LANGUAGE ANALYSIS

GRAFFITISTS ARE NOT BUDDING BANKSYS, THEY’RE VANDALS

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Graffitists are not budding Banksys, they’re vandals

It seems as if the scourge of graffiti is still with us. And that urban blight — or modern expression of the cries of the oppressed and misunderstood, depending on your viewpoint — is in the news again, on two fronts. Firstly, NSW upper house MPs have refused to pass the O’Farrell government’s new graffiti law, which gave magistrates the power to strip offenders of their driver’s licences among other measures. “For every small business, home or train targeted by a graffiti vandal, I will be holding Labor, Greens and the Shooters to account,” the Premier, Barry O’Farrell said.

This coincides with the announcement that a collection of 23 works by graffiti artist Banksy will take pride of place at the street art festival Outpost Project in November at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Banksy’s documentary — dare I say “mockumentary” — Exit at the Gift Shop was a hot Oscar favourite this year, leading to the possible thrilling public revealing of an artist who has kept his identity a closely guarded secret. The film was pipped at the post, but it still added a patina of establishment respectability to Banksy, and by extension his graffiti work.raffiti by ‘Banksy’

Graffiti has been with us a long time, ever since the days of ancient Greece and Rome and early urban civilisation, so it is whimsical to suggest that the urge to scratch, spray or paint a message into public and private works is going to disappear. Something else that hasn’t changed is the belief of many that graffiti is not a legitimate art form, but rather an excuse to commit vandalism under the guise of art. What can also be forgotten are the dangers. A 17-year-old boy died in South Australia at the weekend after falling while trying to tag a bridge.

Sadly, the evidence that this is vandalism, not art, is all around us.

Put your graffiti detector on as you travel to and from work and you’ll be astounded by how many instances you will spy. Hasty scrawls on power plants. Words winding up power poles. Tags on buildings. Tunnels completely covered in drivel. Schools covered in pubescent angst. Then consider your reaction to it. Do you ever feel uplifted? Amused? Entertained? Has a clever pun ever tickled your fancy? Has an important message ever been passed on? Have you ever stopped and thought, “Hmm, knowing ‘Gordo has herpes’ is something that really has brightened my day”? Are public parks improved with black and blue scrawls everywhere? Or do they add a sense of urban decay to the swings and greenery? In short, does graffiti fulfil the proper function of art? Because I’ve yet to see some that has moved me like a Carvaggio. Or even the Ginger Meggs cartoons in the newspaper. Or Garfield.

Certainly, many councils feel the same. They spend a frustratingly large amount of time and money cleaning up the mess our urban graffiti ninjas leave behind. They’re not handing out grants in the search of the next Basquiat.

We were all young once. We weren’t all “squares”. We, too, once fought “The Man”. We wore onions on our belts, which were the style at the time. We understand the thrilling desire to scrawl on the forbidden. We want people to have freedom of expression. But people like Banksy are giving false hope to the illicit masses that their work is art rather than bilge. I have yet to see compelling cases of graffiti adding anything to the urban landscape. Banksy’s works could be seen to legitimise an army of youths with cans rampaging through our streets, leaving incoherent colour schemes everywhere.

In short, I could probably get behind the graffiti argument if it wasn’t mainly all awful. If there was some kind of beauty behind it. If there was evidence of deep themes. Or even something rendered with a future master’s touch, not a hand whose owner has one eye looking out for the railway security guards. Fellas, throw me a bone here — or a spray can.

No doubt the libertarian intelligentsia will leap to the defence of these Antipodean Banksies and their inalienable right to scrawl on any surface around. That is, until it comes anywhere near their homes, their cars or their favourite inner-city parks. Then they’ll put down the chargrilled quail and porcini mushrooms just long enough to whinge about reduced property prices and where are the cops when some spotty oik fancies some freelance self-expression on their Prius.

O’Farrell’s solution to take an offender’s driver’s licence away from them does seem somewhat harsh. Yet given graffiti’s prevalence in our neighbourhoods, perhaps that is what the situation requires.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/graffitists-are-not-budding-banksys-theyre-vandals-20110830-1jjuu.html#ixzz1WZ7efJS6

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