Grey city

Read an article on graffiti in Saó Paolo and was pointed in the direction of the documentary “Grey city” by the author of the article. I will have to see this documentary. The city itself has a population of 11 million people and is massive. The city itself seems quite oppressive just due its immensity so that has spawned a very active graffiti community. It helps put Os Gemeos in perspective with their huge colourful murals. I never quite understood their work until I read the article which by the way quotes the documentary in parts. They have to make giant work just for it to be noticed at all. The huge mass of city seems to swallow everything in its path quite literally and people have to find a voice to humanise the sprawling city.

In Australia we don’t have the same issue though Sydney and other cities stretch for an hour in every direction due to sprawl but it is a sprawl of smaller houses occasionally followed by buildings here and there. Australia is really a place with potential to grow. Graffiti though follows certain rail and road corridors and is more centred on individuals tagging. Graffiti in Sydney is only starting to grow as a bigger organised movement in certain municipalities that may have an influx of tags. Even using the term ‘graffiti’ has been replaced with ‘street art’ as graffiti lost face due to it being a part of youth gangs in past decades.

This fosters illegal tagging due to the separation of aerosol culture into acceptable and unacceptable camps which says more about Sydney cities brown washing of graffiti over decades of applications. There were funds available to redirect graffiti into more mainstream application but it wasn’t seen as successful and funding dried up due to conservative political cut backs and conservative ideologies. The funding and art produced during those years was fundamentally successful in getting graffiti out in the community but has been overshadowed by street art and its accessibility to those outside of Hip Hop culture.

In some ways the focus on Hip Hop in these funded programs over the years helped foster youth to find a positive voice but now generally graffiti in Sydney has become more focused on being an advocate of the clean train movement. With youth looking for new heroes who are seen as outlaws. This stretches back to Australian outlaws like Ned Kelly but with no real social oppression faced by Irish descendants in Australia like Kelly. Instead it feeds into fashionable trends in getting up. The Hip Hop element though has been finding a voice in music and art leading to the interesting show “It’s our thing” recently in Blacktown with performances by established rap group ‘Def Wish Cast’. Graffiti can still find a voice and it does in a positive way in Sydney, but you need something to contrast it with as well.

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