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Thread: Graffiti

  1. #46

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    The scene is still alive and kicking in the South Bronx, particularly around the Hub and in Soundview.

  2. #47

  3. #48

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    Williamsburg ,L.E.S. , most of the south bronx,Long island city/astoria.
    These neighboorhoods don't have a choice to embrace it but people just do it because these are more industrial areas. Where it's darker and less cops. With the exseption of the lower east side.

  4. #49

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    From The Economist print edition:

    The writing on the wall

    Dec 16th 2004

    A FEW years ago, drivers on the M40 Oxford-to-London road were confronted with a question. Over a metre high, and more than 30 metres long, the painted conundrum on a fence in the Chiltern Gap was unavoidable: “Why do I do this every day?” Hundreds of thousands of people may have pondered the question, if not the answer. During rush hour, it read like a rebuke to the commuter's way of life: you may have a nice house and garden, but is it worth the time you spend in traffic? At other times, the question seemed more reflective, as though a habitual vandal had experienced a moment of self-doubt. Speculation ceased briefly in 2003, as anti-war messages crowded out the graffito. But the query is now back, in lurid green and black. It has even been updated: “Why do I still do this every day?”

    Public scribblings are not always provocative—or, at least, not in a good way. There is little mystery to the common species of vandalism that consists of stylised names written over and over again until the author becomes bored or is caught. The purpose of that is simply self-advertisement; visibility is its own reward. But any attempt to convey something deeper is bound to intrigue. The graffito is an odd kind of writing—at once secretive and public, immediate and obscure. The impossibility of knowing exactly when and why messages appear, or even what they are supposed to mean, can turn even the most banal remarks into puzzles.

    The practice of writing on walls is so universal that it almost qualifies as a human characteristic. It is done everywhere from third-world villages to affluent cities. People were scratching their names in plaster a century ago, as a visit to many old tourist sites will confirm (indeed, for sheer destructiveness, the Victorians are hard to beat). Graffiti adorned 18th-century Parisian lavatories, medieval Norwegian churches and the walls of Pompeii, which was buried under ash in 79AD.

    Graffiti may even be as old as writing itself. Excavations in and around the Athenian Agora have turned up many pots with scribbled messages on them. Some of these are ancient—older than the plays of Aristophanes, or “The Histories” of Herodotus. At the time they were inscribed, the alphabet was so novel that the authors struggled to shape their letters. So what did the ancient Greeks do with this extraordinary technology, which could freeze speech and carry it across vast distances? Some asserted ownership (“Of Tharrios I am the cup”); others wrote shopping lists. Then, very quickly, they worked out a use for writing that seems much more modern. The turning-point came when someone picked up a knife and scratched on his pot: “Titas the Olympic victor is a lecherous fellow.”

    Enter, the bog-house collectors

    It is only by chance that scrawlings endure. They have many enemies, from political authorities concerned about the appearance of a neighbourhood to the corrosive effects of sun and rain. Messages written on walls are usually preserved only when somebody photographs or writes about them, thus transferring them to a flimsier but more enduring medium. For much of history, nobody thought it necessary to do that. Then, in 1731, a pioneering collection of graffiti appeared in London.

    “The Merry-Thought: or, the Glass-Window and Bog-House Miscellany” was, as the title suggests, obtained mostly from public lavatories—a favourite site of graffiti-writers through the ages. The editor, who went by the pseudonym Hurlo Thrumbo, probably did not collect all the material himself, but relied on a network of correspondents. His mission, as he described it, was to preserve morsels of wit from the forces of cleanliness and philistinism.

    A cleanly Landlord must have, forsooth, his Rooms new painted and white-wash'd every now and then, without regarding in the least the Wit and Learning he is obliterating... But I may venture to say, That good Things are not always respected as they ought to be.

    This was something of a pose. To judge from dates appended to some of the graffiti in “The Merry-Thought”, 18th-century landlords did not get round to obliterating messages more than once every ten years or so. Some survived even longer. Several fashionable hands at the time sported “writing rings”, which had diamonds or other stones set upside-down to allow easy cutting into glass. Graffiti thus made might last for decades.

    The resilience of graffiti in Hurlo Thrumbo's day enabled banter and backchat among writers. “When full of Pence, I was expensive, And now I've none, I'm always pensive” wrote a sad philosophe on a Romford window. The rhyme provoked a crafty reply: “Then be at no Expence, And you'll have no Suspence.” Two sexist verses were answered by someone who clearly disapproved—a woman, assumes the editor. “Immodest Words admit of no Defence;” she sniffed, “For Want of Decency is want of Sense.”

