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Graffiti vs. Vandalism

Graffiti is a movement that began before anyone ever even realized it.  During the times of the Roman Empire, candidates to become the "mayor" of a city or "governor" of a state would tag their names and a quote on a wall to advertise themselves to the public.  They used this method as a way for their peers to recognize their names, so when they voted on a person to govern their city, the individual would remember who wrote their name on the wall.

Now it has evolved to something more.  It's become a lifestyle - a movement that brought either praise or jail time to the graffiti artist.  You either received a lot of love for tagging up a wall or you pissed off the person who owns that wall.

So what's the difference between graffiti and vandalism?  Where is the fine line between the two?  Is there even a fine line?

There's a huge difference between graffiti and vandalism.  One is art and the other is just really hard to read writing on a wall.  Graffiti uses many different techniques and methods to reach its final result.  It plays on color and canvas as no wall, billboard, sidewalk, and building door is the same.   Vandalism, on the other hand, is tasteless and is usually meant to be as a way to "claim" an area or wall as their gang's or clan's or what-have-you.  This type of tagging degrades neighborhoods and really the people who do it as well.  It really is just a public display of how bad you are at art.

Here are some examples of graffiti that is indeed art.



Mac and Retna

Now here are examples of vandalism that is, just, awful.

Alright.  So which is the graffiti these critics speak of that wouldn't want it on their business or home wall?  People charge when a Banksy or Swoon piece end up on their walls.  They literally cut the piece off the wall and either sell it or keep it.  Go see "Banksy Does New York" if you think I'm joking.  Crowds were gathered around his work and the business owners either sold it or preserved it so people can take photos of them.  It was insane.

What people don't get is that no graffiti artist is going to go to a home in the suburbs and tag it up.  They want somewhere that will get noticed and has a ton of foot traffic.  Urban areas are far more suited for a work of art.  If I lived in the suburbs and woke up to see a Banksy on my wall, I might be pissed.  Okay, no I would be stoked because I love his work.  But the average person would be pissed.  Yet when the average person sees it on a brick wall in the city, they adore his work.  It's hard to blame them.  It really works on a wall that has decay or character to it.

I've read articles that debate what's right and wrong about tagging up walls and it's clear to see that each argument is based on an opinion - not a fact.  It's all a preference as to what pisses you off and what doesn't.  The same person who would be mad at Retna drawing up his classic typography on their home would be upset if they saw the Mona Lisa framed on the same wall.  Some people just don't like it.  Others are open to having something like that to come home to everyday or to come to work to everyday.

When New York cleaned up the subways of graffiti, they really just got rid of the gangs and drug dealers that ran around those areas.  The true artist still gets around and finds a way to put up their art work on a wall.  Basically what I'm getting at is - know the difference between the two and appreciate it when you see something special.  It's different when you see a Banksy piece on your wall and when you see some random gang banger write letters that no one can read.

Hauk Vagner