Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Graffiti Etiquette

Graffiti Etiquette
Originally uploaded by Snurri.
"Consider that the last broadcast television station in the city went off the air in 1985. (For information on Cathode Phantoms and 'Channel Spider' see Chapter 17.) The municipal radio station (officially called Radio Faldbakken--with the mayor's characteristic modesty--but known to most citizens as the Squeal) is limited to broadcasting hourly news updates and three hours of programming in the evenings. There are three or four primary newspapers in the city (depending on your count), none of which are published every day, all with a limited and inconsistent circulation area. Once these realities are taken into account it is not difficult to understand how graffiti has become the city's preferred media. . . . The messages vary in polish and professionalism as well as content; from stencilled messages from the city ('Water Station 8 Blocks This Direction,' 'Use of Magic Prohibited In This Area,' and the omnipresent 'Off Limits') to crude hand-painted advertisements ('Resturant [sic] 4 Blocks South,' 'Garden Vegetables Avail. Here,' 'Prognosticator/Escort Service') to elaborate tag-puzzles which, to the initiated, are a detailed guide to the street-level web of influence and power for the neighborhood in question. . . . While it is difficult to trace any particular set of messages to a single artist, many astute observers of street art believe that a single individual (known variously as 'Miss Casein' or 'Spraypaint Abby,' though it should be pointed out that the gender of the individual is not known) is responsible for a particular set of messages. They point to the consistent use of milk-based paint, the identical typeface of the stenciling, and the odd, off-kilter phrasing. 'Look Both Ways Before Tossing Sewage' is one of the most frequently sighted tags, along with 'Share Your Meat' and 'Declare Salamander Infestations.' While reminders of civic responsibility are the mystery tagger's most frequent works, other slogans are more worrisome. In particular, residents of the northeast side have been concerned by recent exhortations to 'Offer Thanks to the Rat Gods.' . . . Mayor Faldbakken's Graffiti Painters have expressed a desire for this unknown tagger (or taggers) to join the city's official squad, but to date no contact has been made." (p.131)


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