Graffiti and Street Art - IRL memetic warriors riding a never-ending wave of drama, violence and ego

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In the spirit of documenting fringe artists and eccentric groups, I present Graffiti and Street Art (yes, they are 2 separate things).

I've mentioned graffiti a bunch of times on KF, but I myself don't participate as that would require going outside and being insane. However, the people who do participate are quite a blast to follow and capable of some pretty stellar content both on the walls and off. Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up. I've thought about making this post here for a while but I wasn't sure how to write it - due to the vast and diverse nature of this culture, there can be no one piece of media that sums it all up. For this reason a thread is the ideal medium for its discussion as all can participate, link media and make corrections as needed.

With no exaggerations, the graffiti scene is like a real world forum war... after the apocalypse.

Imagine it: Shitposting, but IRL. High stakes doxing, but with violent or deadly consequences. Plenty of cows, but half of them have been smoking PCP & the rest have boxcutters.

The city walls become a literal message board. The police & vandal squad are like underpowered mods on a massive forum long gone to rot. There are effortposters who create art that touches and empowers thousands in one way or another. There are violent troll posters who exist only to destroy the beauty they themselves cannot create:


In terms of the drama, not much has changed in terms of the core scene's general vibe & momentum since the 1980's. This clip from "Style Wars" is a situation that plays out several times a generation. There are people this cartoonishly evil, by the truckload.

Here's Queens writer Korn (RIP) giving Fox 5 news an interview threatening violence to rival taggers about a day or two before going on trial for threatening violence to rival taggers. In order to remain anonymous, he wears a mask made out of a paper plate with his tag cut into it.


The way he censors himself because he knows he's on TV is gold. This man is a genuine character.

The advent of the internet has made it much easier for new artists to gain worldwide renown with mere photos. At the same time, the established reputations of older writers are routinely cashed in for social media accounts of the same name with huge built-in audiences. You see this heavily on platforms like instagram and youtube. People used to rep their crew in their pieces, now they'll rep their @. Graffiti forums DO exist, and IME they're populated by violent mentally ill spergs who write like angry children when feeling triggered (which is quite often). I enjoy these forums because they read like 200 stereotypes arguing via T-Mobile sidekicks c. 2004.

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One needn't have watched this conversation unfold IRL countless times in order to safely affirm these posters to be True & Honest larping white kids. 'Cesk' up there will have given that brick some serious consideration upon reading that post, no lie. There's a tendency to cultivate risk-seeking behavior on account of what glorious stories pour out of the scene's elder statesmen. The lifestyle can be pretty crazy.


It's the kind of fuck-it-all early oughts insanity that gave VICE its edge and momentum back in the day, so it's no wonder that druggy fashionista Cat Marnell toured with two top NYC writers and wrote about it. Vice used to really seek these kinds of scenes out.


The nature of the crime itself is dadaist madness. People risking their lives (sometimes in the face of armed guards and helicopters) solely to paint their names in locations few will ever see and less will ever care about. People seeking fame through the pseudo-anonymous tulpa of a moniker. Explosive personalities. Addiction, violence, mental illness and jail. Fashion, culture, clout and unassuming wizards with one finger jammed on the 'fast forward' button of visual design. Goes without saying that they've had the concept of memes on hand since day one, but nowadays internets memes are being recirculated in graf. Example, the troll face being used to tell people their art is shit:

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It's a lot like wrestling in terms of the large personalities and the drama. Difference is that nothing is staged and the fighting often takes a back seat to a Darwinian pursuit of aesthetics and memetic domination.

Here's a good article to start with.

If you talk to serious graffiti writers, most of them will echo the same themes; they decry the commercialization of graf, condemn the toys and poseurs and alternately hate and feel attached to the authorities who try to stop them. They say with equal parts bravado and self-deprecation that a graffiti writer is a bum, a criminal, a vandal, slick, sick, obsessed, sneaky, street-smart, living on edges figurative and literal. They show and catalog cuts and scars on their bodies from razor wire, pieces of metal, knives, box cutters. I once casually asked a writer named GHOST if he knew another writer whose work I had seen in a graf'zine. "Yeah, I know him, he stabbed me," GHOST replies matter-of-factly. "We've still got beef." SET tells me he was caught by two DTs (detectives) who assaulted him, took his cans of paint and sprayed his body and face. JA tells similar stories of police beatings for his making officers run after him, of cops making him empty his spray cans on his sneakers or on the back of a fellow writer's jacket. JD has had 48 stitches in his back and 18 in his head over "graffiti-related beef." JA's best friend and writing partner, SANE SMITH, a legendary all-city writer who was sued by the city and the MTA for graffiti, was found dead, floating in Jamaica Bay. There's endless speculation in the grafworld as to whether he was pushed, fell or jumped off a bridge. SANE is so respected, there are some writers today who spend time in public libraries reading and rereading the newspaper microfilm about his death, his arrests, his career.

