Dig the dirt

John Cooper scribes his views on Scrawl too: more dirt and tags the fact that graffiti artists will always use their talent as a platform for social comment

Scrawl too: more dirt succeeds where Hollywood fails. It is a sequel every bit as funny, original and inspiring as the first episode.

You may think graffiti is vandalism, but at its best it can be a powerful voice for the angst of urban youth. Scrawl too co-author Ric Blackshaw explains the malaise that has provoked much of the work in Scrawl too. “Even our governments are powerless in the face of juggernaut global capitalism,” he says, adding, “It’s a message to those that would create a veneer of a clean, antiseptic and safe world order, that just beneath the surface there is chaos, in all its unpredictable beauty.”

This eloquent rebellion is turned into tangible reality by writers like Banksy, who makes guerrilla art for the “voiceless minority”. His wry sense of humour comes through in apocalyptic images of kamikaze monkeys riding flying-bombs into the Houses of Parliament.

Poking fun at the cherished beliefs of “straight” society can be more fun. Dave the Chimp tells you to “destroy true believers”, and paints an image of Jesus as a skater, riding a crucifix-shaped board. I wonder what the true believers thought of that.

Graffiti can be used to give an edge to advertising: Scrawl too contains work for Levi’s, Adidas and Carhartt. But push graffiti too far in a commercial direction and it will bite back – AA Crew’s Just Did It features a fractured sneaker, surrounded by mock promotional slogans such as “It has a swoosh”, but the one that gives the game away is a simple “Air Virus”. This is no Nike ad, it’s an attempt to stop the germs of Nike’s globalisation campaign spreading. Blackshaw backs the work up, arguing that: “Graffiti still seems able to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight without selling its soul.”

Like anything in pop culture, graffiti will regurgitate slogans and images to achieve its own ends. Ryan McGuiness takes drawings that look like they’ve been taken from a 1950s instruction manual for suburban bliss and disfigures the characters, turning them into grotesque freaks of nature.

Some writers take inspiration from older cultures. Merda transfers his work from murals to sculpture for Robot head, a face of Cubist blocks that would not look out of place on a totem pole.

Conversely, the work of Puzle and Dmote is pure, unadulterated graffiti. They create stunning, labyrinthine, typographic patterns that you will blow a fuse trying to decipher. But that would be missing the point. Writers don’t seem to care if you can “read” their work – if you don’t have time to interpret the message, they don’t have time to spell it out for you. Either way, the writers win, because if you don’t have time for social comment, you’ll still be blown away by the writers’ twisted, surreal sense of humour and their outrageous style. Banksy says he “can never figure out whether we’re in the entertainment business or the start-a-revolution business. I guess ideally it should be both”. When art has as much infectious energy as graffiti, isn’t there room for both?

Scrawl too: more dirt is compiled by Liz Farrelly, Ric Blackshaw, Mike Dorrian, Dave Recchia. Published by Booth-Clibborn on 4 July, priced £25

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