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.
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.
I’m sleeping alone in the backseat of a parked rental car at 5 AM in a terrible neighborhood in Miami when the door opposite me clicks open and a grizzly old black drunk man slides in next to me, shutting the car door behind him. His eyes and skin are...
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:
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.
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.