The public should decide whether to keep Graffiti
Bristol, reputedly the home of Banksy the famous Graffiti artist, is planning to let the public vote before murals are scrubbed or painted over with photographs being put on the council website and residents able to vote. Is this a way of preserving good art or a waste of time?
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good graffiti is a form of art
The art of Banksy and artists like him is skilfully created, visually appealing and carries an important message. People want to see it. This was proven by the success of the Banksy exhibition in Liverpool, which was ' forced to introduce late-night openings to keep up with visitor numbers'. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6116779/Is-graffiti-art-Public-to-decide.html). According to the Guardian 'It has seen as many visitors in its 16-week run as the museum normally attracts in a year.' (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/aug/31/graffiti-art-bristol-public-vote). For that reason alone, it should not just be casually erased.
This ignores the fact that the graffiti was put there illegally. Drawing on property without the consent of the owner is illegal. On public property you cannot give consent retrospectively. Vital values of society have been broken, regardless of how aesthetically pleasing the work maybe, it should still be scrubbed off to show society that such vandalism is not acceptable.
a step towards more variety in art
Recognising skilfully drawn graffiti as art pave the way for more and more newer, more obscure styles of art to be officially classified as art and therefore for independent artists who can't make money, especially younger artists, to become more popular and start making money.
Some art isn't as highly valued simply because it isn't very good. Many people do not in fact welcome more relaxed guidelines on what counts as art. For instance, Damien Hirst dissecting and preserving dead animals or Tracy Emin's unmade bed are viewed by some as revolutionary developments in modern art and others as sort of disgusting and definitely overpriced.
encourages disadvantaged young people to be interested in art
Young people from deprived areas and from black communities are target groups that will be interested in graffiti and will benefit from seeing it accepted as an art form, as they will be involved in a community project where they are respected, their opinions will count and they will learn to produce art that sells as well as being discouraged from activities that will land them in trouble with the police. Councillor Gary Hopkins, cabinet member for Environment and Community Safety, promises that the project can already 'get the kids that have been involved in illegal tagging and get the artist to train them.' (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6116779/Is-graffiti-art-Public-to-decide.html)
This solves nothing. The premise that this argument rests on is 'instead of asking why are these kids breaking rules, let us legalise their illegal conduct'. Of course this will result in less crime! But it has not hit the heart of the issue, all we would be doing is allowing vandalism. And the fact of the matter is that if such conduct was allowed, then most troubled young people would turn to something else which was illegal. They thrive off the taboo, legalizing graffiti takes that taboo away.
my house, I decide what goes on my walls
Graffiti is a violation of other people's space. It forces someone to to have a certain image painted on their walls, which they may find aesthetically displeasing or even offensive. It is your right to do something about that violation.
What about shared public places? Who owns them – the community collectively, the Government or the people who live closest to them and have to see them every day? And how far does it go – if I do a beautiful piece of graffiti on the wall of the Home Office building, should I get a lengthy prison sentence for tampering with a Government building or should my work be legally protected so that the employees can benefit from seeing it? Besides, you don't have any choice over anything else about your house, unless you actually built it yourself, either the Council or your landlord controls it, why should the paint on the walls be any different?
people don't vote for any other type of art
The local community has no say over what goes in their local art gallery. It is down to what is available at the time and what will bring in the most money. The only reason that the programme is being suggested at all is because Banksy is so popular that he is bringing in money. When his popularity fades away, what will happen to the finances of the programme?
Other art isn't painted on the wall of your house without consulting you first. Besides, some people think you should be able to vote bad art out of the galleries as well, to save people having to put up with it. An open source media lab such as Access Space, for instance, will favour local exhibitors and will give the work of regular participants special priority, regardless of money.
people will vote for their own work
Graffiti artists live in the community too. What measures will there be to stop the artist voting for their own work?
But one vote will not outweigh the public feeling. This is the same as any other voting competition. Big Brother, The X Factor, they all use voting ploys, and families will obviously vote for their spawn. However, this is not enough votes to keep that person in the competition. The overriding feeling in society will prevail.
gives the impression that vandalism is OK
While some graffiti is aesthetically beautiful, young people who are most likely to be involved in graffiti are not going to understand that only some graffiti is acceptable. Condoning graffiti art will automatically condone tagging and offensive graffiti, as well as vandalism, antisocial behaviour and other crime that goes along with graffiti.
The proposed movement will occur in the context of a wider programme that also teaches young people the difference between art and vandalism.
naïve misunderstanding of graffiti culture
Isolating the positive and socially acceptable aspects of graffiti is a very naïve attitude. For instance, the idea of separating tagging and graffiti. For one thing, tagging is a useful way for beginners to learn the basics of graffiti before they make full pieces. Secondly, tagging has a huge significance of its own in graffiti culture, it is not just a a scrawl, it is a marking of territory in a complex social hierarchy and a symbol of your personal identity, something unique to you. Artists prize their symbols and spend hours perfecting them. They aren't visually appealing but then they are not supposed to be – graffiti is often counter-culture, a rebellious act done by a misunderstood group of people. Taking graffiti out of context and laying its fate in the hands of people who grossly misunderstand it is even more insulting than making it all illegal – at least graffiti artists are respected if they get into trouble with the police for their work.
People give their opinions on art that is hundreds of years old all the time without being expected to understand its social context. They like it because its good art. if someone has to understand the cultural message in order to think it is good, it probably isn't very good, especially if they don't actually think it is aesthetically appealing. Good art has to survive the test of time even after its social context has been completely forgotten.
environmental damage caused by spray cans
Spray cans not only contain chemicals that are dangerous to the environment, the cans themselves are difficult to recycle and mostly not disposed of responsibly. We should not condone art forms that are damaging to the environment, especially as part of a project linked to waste management programmes.
What do you think?