A lot of people have done graffiti at one stage or another. When graffiti first started graffiti was seen as a new artform. In Sydney the transit police saw the new artform as vandalism and systematically used their power to question its artistic integrity. They were graffiti artists’ biggest critics. Transit police told these budding artists that they were criminals and vandals first and foremost. Eventually the budding artists left and those that stayed believed their critics taunts. The whole scene transformed into a huge array of gangs and thugs. If you did art you were a toy or just weird. There were gangland rules. The budding artists who were told they were a bunch of criminals became some of the most notorious criminals of the day. Some joined bikie gangs, some did ram raids, drug dealing and the list went on. Violent thugs bashed people for no reason other than they were different to acceptable norms. Gangs clashed, stabbings, incarceration and the once tall poppies became a nightmare for law enforcement to contain.
They had a pedestal then they were taunted by authorities and any hope of a constructive outcome was dashed aside. Of course graffiti came with two masks. One mask was the artist and the other mask the vandal. Yet both masks were pulled aside and underneath was a youth looking to be part of something bigger. The gangs were simply another mask. They could vie for territory rather than worry about artistic problems of fashion, style, or content. The violence that was unleashed was the last straw for any artistic integrity. That was when the real critics turned up. Graffiti was territorial pissing, it was lowbrow, a lower art form. This will happen to a group that doesn’t access institutional frameworks. Though when people do they take off into new territory. A lot of people can’t do that for a load of reasons so the artform then is low brow because it is comfortable, it is acceptable without any need for a higher authority, it is for the marginalised or those that need an escape from any number of issues.
Some stuck to the original idea, that it was an art form that was fruitful and that can have artistic integrity in different forms. They are a rare breed. They didn’t believe everything they were told and thought where can I take this?