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Last login: Monday, February 21, 2011
I applaud Writerz Blok (I scoped their website) from providing a safe place, where artists can be around good people and be inspired by other artists. The same opportunity is available in your own home, or studio, or school. You could even make art in a public place to which you bring your own canvas, or stage, or sheet of drywall or whatever, that you can take with you when you're done. Buskers do it all the time.
I want to make clear that I'm not equating graffiti with gang activity. When I see something sprayed on a wall or sidewalk, I have no idea if the sprayer belongs to a gang. I'm not labeling graffiti sprayers as gang members, or associating them with any other criminal activity. All associations with other criminal activities aside, painting someone else's property without their permission is vandalism, and vandalism is a crime.
I think it's a mistake to excuse vandalism because it's less damaging to society than selling dope to your kids, or selling them off for sex, for two reasons: 1) You can't just excuse one crime because it's not as bad as another. Should we excuse a government official because he solicits a relatively modest bribe, instead of a million dollars? Should we excuse a guy who sells dope to your kids, because he didn't kidnap them and sell them into slavery? 2) You're making the same association that you accused me of in your earlier post: assuming that graffitists are involved in other types of criminal activity (gang members.... violence, prostitution, drug trade). For one thing, I can't tell by looking at vandalism if the perpetrator is involved in other crimes. For another, they're not mutually exclusive. A guy would have to do an awful lot of graffiti to not have sufficient time and resources to sell dope to your kids, or sell them off for sex.
The problem I have with Mr. Moses' statements, and the KPBS piece, is that they blur the distinction between art and vandalism. I'm making the assumption that "graffiti", by definition, is performed on a surface that isn't yours. Well then, regardless of its beauty, it's a crime. The article says Mr. Moses "believes his class challenges the idea that graffiti equals crime—and that most law enforcement still haven't warmed up to the idea of decriminalizing the art form". Paint all you want at Writerz Blok, but if the "art form" entails painting on my garage door or my neighbor's patio wall or the sidewalk in front of my house, by all means keep it criminal.
February 21, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.
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I take issue with the efforts by Mr. Moses and his students to legitimize vandalism. Some of the work by "graffiti artists" may have some aesthetic merit, but if such an artist creates his work on a surface that is not his or that he does not have permission to use, it's vandalism. Josh Peterson's contention that "it's just putting art on gray walls" is disingenuous. For one thing, the vast majority of the graffiti that I see consists of tags. By means of a tag, a vandal symbolically "claims" something that is not his (a corner, a building, a neighborhood...) and thus tagging is inherently a gesture of aggression. For another thing, that "gray wall" belongs to a homeowner or businessperson, and represents decades of hard work, education, planning, risk, and achievement.
February 21, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
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