Friday, July 1, 2011

Living Graffiti: A Quick Note

There’s the imagery on the walls, it’s aesthetics, the name and all, is it new? where’s it going? and all that. And the ephemerality. That’s one thing.

But there’s also the social organization of the graffiti scene, that’s something else. And that’s important too, too important simply to hang it off the images themselves.

Legit art culture is organized around schools, museums, and galleries. It’s organized to produce timeless works.

Graffiti culture originated outside the world and has an uneasy relationship with it. Timelessness isn’t so easy to come by, as the works themselves often get gone over or simply buffed. Some writers produce works (on canvas or boards) that end up in a few museum collections and that show and sell in a few galleries. But that’s all a bit tetchy, and many of the best writers are between downright opposed and wary of the gallery / museum scene.

I suppose we should treat graffiti’s illegal nature as part of its institutional stance. Legit art may be occupationally marginal, with the stars having a peculiar place in the social structure, but it’s not criminal. Graffiti’s got a different posture before the law.

& graffiti’s got crews, most small and local, but some quite large and spread out, e.g. Seventh Letter. Piecing is often / generally done by two, three, or more writers working together. This is very different from legit art, which doesn’t do collaboration, though some work is certainly done by uncredited assistants, especially in the big shops (e.g. Koons, Hirst, Murakami).

And graffiti works through cyberspace. Work goes up, it’s snapped, and the flix go out on the web. To the extent that the originals themselves degrade over time and eventually are gone over, the photos are all that remain.

Put all this together, what do you get?

Living graffiti?

That’s what I’m pondering. We have art outdoors that’s in continual flux produced by a diffuse and ever shifting ‘between the cracks’ social organization. Art-as-cultural organism, changing & evolving, never static, never ‘standing the test of time’ but continually testing itself time and again.

Persisting but not eternal.

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