April 6, 2011

Graffiti as Culture Jamming

"People say there is a graffiti problem. The only problem with graffiti is that there is not enough of it. Imagine a city where graffiti wasn't illegal, a city where everbody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a living breathing thing which belonged to everybody, not just estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like this and stop leaning against that wall--its wet"--Banksy in Existencilism

Before I begin my post this an introductory post that will be expanded upon at a later date.

The well known street artist Banksy adequately captures the feelings of many revolutions, an attempt to make society and the city unified and a collective unit not one run by a larger superstructure. While Banksy describes it through the aesthetics of art in his article "Bombing Modernism" Amos Klausner describes how the social conditions, the slums and the ghettos that began to fester across the United States during the modernist push post World War II was not exposed and brought to public attention by politics but instead "It came from the heart of the ghetto where new voices were quick to take up arms against the status quo. Holstered with felt tip markers and spray cans, truth was recognized in a colorful show of force and bravado. For graffiti artists , manipulating letters became lifeblood and fighting back meant getting ill, and ill-legible." (Read all of Klausner's Article Here)

In later posts I will go more in depth analyzing Kalusner's observations of graffiti on the built environment. This introductory post just means to pose the question is graffiti a line of fracture? How does graffiti contribute to revolutionary movements? The answer is actually found in a graffiti slogan of May '68 "This Concerns Everyone." Graffiti reaches all those who see it and influences their perception of the space around them because the graffiti reshaped the area and creates a new aesthetic feeling for the area that can affect individuals who pass by. Is it coincidence that in order to communicate rebel groups in Libya use graffiti to organize meetings similar to the way the French resistance did in World War II? In the posts that follow over time I will devote 4 Post to 1. The role of graffiti in revolutionary communications 2. The affect graffiti has on the spatial plane 3. The movements influenced by/that utilize graffiti as a form of culture jamming 4. A collection of my personal favorite graffiti. Stay tuned for the posts to come.


  1. Just to put it out there for those of you who dont know a popular writer on the theory of culture jamming is a witty associate professor at columbia college chicago. Zach furness is an active vocalist of the biking culture and is in a rock band. He puts a lot of stuff up on the web including the one attached to this post. yes this is his facebook and its ok he uses it as a medium to display his stuff.


  2. ^^^ Furness has written some great stuff. He also does commentaries on current politics that are insightful and funny.