There is something very anti-social about graffiti essentially. The problem isn’t an issue of making graffiti acceptable in the way of muralism or street art where money becomes an issue but letting it simply state its point of disorganisation. Graffiti follows a trajectory though. It follows paths and has a very clear directive. This may seem contradictory and in fact that is my point. It is filled with contradictions through and through. It can seem to be something and yet not be what it seems. It is also just ephemera or a moment of physical experience. That is what is shared. The physical space itself is the meeting place and that even carries in photos.
Street art has a different agenda. It is to entice through a clear set of goals that follow a clients directive. It is signed sealed and delivered as a set of desires and points in linear space and time. There are clear expectations and agendas throughout the whole process from design to delivery. It is a 21st Century ode to efficiency and the joys of consumer culture that are not to be erred. There are few street artists at least in Sydney who work eclectically and to me that is a big problem. Only successful white actors of art are meant to fit the rock star street artist form.
The issue then if it really is money is how do these different modes of operation get from A to B? How do they work when money is the goal? Graffiti besides the long lost Kebab shop wall artists is a self funded activity operating within bounds of access and ingenuity. The fact graffiti still exists at all is nothing short of a miracle. Most illegal practitioners are self funded using cheap house paint and rollers while ordering stickers from China which are also cheap so it has followed the rise of cheap overseas manufacturing from spray cans to rollers.
Street art on the other hand has upped the anti choosing larger and more expensive tools and higher cost projects in general. What this means practically is that one is intending to overtake the other simply through scale whereas graffiti follows an economy of scale so doesn’t fall into the pitfall of competition itself. Both are competitive for different reasons. Street art will put different artists to tender thus supposedly saving money. Every one knows this is sure fire disappointment for a few reasons namely that you get what you pay for typically.
Graffiti though simply turns up uninvited in most cases and can grow quite rapidly in certain environments at a low cost. Isn’t that in itself an economic advantage bar none? For example nobody but the practitioner had to come up with the money for producing it and may have even stolen the goods to do it anyway. Why get stressed and clean it off when a piece of street art twenty metres long turns up that you may not even like somewhere nearby? Graffiti though contradictory isn’t really cursed by its disorganised and eclectic nature. Graffiti can change and adapt whereas street art may find it harder as it grows larger and larger. Most street artists were graffiti artists and found graffiti didn’t suit them. If the constant contradictions and physical violence weren’t enough then the act itself was probably the tipping point.
A question I ask myself is how have I survived these cultural contradictions? I simply did what I wanted on my own terms. I used the contradictions creatively by channeling it through the work. The people with the problems have themselves to contend with. I am somewhere else and I am not competing in the same space. If you want to play any collective game you have problems whether it is street art or graffiti. You simply find your voice and space and do your thing. Probably easier said than done to be honest.