Grappling with Graffiti: Crime, Punishment, Gentrification
International Art Forum Conference on the City 2018 Barcelona, Spain
Abstract: Graffiti is seen disparately as rank vandalism in one culture and street art in another. It is accepted, rejected, gentrified, demonized, prosecuted, commissioned and stolen. This paper examines legal and cultural issues surrounding graffiti and street art from Athens, Georgia to Athens, Greece, from New York to Paris, Rome, Singapore, Istanbul and on to Barcelona, where a rich history of public art embraces creations from Gaudi to Gola.
An overview of graffiti is provided from cave art, to social and political protest in Roman times, through the flames of World War II and the race and cultural wars of the 1960s. Special emphasis is placed on the fanning of graffiti from the hip-hop culture of New York in the 1980s to the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Graffiti is seen as public art and as public menace. Graffiti as "free speech" and graffiti as "freely made threats" cohabit the visual culture and legal landscape of many cities. On one hand it is entering galleries and museums and on another it is being entered as evidence in gang-related trials. Inevitably this leads to perceptions both of fearless and also of fearful futures for our cities. Artists, entrepreneurs, urban planners and city administrators all face a common topic: Grappling with Graffiti -- Crime, Punishment, Gentrification. (213 words)
Keywords: Arts & Culture, Material Culture, Museum Studies, Urban Design