07 September 2009

Graffiti: redefining the official channels


gisle said...

Graffiti is a trough anarchistic way of distorting the hierarchy of whom to decide the feature of the public space…

roberto OVALLE said...

One of the aspects I found most important about graffiti in the context of new hierarchies, is how it affects the way humans communicate in an urban (and sometimes rural) context.

Some graffiti pieces have gained relevance as social criticism (look for "One nation under CCTV" on Google), historical revisionism, political manifestation ("Fuera Yankees" - Yankees out) identity and territorial redefinition, humor and unexpected results (as in Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign's use of graffiti), or cultural presence across different countries (as in the case of freight train graffiti, which can carry a message through thousands of kilometers).

Throughout the years, graffiti has been taboo and countercultural; but also it is increasingly accepted in public and private spaces and even small architecture projects, used in advertising (by companies such as Nike or Coca-Cola), and in general, has come to establish itself as a code and channel of communication among human groups.

j G said...

A friend of mine in Oslo made Graffiti for norwegian architects by making a "What would Sverre Fhen do?" sticker. Sverre Fhen is both well known within architectural networks, but is also somewhat known amongst the general public. Put the sticker on a building as a way to question if this is the best one could achieve, and if any alternatives ever were sought out.

If one manages to detach oneself from assumptions of what graffiti is, and rather asks the question of what narratives and expressions are visible in the city, I think it becomes more interesting. Like what are the neon lights in Japan, if not a kind of graffiti ? What about newspaper stands placed everywhere, filled with stories and expressions ?

Asking theese questions in relation to hierarcy reveals the issue of thinking in systems, where Graffiti is free of hierarchy in some sense. Still, graffiti is an illegal form of expression, and thus on beforehand placed in a hierarchy sociologically and culturally.

What is not illegal by juridical word, is reverse-graffiti, where walls and streets are cleaned from city dust as opposed to painted. In a way the act becomes a "good deed". There are also graffiti methods that are more charged with dilemmas like graffiti made with moss-water that grows on concrete surfaces and the like. There are all of a sudden more layers than just the graphics and the message.

magdalena said...

What jG says about narratives, expressions and stories in the city is really interesting - and relevant for our studio. If you (studio students) remember the 'messages'-slide from my lecture it was about that: different stories told at different levels and layers in the cityscape, crossing and blurring the hierarchies of the acknowledged and recognized channels of information and influence.

The comment above on 'reverse-graffiti' makes me think of somebody I could have mentioned as well at the lecture: Jacques Villeglé and his ripped and lacerated posters, where the anonymous and marginalized is visible ('des réalités collectives') in what's no longer there. Which could be linked to today's adbusters and other anti-advertising activists, quite clearly working within the legacy of the Situationists' tactic of détournement.. ..to put it briefly..!

This could be another example of what we talked about Wednesday - nowaday's urban phenomenon possible to link back to the Situationists and the idea of activating urban space. (Today's Parkour discussed through the Situationsists' 'parcours' and 'dérive' for instance.)

Herman said...

OBEY-Shepard Fairey
When it comes to graffiti it is a well known idea that it spreads throughout the city and the world with an unstoppable speed. Graffiti started on the streets and on the N.Y trians in the late 70´s and was thaught of as something wich was unique to New York. With the help of the books Spraycan Art and Subway Art both by the photographers Cooper/Chalfant. They documentet the movement through interwievs and photos of the pieces and this is one of the main reasons that it spread throughout the world and inspired kids everywhere to take part in the ideas. Later, after the computer and with that the internet became a common household object it spred with a more intense speed and exchange of works across the borders. The american artist Shepard Fairey started a project he called the OBEY campaign in the early 90´s as a an art research to see how stickers and art can be spread across the globe. Nearly 20 years later you can check out the world wide phenomena known as OBEY at his webpage: http://obeygiant.com/
Presenting to you here is from his Manifesto dating back to 1990:

"The OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in Phenomenology. Heidegger describes Phenomenology as “the process of letting things manifest themselves.” Phenomenology attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation.

The FIRST AIM OF PHENOMENOLOGY is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment. The OBEY sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings. Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the product or motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with the sticker provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail. The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker. Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities.

Many people who are familiar with the sticker find the image itself amusing, recognizing it as nonsensical, and are able to derive straightforward visual pleasure without burdening themselves with an explanation. The PARANOID OR CONSERVATIVE VIEWER however may be confused by the sticker’s persistent presence and condemn it as an underground cult with subversive intentions. Many stickers have been peeled down by people who were annoyed by them, considering them an eye sore and an act of petty vandalism, which is ironic considering the number of commercial graphic images everyone in American society is assaulted with daily.

Another phenomenon the sticker has brought to light is the trendy and CONSPICUOUSLY CONSUMPTIVE nature of many members of society. For those who have been surrounded by the sticker, its familiarity and cultural resonance is comforting and owning a sticker provides a souvenir or keepsake, a memento. People have often demanded the sticker merely because they have seen it everywhere and possessing a sticker provides a sense of belonging. The Giant sticker seems mostly to be embraced by those who are (or at least want to seem to be) rebellious. Even though these people may not know the meaning of the sticker, they enjoy its slightly disruptive underground quality and wish to contribute to the furthering of its humorous and absurd presence which seems to somehow be antiestablishment/societal convention. Giant stickers are both embraced and rejected, the reason behind which, upon examination reflects the psyche of the viewer. Whether the reaction be positive or negative, the stickers existence is worthy as long as it causes people to consider the details and meanings of their surroundings. In the name of fun and observation."