The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Monday 20 August 2012

Let’s get rid of graffiti and tagging – an exercise in futility?

Sometimes when debating and dealing with issues we will take our analysis only so far, not digging far enough.  A bit like digging a well in the back yard but stopping when the earth starts to feel moist and not digging further until the water itself is found.
The issue of graffiti and tagging is just such an issue. 
Graffiti and tagging are seen as blemishes on the face of most cities and there is a desire on the part of officialdom to remove, cleanse, stop and/or punish.  Will this desire ever translate into cities without graffiti or tagging?  My short answer is no.  That is because the desire to remove graffiti is predicated on a very shallow analysis of human psychology and a less than comprehensive socio-political perspective on the phenomenon.  

The question often arises about the motivation behind graffiti/tagging. What is the psychology?  Why is it done?  The research suggests that the psychology of graffiti/tagging has the following features:
  • Graffiti art is a desire to express one’s creativity in a public space.
  • Tagging is often a desire to stamp ones mark or to mark out territory, often obtaining prestige from other taggers or cohort groups.
  • Many taggers are lacking in self-esteem.

I’m not suggesting that these fully describe the psychology, but they do serve as useful markers to place graffiti/tagging in a socio-political and historical analysis.  If we look at tagging as a desire to mark out ones territory or to publicly announce ones existence or where one has been, then we have many examples of socially condoned tagging.  A tag is a recognisable mark notating a particular individual or group.  One of the most recognisable, prolific and enduring tags known World-wide is the Stars and Stripes.  That tag has been left everywhere from Iwo Jima to the Moon.  Yet, it is accepted, acknowledged, condoned – even encouraged – by society.  Why?  

Many other socially condoned tags can also be recognised.  Indeed, the marketing strategy of branding may be seen synonymously with tagging.  We all recognise these brands/tags: Macdonald’s, IBM, Coca-Cola etc.

Cave painting in Lascaux, France

Graffiti art too, is not dissimilar to condoned public art – all the way from pre-historic cave drawings to the massive carvings on Mt Rushmore. Why condone one form and condemn the other?  Some of the oldest known cave drawings found in France date back well over 30,000 years.  Drawings are found in all continents of the world and are often protected as archaeological and cultural sites.  Amongst the various theories put forward as to the meaning of these drawings is that some of them are the result of fantasies of adolescent males.  Sound familiar? 

Mt Rushmore - still controversial.
Wherever and whenever people have gone we have defaced natural surfaces with our art, often amidst controversy.  The well known faces of four American Presidents carved into Mt Rushmore (known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers) was surrounded by controversy from its inception.  The area in the Black Hills of South Dakota was seized from the Lakota in 1876.  Today the area is claimed by the Lakota under the Fort of Laramie Treaty of 1868.  The carving itself is charged by some as extolling the idea of racial superiority as the four Presidents selected were all in office during the time at which Native American land was being annexed.  This charge is given further credence by the accusation that the carver (Gutzon Borglum), and the man who chose the four Presidents, was an active member of the Ku Klux Klan.  

In the more modern era who amongst us has not heard of Kilroy was Here?  This global mark had its roots with US servicemen during World War II.  Not only have marks such as the Kilroy one become famous, but so too have some of the graffiti artists.  The work of Banksy in the UK is now sought after worldwide.   

All this suggests that graffiti and tagging are not new social phenomena.  Humankind has sought to place its mark wherever we have gone throughout history and space.  Branding as a form of tagging questions our social acceptance of relationships of power.  Why is it that those with the authority of corporate power are allowed to foist their tag upon our eyes whereas those without are labelled as criminal and their tag must be eliminated as quickly as possible? 

I am not suggesting that this excuses graffiti/tagging, but it certainly questions the social desire for cleansing our environment of one form of graffiti/tagging yet allowing other forms of expression that basically stem from a similar human need or desire. Furthermore, it suggests that our social desire to cleanse our environment of graffiti and tagging is bound to fail.  If we don’t reconsider our individual consumerism and the motivation of marketeers to stimulate and capitalise on that consumerism then we will continue to fail.

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