Having been in Europe for the last two weeks, it is clear that terrorism and our elections are of great concern to Europeans.
People are much more important than art, and the Europeans’ concerns regarding terror and the elections in the United States reflect that. However, like the movie, “The Monuments Men,” which showed the hunt for art stolen by the Nazis, Europe’s art and culture risks being destroyed by graffiti.
It is everywhere, on wooden doors, on street posts, on almost every metal enclosure that protects shops after closing. There are tours of graffiti art. Although some graffiti could be labeled as art or free speech, most of it is words in Spanish or French or even English. I saw one spray painted building that said “love/hate” in English.
Most graffiti is in words, names and initials. Keith Haring’s sidewalk art, which later went for thousands of dollars, it isn’t. Keith Haring was trained as an artist. Most of these people are simply vandals.
Writer Anthony Peregrine said about the graffiti in Paris, “How dare hooded wackos with aerosols inflict this on me, as well as on several million Parisians?”
“If this street stuff is art,” I muttered to the world in general, “then my burp is a concerto.”
Just as there is no skin that doesn’t look better without a tattoo, so there’s no wall that doesn’t look better without graffiti. “Wild-style lettering.”
There is even a company that works with cities to ensure the spray-painted graffiti doesn’t stick to walls. Ann Laffeaty, in the European Cleaning Journal, noted that one company said on its website, “However while local authorities, town planners and product manufacturers unite to combat the problem, graffiti artists themselves are becoming more sophisticated in the methods they use to secure a permanent tag. They are finding new ways of making their graffiti last longer such as by adding acids or brake dust to leather dyes. … We are also seeing the increasing use of silver nitrate or UV graffiti. This reacts with sunlight to leave a level of staining that is almost impossible to remove without the use of harsh abrasives. For this reason, an increasing number of local authorities and transport companies are turning to anti-graffiti coatings.”
Graffiti has been around since ancient times. It has often been used for free expression and as a means of protest. I have no trouble with graffiti for that purpose, but to put meaningless lettering on everything in sight is an eyesore and is vandalism, pure and simple. Previously, graffiti was used by gangs to mark territory, but now it has turned into a business. There is even a site, FATCAP, that offers the “artist” help making graffiti for personal desires. There are places to purchase stencils so you can do “stencil” graffiti – although “stencil” graffiti at least might make for some pleasant images instead of random lettering.
Now, in 2016, here is also a social media aspect to graffiti, where there are pages of graffiti artists uploading their work and detailing how they have managed to evade the law. Often these “artists” wear masks, hoods and dark clothes so they can’t be recognized.
There is even a group that is holding workshops for older citizens in Spain to help them design their own “tags” after giving them spray cans. The photos on the Internet show the 65-plus crowd smiling with their graffiti. At least the Internet photos show them in a workshop and not on the streets.
In the United States, we see graffiti on trains and subways and some bridges. However, you don’t see buildings and doorways in the middle of Manhattan or D.C. or other large cities mired in graffiti. I am told that parts of Germany are worse than Spain and France. Germany must be terrible, as France and Spain border on being ruined by these vandals. They even are holding graffiti conferences, although there is an anti-graffiti conference – The Anti-Graffiti Symposium – taking place in Canada in October.
Who will win out? Let’s hope the anti-graffiti people do. Now, unlike older times, with the Internet and lots of apps, people don’t need to make their voices heard via graffiti. It is time to preserve our cities and keep the world a beautiful place without the spray-can “art” that is mostly words and letters. It’s not art at all.
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