    Excrements of wit

    Women could, and frequently did, answer men's graffiti in the early 18th century for the simple reason that they used the same outhouses. These days, men write mostly for men and women for women, with the result that distinct graffiti “languages” have emerged. Academics, who are surprisingly interested in this sort of thing, have proved through laborious counting that men's writing is copious and frequently hostile, whereas women's is sparser and more idealistic. In the 18th century, though, the knowledge that their words would be read by the opposite sex seems to have restrained men from some of the crudeness that they are prone to these days. Some were actually romantic: “Dear charming lovely Nancy L—r, Thou art my only Toast, I swear”, wrote one love-struck fellow.

    Many of the musings in “The Merry-Thought” are, however, so familiar as to be virtually eternal. One rhyme, from a London stall, mixes contempt for other people's writings with what a psychologist would call anal fixation:

    Hither I came in haste to sh-t,
    But found such Excrements of Wit,
    That I to shew my Skill in Verse,
    Had scarcely Time to wipe my A--e.


    Similar verses were recorded two centuries later by an American lexicographer, Allen Walker Read, whose “Glossarial study of the low element in the English vocabulary” relied on material from America's national parks. Such latrinalia are so unchanging, in fact, that folklorists call them “traditional” or “trite”. Along with “cute-intellectual” and “tea-room trade” graffiti (“For a good time meet here at 5 o'clock”), they account for most of what is written on lavatory walls—which is to say, most of what is written on walls anywhere.

    It takes a great controversy to distract graffiti-writers from the pressing concerns of love, defecation and the fortunes of the local sporting team. When political and religious passions are touched off, though, more urgent messages begin to appear on walls. Wars, dictatorships and rebellions produce vast quantities of graffiti, and in more public places. The point of political propaganda is, after all, not to offend and annoy people, but to influence them. At times of great agitation, writers take such risks to ensure their messages are seen that bravado itself can become the point of the exercise.

    That happened during the Palestinian intifada of 1987-93, when the walls of the occupied West Bank were literally fought over. Gangs of youths crept out at night to paint rebellious and sometimes witty slogans: “Prison is for relaxation, deportation policy is for tourism, throwing stones is exercise”. Israeli soldiers swiftly blacked out the slogans, though few of them could read Arabic. Or they used the threat of fines to coerce the owners of walls into doing their work, which brought an immediate response from the local scribblers: “Don't paint over graffiti voluntarily. First warning!” Thanks to the efforts made to suppress them, graffiti became so potent that they not only expressed, but actually created, a sense of revolutionary solidarity. Walls became dispatches from which the uprising's progress could be read.

    No group, though, has used graffiti so freely as evangelical Christians. They, too, are fighting a war (of a spiritual kind) and regard walls simply as things on which to spread the word. This is not surprising, given the biblical emphasis on public writing. Belshazzar's fate was spelt out by a mysterious hand writing in plaster, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” (“Counted and counted, weighed and divided”). This message, as puzzling as the best graffiti, could only be interpreted by Daniel, who thought it portended the division of his kingdom. That mere devotees ought to follow the divine example is made clear in Deuteronomy, where they are twice instructed to write the ten commandments on the gates and door frames of their houses.

    That injunction has been keenly obeyed, though Christians have rarely stopped at the ten commandments, or at their own homes. “It is good for us to have His law written everywhere,” insisted the Protestant reformer Jean Calvin. Medieval and Renaissance churches were filled with crude crosses and autographs, many of them carved into statues and paintings of saints. Such alterations do not appear to have been frowned upon until recently. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, 150 messages were inscribed into the wall paintings of one church in the Italian town of Arborio. They are so carefully cut, and the subject matter so inoffensive, that they must have been officially sanctioned.

    In the 1970s, feminist reworkings of biblical texts were a favourite: “Three wise men—are you serious?”

    Christian messages these days are spray-painted on to walls in such a crude style that they appear more inspired than planned—which is presumably the point. Testaments of faith have become so common that they have spawned a kind of counter-scriptural mockery. London is especially popular for such Rabelaisia. In the 1970s, feminist reworkings of biblical texts were a favourite: “Three wise men—are you serious?” “The birth of a man who thinks he is a god is not such a rare event”. Another example appeared on a wall in West Kensington a few years ago. A familiar testament of faith had been altered by the addition of a single letter: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Sony”.

    Politics and religion can even find their way into graffiti's favourite haunt, where they take on a different and, often, more poisonous form. In the early 1970s American academics began collecting political graffiti from the walls of university lavatories. Comparing notes, they were puzzled to find that the vilest, most hateful epithets against blacks and gays were inscribed on the walls of progressive institutions like Barnard, Columbia and Rutgers. At least 20% of all messages in one study were homophobic, and 17% were anti-black. Equally oddly, though, conservative universities in the American mid-west had hardly any offensive graffiti, and neither did all-white high schools or bars.

