Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men’s behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!
– Graffiti found in a Pompeii Brothel
Before Shepard Fairy plastered the world with Andre the giant has a posse Obey stickers Kilroy was here. Since there has been people there has been drawing on walls. Some of the earliest records of civilization are cave walls defaced. We did not draw on just walls but everything you can imagine. Ed Big Daddy Roth drew on cars. Michelangelo drew on church ceilings. Pompeii is unique in that when it was destroyed instantly it was covered in ash and preserved. This preserved the graffiti of 79 AD. Did the neighborhood council get together in Pompeii and have meetings about how to wipe out the graffiti?
Kilroy was a war time era tag. We know that many people used it and that it was commonly used by G.I.’s. The origin and who Kilroy was is a subject of dispute.
No matter how destructive or productive the graffiti is perceived to be it is the ideal medium to challenge the existing structure of property. The property owner is free to make money from plastering propaganda art on their walls and buses. If you can’t afford the property you are not given that voice freely. Your speech is as free as you can afford it to be. You can reach the masses on the 6:00 news or on a subway wall. Sadly the discussion of graffiti in the main stream is one of ‘vandalism’ or ‘property values’. The argument surfaced that it is destruction therefore it leads to a whole assortment of horrible murders and crimes. Some would equate it to a broken window in this theory that one broken window leads to a plethora of undesirable activity. Is that the problem with the church? Was it Michelangelo’s paintings on the walls and ceilings that led the church to lead ward and burn women they proclaimed to be witches? Scarcity leads to poverty and a lack of resources which in turn leads to an inability to upkeep ones windows as well as certain behaviors which have been criminalized. Poverty is criminalized and created in the current system therefore the broken window is destined to coexist with the other activity that occurs out of desperation due to scarcity.
The majority discuss street art at a level that embraces the existing capitalist order. It is time to take the discussion to a new level. Why are some profiting from plastering images and words all over walls and billboards while others are criminalized? Writing on a wall is labeled vandalism in our society. Vandalism is considered violence by many in society. In this case the biggest perpetrators of this violence are the marketing departments of the corporations that have so intrusively invaded every aspect of our lives in western culture.
The questions we need to start asking are questions of property and privilege. Not all are equally empowered to reach others with their message. Capital is the power of speech and the speech is most often property within itself. Ownership is the privilege of use it is the right of increase and dominion over the resource or concept that is owned. If a certain property is so public why is it that the public can not choose to use it as the capitalist uses their private property? The property is not public if a certain entity holds dominion over it. If the artist chooses to use the private property of the capitalist who has stolen the labor of the worker they may simply be reclaiming a portion of this stolen property.
Spray paint the walls and challenge the dominion of the ruling class.
I want to live a life of meaning but instead I work 9 to 5. I want to feed my family but instead I am an underemployed wage slave.