Unconscious bias, inert values, cultural norms, or myopic understanding, call it what you will, but it can at times limit our perception and objective understanding of things we encounter in our everyday lives.
Wandering through the various accessible and hidden areas of town as I do on a regular basis, I see many examples of what, depending on your perspective can be variously described as ranging from tagging, graffiti, street art or marking (synonym finder is an absolute godsend), through to what those opposed to the idea and practice would call defacement and even destructive vandalism. The canvas on which the works are mostly displayed tend to be bridges, tunnels, underpasses and post industrial buildings, mainly separate or hidden from residential areas.
I recently happened though upon two significant pieces of graffiti/tagging, both within residential areas. Each made me reassess and re-evaluate what I initially understood as the intent of the creative author and perhaps even made me understand and appreciate the sub-culture a wee bit more.
Let me explain.
The first work was a slogan painted on a communal bin in what I would describe as a middle-class area, typically defined by numerous student flats and independent coffee shops (cliché-ridden but truthful non the less) which stated 'Ideas are all you have, f*** your ideas'. The second work I observed in a more working-class area adjacent to a housing scheme which pronounced 'Bam hashtag central ya c***'. Each body of work displaying a very similar flowery and to a great many, offensive, form of language. The difference though, on initial reading, was that effort number two appeared to display a degree of malice and threat not conveyed in the accentuated humour of the first. That, I confess, was my preliminary notion.
In time and having now given it a bit more thought, I have come round to a very different perspective. Might it be the 'Ideas' legend, rather than being a whimsically presented deep and meaningful, anarcho-political side-swipe at conformity, was actually a smart-arsed and empty pseudo intellectual middle-class cliché and excuse to swear? Also, in turn, the 'Bam' tag, initially viewed as conveying a sense of viciousness, exploding anger and perhaps even an implicit warning to outsiders, may actually be a positive and inclusive summons to truly reject conformity, signalling a clarion call to like-minded souls, inviting them to get creative and connect, around alterative community shared values? Makes you think, eh?
As a young man in the late 1970s, I with flirted with the idea of graffiti. This was at a time when the artform (or alternatively, destructive practice) was in its early evolutionary stage. However, the barriers to entry were too difficult for me to breach. I lived in a small village, we had no sense of the 'hood, and mostly because as a poor speller I felt the image would be crushed if I were to be spotted with a dictionary whilst out on a recce. Much like how wearing specs put an end to my football career, it was not to be.
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