    That suggests walls cannot be read as though they are opinion polls. When views are uncontroversial, they may not be written down at all, since neither taste nor law inhibits their expression. The white toughs who hung out in neighbourhood bars 30 years ago might have happily shouted insults such as “Go back to Africa, Nigger!” whereas a student at one liberal East Coast college had to retreat to the men's room in order to say the same thing. He had to be alone—but not completely alone, or there would have been no point in recording his little insult. Offensive messages thrive when people feel their views have been suppressed by the forces of political correctness. The lavatory wall is the manifesto of a counter-revolution that never comes.

    Come back Kilroy, all is forgiven

    Graffiti writing has always been more respectable than its enemies would admit. Before the era of mass education—in most places, the 19th and 20th centuries—it must have been the preserve of the middle and upper classes, because only their members were literate. The vulgar rhymes anthologised in “The Merry-Thought” were scratched by men and women who could scan, and not always just in one language: some wrote in Latin and French. In any event, it is known that some of the writers were well-to-do, because they gave their titles. “Captain R.T.”, who wrote six lines in a tavern near Hampton Court in 1710, was no commoner.

    These days graffiti can be written by anyone. Literacy has become almost universal in the developed world, and writing tools are cheap. Tagging—the repeated writing of names that became fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s—is done by disreputable folk of all social classes, but it is associated with the poor. So are the often beautiful murals that grace railway bridges and, on occasion, art galleries. But there is a difference between these fairly novel types of graffiti and the traditional kind. People who write their names simply want to assert their existence to others, whereas people who write messages want to put a point across.

    The second attitude, of course, is typical of the most educated and confident segment of society. That alone suggests today's scribblers may be more worthy than the graffiti they leave behind—just as they were in the 18th century. It may be telling, too, that anti-war messages are so common: pacifist views tend to be stronger among middle-class youth. Most suggestive of all is the decline of graffiti. In the 1970s and 1980s cities were so full of the stuff that modern-day Hurlo Thrumbos filled several compilations. But walls now contain fewer messages. That is partly because of more militant scrubbing, but it is also because there is a new place where people can write anonymously, if they have access to it: the internet. Type “bathroom humor” or “racist jokes” into a search engine, and it is obvious where many of the offending writers have gone.

    It may be that the habit of writing on walls is slowly being lost. A pity, if so: life would be neater without graffiti, but it would also be less interesting. On the rare occasions when doodles survive for a few centuries, they become a valuable record of past lives and, often, a tourist attraction. The 5,000-year-old chambered tomb of Maes Howe, in Orkney, is mostly famous for the runes left behind by some 12th-century Vikings. Some of the messages are boastful: “These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the Western Ocean”. Others are whimsical. “Tholfr Kolsseinn's son carved these runes high up”, reads one message close to the roof. There are statements of desire: “Ingigerth is the most beautiful of women”—which would be more romantic if it were not carved next to the image of a slavering dog. A dragon nearby has more charm.

    But the most intriguing messages in Maes Howe are those about the burial chamber itself, and the rumours of treasure that may have encouraged the raiders to break into it. One begins abruptly in mid-sentence: “is to me said that treasure is here hidden very well”. Another is less hopeful: “It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here. Happy is he that might find that great treasure”. Some of these messages seem to have been carved in 1153, when a group of Viking crusaders stopped on their way back from Palestine. Others may have been left two years earlier, when, according to the “Orkneyinga Saga”, two raiders took shelter in the tomb and went mad. The runes may be honest records, revealing the hopes and frustrations of those who sought wealth on the island. Or they may be spiteful messages intended to tease and confuse. As so often with graffiti, it is impossible to say for sure.


    Scribbles for thought


    Memento mori


    ...and deep questions


    Israelis vow vengeance


    Runic wisdom in Orkney

  5. #50

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    January 14, 2005

    New Team Takes Aim at Graffiti in the City

    By JIM RUTENBERG


    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Thursday with Carmen Carillo, a community leader, at the 75th Precinct in East New York, Brooklyn.

    The Police Department is singling out the city's 100 most frequently arrested vandals for extra monitoring as part of a renewed push to reduce graffiti, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said yesterday.

    Officials unveiled the specifics of the effort two days after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the creation of a new antigraffiti task force during his State of the City address on Tuesday, joining a long list of mayors who have vowed to eradicate graffiti as a way into the hearts of New York City voters.