Unsurprisingly, this culture in its rawest forms is facing its biggest obstacle ever in the form of the cell phone. Cellies make snitching an instantaneous and cordless affair. Surveillance and tech has pushed the cat-and-mouse aspect of Graffiti VS the Cops to absurd levels while more and more artists are using that same tech to claw their way towards legitimacy via things like sneaker deals, guerilla marketing campaigns and product tie ins. Does that dilute its essence? Who cares? Cope2 got paid for being in GTA IV.

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If you have any vids or channels or things you think should go into the OP, post away. If you'd like to help me edit this or add a section, let me know.
I myself have mixed feelings about graffiti and I'm not sure if I can feel any one way about it, so it's hard to write about & I could use some perspective from y'alls.
 
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gun

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scrawling your name on an unwilling property owners wall is art the same way drawing dicks in school textbooks is art, and both of them are usually just stupid kids. people still tagging shit on garbage cans in their 20s and 30s is just embarrassing
 

Foxxo

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The Ancient Romans did graffiti, too. However, theirs was more along the lines of written statements or gossip.

They found graffiti on one of the walls in the ruins of Pompeii that said:

"DAYUM, THIS HOOD EMPTY Wall, you've got so much graffiti on you, I'm surprised you haven't fallen down yet."

Basically, it's not a race thing, it's a sub/counterculture thing.
 

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Wall, you've got so much graffiti on you, I'm surprised you haven't fallen down yet."
In a sense, the real goal of graffiti is to knock down those walls. Blank walls block sight and prohibit movement, many writers have strong distaste for them as a concept and consider humanizing their environment to be a noble act, even if only through scrawls. There's a mindset and a passion around the idea of shouting "I AM" into the void.

Cool, man.
Just goes to show almost everything has a culture.

Except for whitey.
Unsurprisingly, a large percent of these people are the disaffected children of rich white men.

graffiti is dumb, calling it street "art" is exceptional, and people doing it deserve jail
scrawling your name on an unwilling property owners wall is art the same way drawing dicks in school textbooks is art, and both of them are usually just stupid kids. people still tagging shit on garbage cans in their 20s and 30s is just embarrassing
Things like this illegal painting cannot evolve without those ugly tags paving the way. Some of the people involved in this scene are in their 50's and 60's.

odeith.png


The strongest case for graffiti is what it can become if given the room to grow.

I'm working on a detailed examination of the one of the scene's most colorful personalities. Some of it reads like an HBO drama.
 
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Eryngium

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scrawling your name on an unwilling property owners wall is art the same way drawing dicks in school textbooks is art, and both of them are usually just stupid kids. people still tagging shit on garbage cans in their 20s and 30s is just embarrassing
So good graffiti is the equivalent of that one freakishly artistically talented kid in highshool that used their ability solely draw really fucked up shit and dicks everywhere?
 
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So good graffiti is the equivalent of that one freakishly artistically talented kid in highshool that used their ability solely draw really fucked up shit and dicks everywhere?
"Good" graffiti is most consistently characterized by consistency, visual flawlessness and incalculably large degrees of effort and risk being expended upon a marketing campaign for a product that doesn't exist. At the end of the day it's a matter of mass appeal & numbers.

the walls of my fucking house are not room for you to 'grow' your ugly shit smears my man
if you want to do spray painting, do it on your own property. otherwise it's just fucking vandalism, and people acting all pretentious and making excuses for it really grinds my gears
There are very specific rules AGAINST painting on private homes, private vehicles and places of worship. While they're not all followed to the letter in some places, tagging someone's car or a church WILL earn you ostracization & a beat down at some point as it brings hate on the entire scene. At the same time, there are IRL trolls who live to destroy and want your hate.

Graffiti culture absolutely thrives on attitudes like yours. It wants to exist in a schism, torn between beauty and nuisance. That's what makes it graffiti and that's what makes its creation an act of performance art in and of itself. No other form of painting has the act of its creation so inextricably linked to the final product. It's about how that person got to that spot, how they used their environment and what they risked in doing so.

This is supposedly staged. It's KATSU tagging over a Picasso in MOMA, simply because it's horrifyingly transgressive and "fuck the art world".
It's deplorable behavior, but it's worth watching. It wants your disapproval.

 
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pomme

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There are very specific rules AGAINST painting on private homes, private vehicles and places of worship. While they're not all followed to the letter in some places, tagging someone's car or a church WILL earn you ostracization & a beat down at some point as it brings hate on the entire scene. At the same time, there are IRL trolls who live to destroy and want your hate.

