Street Art Evolving to Survive the Law

“Typically, the term street art or the more specific post-graffiti is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism, and corporate art.” (Wiki 2012)

Issues of privacy come up when a shop owner likes the graffiti on the outside of their buildings but face charges if not removed. The following is an excerpt from the City of Edmonton Bylaw 14600 in the Building section.

2) For the purpose of greater certainty a nuisance, in respect of a building, means a building showing signs of a serious disregard for general maintenance and upkeep, whether or not it is detrimental to the surrounding area, some examples of which include:

(a.1) any graffiti displayed on the building that is visible from any surrounding property; (S.3, Bylaw 14752, February 13, 2008)

In the design program of studies the student is continually faced with the question about the “clients needs”.  Students could discuss vandalism versus public space artwork.  Within the confines of a commission or especially the law, how does a designer express themselves and their particular style?

Street artists, Daft Punk and Bandit, have displayed work in the Paint Spot off of Whyte avenue donating money to charities.  Graffiti art has cost Jamie Law (Daft Punk) several charges, in connection with stencilled graffiti.  The owner of the art store says that “officials need to see a difference between vandalism and art. “I agree, tagging is bad. But this is not tagging. This is found urban art. And the city has no vocabulary for that,” she said.”  She suggests that the law works with the artists within Edmonton.  The current definition of graffiti, that the city has, must be reviewed.

What exactly is tagging? The graffiti removal brigade defines it as: The simplest and quickest, involving only initials, symbol or alias. This may be in the manner of unreadable writing or initials, often made with spray paint in large rounded bubble-style letters. The goal of the tagger and their crew is to get “up” as much as possible. Therefore, tagging crews go on “bombing” raids, doing extensive damage to the community in one night. The goal of the tagger is exposure.

With this definition in mind, Daft Punk’s stenciling would fall under this “tagging” category. For instance, he has an alias and the initials “DP”.  Whether or not Jamie ever worked in a crew is quite debatable as with the intention behind the work.  Are the stencils for publicity and exposure within an underground art world that is growing through facebook and twitter? Or is the work simply for the viewer to question what they typically see day to day.  In the communications technology program of studies, students are encouraged to create a brand.  Some of these outcomes include: identifying the target audiences, stating a mission, and discussing the value of characters used in brand identity.  Could students study graffiti in the same manner as they would a commercial brand?  What are these graffiti artists selling?

Stenciled pop culture characters such as Rorschach, from the graphic novel “Watchmen”,  question authority and are swift in vigilante action.  Rorschach continually appears behind the scenes of the story wearing a sandwich board prophesying doom.  It seems that Daft Punk prophesied the end of his graffiti days and echoes a similar end that of  Kovac’s (Rorschach) after being arrested and having to reveal his true self.

“I believe that the war on graffiti cannot be won and the more the city resists, the more it will persist.”
-Jamie Law (Daft Punk)


Posted in Art Philosophy, CTS, FIne Arts Assignments, Graffiti and tagged , , , , , , , , , .