    Presenting the particulars at the 75th Precinct in East New York, Brooklyn, with Mr. Kelly yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg portrayed the new initiative as part of his continuing effort to improve the quality of life in the city, a pillar of his case for re-election.

    "Graffiti is something for which our administration has zero tolerance," the mayor said, calling it "an invitation to criminal behavior."

    The new program includes a merger of the antivandalism unit of the Police Department and that of the transit police under a new command structure overseen by an assistant chief, Ed Young. The task force will have 80 members, officials said.

    Mr. Kelly said the task force was already experimenting with infrared cameras designed to catch vandals in the act and would use a database that tracks vandalism patterns and repeat offenders. Officials declined to say where those cameras were being placed, and Mr. Kelly declined to make public the list of the top 100 offenders - included in a bound book he displayed to reporters - calling it an "investigative tool."

    Police officials said they had begun merging the antivandalism squads of the Police Department and the transit police two months ago and that graffiti arrests by the two units were 20 percent higher than they were for the same period last year, contributing to a 78 percent increase in graffiti arrests overall last year, according to police statistics.

    Mr. Kelly said the department would try to increase graffiti arrests even more by aggressively publicizing a $500 reward for information leading to the arrests of graffiti vandals. And Mr. Bloomberg said the city's 311 phone line would now send calls directly to officials with the task force, which is coordinating with the mayor's office for community affairs.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  6. #51

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    This is the perfect place to ask an age-old urban question:

    Graffti: Good for cities of bad?

    My opinion, as long as it's not offenseive, violent, overwehlming, or destrcutive, it adds character to an area. Can you ever imagine any city without it? Why do you think people and comunties are more colorful in the city, literally!

  7. #52
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    I think it's ok when it's not destructive, lame tagging, or without permission. I think owners of properties to-be graffed should be able to say yes or no, or limit the amount. I'm sure a lot of property owners would consent to creative, artistic works - not ones that bring down their property values.

    Graffiti on public transit should remain banned, period.

  8. #53
    Senior Member Bob's Avatar
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    An absolute treat for me, each time I travel into Manhattan on Metro North, is to see the trackbed-side graffiti along the way. Much of this stuff is world-class art. I am always amazed at how gorgeous, complex, and inventive a lot of it is. It pains me that years and years of individual works of masterwork graffiti art have been sprayed over, sandblasted clean, etc. Somehow, there should be a way to capture this art for generations. An NYC Graffiti Art Museum would be one such way. Another might be an annual Graffiti Art contest.

    As for those who put up this stuff, I'm not so sure I'd want to meet them in person, but I don't mind telling them -- anonymously -- that some of their work is absolute genius.

  9. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob
    An absolute treat for me, each time I travel into Manhattan on Metro North, is to see the trackbed-side graffiti along the way. Much of this stuff is world-class art. I am always amazed at how gorgeous, complex, and inventive a lot of it is. It pains me that years and years of individual works of masterwork graffiti art have been sprayed over, sandblasted clean, etc. Somehow, there should be a way to capture this art for generations. An NYC Graffiti Art Museum would be one such way. Another might be an annual Graffiti Art contest.

    As for those who put up this stuff, I'm not so sure I'd want to meet them in person, but I don't mind telling them -- anonymously -- that some of their work is absolute genius.
    I would like to see most graffiti eliminated. It looks horrible unless it's a commissioned mural.

    Anyway, here's your "museum" in LIC:
    http://www.5ptz.com/

  10. #55

    Default No. 5 train



    "A friend of mine who's a graffiti expert passed along this info:
    In case you didn't know that was a VIM(OA) car. The Vandals In Motion and Monsters Of Art crews are brother/sister crews from the Coppenhagen, Sweden, Holland area and I guess one of them was visiting NYC on vacation."

  11. #56

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    Thank goodness that garbage is easy to remove!

  12. #57

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    Graffiti is artistic, but the stigma from the '70s attached to it and crime gives it a bad image, so I have no problem with the MTA trying to limit its growth.

  13. #58

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    I consider it art as well, but not when its used as vandalism.

  14. #59

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    bump.

    fyi, writers dont really care what you think either way, and thats the beauty of it. its not advertising, its not a billboard, and its not for sale. writers write for themselves and for other writers. but anyone under 40 who grew up in NYC and doesn't recognize the connection it has to graffiti must have been walking around blindfolded your whole life.

  15. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by asg

    The Vandals In Motion and Monsters Of Art crews are brother/sister crews from the Coppenhagen, Sweden, Holland area and I guess one of them was visiting NYC on vacation."
    How charming of them to travel here to **** up our trains.

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