Saturday, 21 January 2012

Graffiti: The Artform of the Proletariat?

This is the alleyway that takes you from St Michaels Lane to North Lane in Headingley, Leeds. It is a cut-through at the back of the cricket/rugby grounds. As well as there being a family of foxes nearby, who seem to be around day and night, the walls are full of graffiti throughout most of the length of the path. These are the boldest and most colourful of the selection there:

This is one of the more subtle ones.

Here's an extract from a graffiti blog called Bombing Science. The article is entitled 'Graffiti Theory: Graffiti and Marxism':

Illegal. Feared. Rejected by societal norms and described like cancers to communities, a destructive virus that consumes and devours decent proper values until suddenly there’s a crack house next door OR perhaps just another victim of Marx’s social alienation. Let’s be straight, America really has no problem with graffiti—as long as they can make a buck off it. The style has been mimicked and milked in almost every market, from designer t-shirts to XBOX games and countless hip-hop album covers. Yet despite all this corporate love, the act of getting up, putting the paint on the walls is still punishable by jail time and large amounts of debt.

Graffiti is the art form of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie can’t sell off the walls of their factories so whatever the workers write on them is finally there’s to keep. It’s an art that cannot be exploited by those who own the means of production, because graffiti exploits them first. The proletariat artist is using the property of the bourgeoisie as a canvas—essentially redistributing the use of property to the people. In that sense graffiti writing becomes the last truly free artistic vehicle; it cannot be taxed and doesn’t have to be taught. Anyone can participate, regardless of class, race, religious preference or sexual orientation. Graffiti doesn’t even require consumption of any materials if the artist doesn’t wish to purchase them. According to old school ethics, paint should be stolen from supply stores as an act of liberation from bourgeoisie’s financial death-traps—but really, all you need is a rock and a hard surface to scratch on to make your mark.

Click here for a recent Yorkshire Evening Post article on Synical, a local 'graffiti vandal', as the police have described him: 'Leeds graffiti vandal's war on blank look'

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