Graffiti And Money

One of the interesting things about graffiti is a lot of it isn’t motivated by money. How many movements are around that don’t start eventually being fueled by cash. Graffiti is more about covering territory and pushing the techniques of the medium. Of course there are writers out there motivated by money but a lot of the really interesting work being done is not payrolled. There are commercial styles but within the graffiti community they are usually frowned upon as being too mainstream, although technical abilities are respected whether commercial or not, purely commercial work is seen as separate from the core writing practice. Street art which is far more accessible than graffiti has had commercial success and this is why it can become lame. Not that street art is lame but once money is in the equation it loses its edge and really is mainstream. Luckily for graffiti tags keep it edgy and non commercial, tags are the life blood of the movement. People hate tags but this is the most relevant driver of the graffiti ethos. The other advantage is the range of coded work that is not for a market but purely to drive innovation within the codes graffiti artists use. These codes depend on many factors such as crew associations or styles and histories. When I think of my own practice all of my best work is driven by extending the codes available and sometimes by pushing a code from my crew that creates a piece that is out of the reach of capitalist conduct. If I were to water down my work maybe it would sell but where would the work end up? Would it still be graffiti? That is debatable, the only way I could monetize is through publishing and many graffiti artists publish books. Even the books are not entirely about money because they are usually a niche market, the main motivation is documentation. Documentation brings with it other factors such as notoriety, skill level, innovation or other factors mostly dependent on the story behind the work and its presentation in book form. Graffiti isn’t about Communism or some such but is really driven by notoriety like gangs. Territory is obviously important to the tagger but the images usually captured in photographs are about the spirit of the free agent, breaking the law to find infamy or discover something new and unseen. This is what makes graffiti the most important artform, it isn’t here to please but to show the way forward.

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