Graffiti culture absolutely thrives on attitudes like yours. It wants to exist in a schism, torn between beauty and nuisance. That's what makes it graffiti and that's what makes its creation an act of performance art in and of itself. No other form of painting has the act of its creation so inextricably linked to the final product. It's about how that person got to that spot, how they used their environment and what they risked in doing so.

This is supposedly staged. It's KATSU tagging over a Picasso in MOMA, simply because it's horrifyingly transgressive and "fuck the art world".
It's deplorable behavior, but it's worth watching. It wants your disapproval.

That KATSU stunt was made in AE, it's not real.

Cities are entirely characterised by the people living in them. Without people they are ugly concrete jungles. Graffiti and art breathes much needed humanity and life into them.
 

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That KATSU stunt was made in AE, it's not real.

Cities are entirely characterised by the people living in them. Without people they are ugly concrete jungles. Graffiti and art breathes much needed humanity and life into them.
While staged, it is an emblematic performance. Its non-staged equivalent would probably be JA hopping on a plane to LA simply to deface the Guinness world record holder for largest graffiti mural (a multi year project by SABER that was destroyed by one kid with a few cans in 20 minutes).

Seeing as you know the score, please add your fav personalities and drama!
 
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gun

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Things like this illegal painting cannot evolve without those ugly tags paving the way.
so you have to degrade a place just enough so nobody gives a shit what is painted on it anymore? for every one of those paintings, there are 50 more that look like this


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the "good" graffiti is mostly 2deep4u shit like the heath ledger joker or a guy fawkes mask anyway, but id be a refreshing change of pace to have a 14 year old walking home from school paint that on my building for once

Cities are entirely characterised by the people living in them. Without people they are ugly concrete jungles.
agree, cities are already shitholes by default, so its not a big deal if someone wants to do a little scribbling, its like if someone smears shit all over a bathroom wall vs smearing shit in a laboratory cleanroom
 

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so you have to degrade a place just enough so nobody gives a shit what is painted on it anymore? for every one of those paintings, there are 50 more that look like this


View attachment 769623

the "good" graffiti is mostly 2deep4u shit like the heath ledger joker or a guy fawkes mask anyway, but id be a refreshing change of pace to have a 14 year old walking home from school paint that on my building for once


agree, cities are already shitholes by default, so its not a big deal if someone wants to do a little scribbling, its like if someone smears shit all over a bathroom wall vs smearing shit in a laboratory cleanroom
It's not my intent to justify graffiti or act as some sort of apologist. Graf is an inherently degenerate & antisocial activity that destroys lives and neighborhoods. Like any cow, most graf writers aren't people we'd want in our personal spaces but they merit closer examination nonetheless. They routinely generate spectacular content & behavior that flies under our collective radar because we tend to group those garage door scrawls in with the 25-color masterpieces.

Believe me, I wouldn't want that shit in my sector any more than you would. Yet I'm often surprised by the creativity and ingenuity involved.
 
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Does Stuff like this count?
View attachment 769724
I think so, but I would characterize it as a form of street art, it is not graffiti.

It's not a name of some kid, it's not a crew, but it's a great example of how graf's self-taught grass roots approach to making art is right at home when championing underdog causes.
It doesn't seem to use spraypaint the way most murals do but as @pomme said, cities and the public art within them are representative of the people who live there.

Edit - I think things like memorial murals belong in any wide ranging discussion of graffiti and street art. At the very least, there's a shared ethos.
 
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CIRA gunman stencil.
View attachment 769736
Mural on the Kilwilkie road Lurgan on the spot of where an RPG hit the side of the shop when it missed a police landrover.
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Brilliant. A Lichtenstein tribute as politically charged, situationally aware vandalism. this is the sort of multifaceted art you can only really find in graffiti culture.

These sort of works are considered by some to be street art, as opposed to graffiti.
 

pomme

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Does Stuff like this count?
View attachment 769724
Northern Irish murals fascinate me. Graffiti is usually considered an impermanent art form, but in places like Derry and Belfast these murals are used to memorialise a violent and recent past. What I find so interesting about them is that none of them have been vandalised by the other side, which is what usually happens to street art. Tensions still exist but this provocative art remains untouched.
P1150141-X3.jpgP1150143-X3.jpgBelfast-2014-414_new_bvswh6.jpg
 

ulsterscotsman

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Northern Irish murals fascinate me. Graffiti is usually considered an impermanent art form, but in places like Derry and Belfast these murals are used to memorialise a violent and recent past. What I find so interesting about them is that none of them have been vandalised by the other side, which is what usually happens to street art. Tensions still exist but this provocative art remains untouched.
View attachment 769766View attachment 769769View attachment 769771
They do get vandalised occasionally but are often repaired.
 
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