Redmonk considers the anti-social way the council treats graffiti.
Graffiti art is often lumped in with many aspects of youth culture as ‘anti-social’. As mindless vandalism bereft of any artistic qualities, perpetrated by cowardly hoodlums under the cover of darkness, a faceless counter to decency and the notion of property. It is dealt with by gray paint, powerwashers and policy that I would describe as more ‘anti-social’ than the menace that’s supposedly being battled.
Any attempts to prevent people from painting their surroundings and having some sort of claim on the environment they live in turns a spraycan from being a tool to make art, into a totem of rebellion, creating an ‘us against them’ scenario. The current policy for dealing with graffiti does not question why people paint in the first place. Instead it focuses on containment.
Perhaps the reason why people paint, and specifically under-18s, is the lack of a sense of ownership over one’s surroundings in a city. A frustration that’s compounded by the usual teenage angst, but worthy of investigation given the age demographic of rioters in London recently. I’m not saying that graffiti being legalised will heal the world, but perhaps the establishment of more legal walls in the city (especially in suburban areas) could help turn it from ‘anti-social’ to, well, social. I’ve talked with plenty of young people, who as much as they enjoy tagging, would love the opportunity to take their time working on a full piece, developing their skills, and being able to practice their art on a regular basis without fear of repercussions.
Of course, this is not some sort of blanket solution to tagging, that’s always going to exist. Just maybe young people, at least those into graffiti, might have a chance to get their confidence up and have less need for setting bins on fire. Just sayin.