placed to make a judgement on the weighty matter of what is art; it's simply that they have a job to do ie. remove it, because a lot of it defaces our built environment.

    I like artisitc graffiti but not the crude stuff that Jessica refers to, or material likely to incite anything nasty.

    But if local authorities were to designate spaces for grafitti then that would remove the anarchy and probably the kick people get out of doing it.

    I've just taken a long time to say 'I don't know'. Sorry!

  6. Martin - It's interesting, isn't it, how reasonable it sounds in principle? I think it comes down to 'what is art?' - in my book something has to be especially apt, amusing, thought-provoking and sensitive to location, to be acceptable as graffiti.

    Dave - Fair enough, but I would love to have an amazing piece of art on the hideous new (unwanted on this side) 4m high brick party wall my neighbour has built between us... which no-one has thought to ask after...

    Rog - Elucidate! You'd rather have any adverts than any graffiti?

    Jessica & Christine - Yes, of course most of it is sh*t (although I have also seen funny and poignant toilet door comments which made me laugh/ think and I'm ok with that. But there are places around Birkenhead Docks with vast expanses of brick wall that - for me - is crying out for something more uplifting on what is essentially a canvas.

    Does anyone want to see more pictures?

  7. Interesting the synchronicity that sometimes occurs in cyberspace: Just yesterday, my writing colleague, Carol-Ann, put up a post on RA on street art (the third annual Sarasota chalk festival, incredible stuff).

    I do have a problem, however, with willy-nilly graffiti. I lived in New York City during a period when every single subway car had its windows painted over with graffiti and you could not see out to know when you came to your stop. My patience for graffiti has long ago been exhausted. I put it in the same category as a boom box or public cell phone yammering: one person taking up far more than his or her fair share of the available space.

    It seems to me that something like the Sarasota chalk festival is the way to go: how about sending those terrific chalkers (as well as BB!) over to the Birkenhead Docks?

    And yes, would love to see more pictures.

  8. Paint pictures of flowers on your wall. A garden that never needs weeding.

  9. Rainy - that's spooky! I also came across another blog with animal graffiti on it - I'll mention yours and theirs in today's post! You put into words nicely something I was thinking too - about taking more than your share of space. Pleeeease send your chalkers to Birkenhead!

    Dave - It may come to that!

  10. Hey Clare, thanks for stopping by my blog!
    I think graffiti is beautiful. I was watching this movie called At First Sight with Val Kilmer in it. His character was a blind man who had surgery done to give him sight for the first time since he was an infant. Everything was completely new to him, and his girlfriend was taking him around the city to introduce him to the sights. She was trying to show him this statue, but instead he started walking towards this wall covered with graffiti. "Beautiful," he said.

    By the way, I used to work at a library, and I agree, there are so many books I never would have known about if I hadn't worked there. I also have this poster I got from the children's room. It says: "Librarians are heroes every day", and it has a picture of a librarian walking past a window with a reflection of Batgirl on it.