In the first week-end of April (5th and 6th) a graffiti exhibition was held at an abandoned Hua Hin’s factory. Artists from all over the world transformed the place into an art gallery for an international event organized by MOS or “Meeting of Styles”. No less than 50 International Street Artists were painting live during these two days. But also skaters, DJ’s, an American Classic Car Show, big bikes and a Harley Show in a week-end high in colours and music! Visit their website to take a look at the other events around Asia. WWW.MEETINGOFSTYLES.COM History of the graffiti Graffiti has a long and proud history. The subculture surrounding graffiti has existed for several decades, and it’s still going strong. The graffiti artists (or “writers” as they prefer to call themselves) are passionate, skilled, community-oriented, and socially conscious in ways that profoundly contradict the way they’ve been portrayed as common criminals and vandals. Birth and Evolution Graffiti, if we define it is any type of writing on the wall and goes back to ancient Rome.
The style of urban graffiti that most people have seen and know about, the kind that uses spray cans, came from New York City in the late 1960s, and was born on the subway trains. Taki 183, who lived on 183rd street in Washington Heights, worked as a messenger who travelled throughout the city.
He would use a marker and write his name wherever he went, at subway stations and also the insides and outsides of subway cars. Eventually, he became known all throughout the city as this mysterious figure. In 1971, he was interviewed for an article by the New York Times. Kids all over New York, realizing the fame and notoriety that could be gained from “tagging” their names on subway cars began to emulate Taki 183. The goal was to “get up” (using the slang of the day), to have one’s name in as many places as possible, and as kids competed against each other to get famous, the amount of graffiti on trains exploded.
Tagging and more Graffiti writers, in addition to getting their name around as much as possible, would try to outdo each other in terms of style. At first, writers would try to make their tags (or signatures) more stylish than anyone else’s. Later on, they would add more colours, special effects, and make their name bigger. Spray cans allowed large pieces of graffiti to be created fairly quickly which was important because writers didn’t want to get caught by the police.
A common misconception is that graffiti is all gang-related, this is not the case. Gangrelated graffiti is most often used to mark territory, and not as much time or effort is spent in its creation. The Golden Age The 70’s were the golden age of subway graffiti. Graf writers did not just battle each other in their quest to be the “King of all Lines” and all the other titles they bestowed upon themselves. They had to deal with police patrolling the trains and the yards where they worked, their masterpieces being washed off of cars, barbed wire fences and guard dogs, not to mention concerned parents who sometimes did not understand. Creativity What these kids did was to find a way to express themselves creatively in a society that told them that they didn’t have the talent or drive. They came from ghettos that many said were devoid of culture.
They expressed their identity in a society that tried to keep them anonymous, that tried to ignore social problems as if they didn’t exist. In our culture, where self-expression is becoming more and more highly regulated, graffiti plays an important role in brashly symbolizing unfettered individuality and resistance. Contemporary Graffiti With heightened security in the 80’s, subway graffiti slowly died out.
In 1989, the last train with significant amounts of graffiti on it was taken off the lines, ending an era. Traveling on the subways now there is virtually no graffiti to be seen on the outside of trains, and only dim scratchings here and there on the insides. But graffiti lives on, on city walls and other more unlikely places. Recently, there has been a trend towards writing graffiti on freight trains. Nowadays, artists are “getting up” not just in their own city, but across the country, furthering the transmission and mixing of different graffiti styles. Graffiti has also become a way to make money. Graffiti art has been featured in exclusive galleries and has exerted its influence on the world of graphic design.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see graffiti-style or graffiti-inspired art on t-shirts, posters, and CD covers. However subway graffiti is not completely dead. On the walls near the tracks (that aren’t underground), there’s still plenty of graffiti to be seen. When the subway trains are underground, through the windows in between stations, you can still see a lot of graffiti, some of it older probably, but some of it newer as well.
Self-expression can be stifled but never completely stopped. Graffiti and Hip Hop As we mentioned earlier, graffiti is considered one of the four elements of hip hop (along with emceeing, DJing, and B-Boying). These were the four major forms of creative expression that came from the Bronx, NY and spread to the rest of the world. Hip hop in 2003 is mostly centred around the emcee (or rapper), since the it’s the emcee that sells product (in the form of CDs) that the music industry can sell. Graffiti was done by writers of all ethnicities.
They tended to be young (teenagers, mostly) but some of the hardcore writers from the 70s are still going strong today. Writing was inclusive…if you had the talent. It was based on skill, not the colour of your skin, your religion or anything else that didn’t translate to the pieces you made. Graffiti is multicultural, representing the ethnic diversity of New York, the city that spawned it. The Environment Graffiti existed (and still exists) as a major part of the urban environment. Young rappers growing up and wandering the city streets still see graffiti all around them.
For some, graffiti represents decay, but for hip hop culture, graffiti provided the visual inspiration that encouraged other forms of creativity and expression. We hope with all these explanations we gave you a new perspective on graffiti, or at least reminded you of things you already know. We think graffiti is an important and powerful art form that we need to keep an eye on. An interesting book if you want to know more about graffiti is “The history of graffiti” by Fiona Mc Donald.