Graffiti Tuesdays

Across the span of human history, making marks and signs through scratching or inking surfaces has put individuals into context in their environments. For many young people, their own names are the first words they learn to write. We spent Tuesday afternoons this summer marking surfaces and inscribing names in an exploration of the art of graffiti.

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Graffiti, in the contexts of contemporary street art and hip-hop culture, exhibits the necessity of human expression, the sharing of ideas against all odds, and the immense creativity and artistic skill used to wield materials in the street. In that it is impermanent and can be dangerous or even illegal, it reminds us of the lengths to which humans will go to express themselves, to claim a place as their own.

There were obvious challenges to creating hands-on experiences with traditional graffiti methods and materials, but with a focus on inscribing names on surfaces, we made our marks. Using books and documentary photographs from my own archive, we broadened the context to consider some of those off-limits materials and venues. I hope to have shared the deep inspiration I take from this art-against-all-odds and perhaps to have fueled the future of claiming space with names and beautiful letters.

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One thought on “Graffiti Tuesdays

  1. Wonderful work and perspective. As someone who is not really always that glad about graffiti on public spaces, your “art-against-all-odds” and celebration of individual expression was meaningful. We like to mark our world with pieces of ourselves, our names, our concerns, the things we love, our frustration about the things we hate, and, of course, those who feel they have no other inroad into expression will resort to defacing the work of others (or the utilitarian buildings, trains, etc. of others). That the “defacing” sometimes makes the surface structures more, not less human, is something to celebrate. But sometimes graffiti seems to be a destructive attack which feels like resentment rather than constructive expression. It makes sense that people are resentful, and it is surely better to mark surfaces, especially when done beautifully, than to blow something up, but what about working toward a society where marginalized people (like children!) learn to participate constructively in building the world we share together? Which would have to be one where people are invited to participate. But would you invite someone who just painted all over your painting with a spray can to collaborate with you? Well, you probably would, so. ….In any case, doing this with children and talking as you do about the need for expression (and I think also of owning one’s place in the world, taking up one’s place, having a voice in the world) really brings up the importance of encouraging and inviting young people (teenagers too) to participate in making the world and speaking their minds. Which is so much of what you do everyday. And I thank you! I would just prefer they do it constructively, not destructively! Love and Awe, your reactionary friend, Genese

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