How can anyone be surprised, in this day and age, at a company like Volkswagen using something like graffiti as a promotional tool, let alone be appalled (Letters, DW 5 December 2002). That would be just too naive.
It’s not even all that new. I recall the Rolling Stones used a similar tactic at least a decade ago, as do Camper and Diesel, to name a few.
Free and surprising? I don’t know what’s so surprising about seeing someone’s name written 500 times, along with dozens of other names, in a style that’s been around for 20 years, plastered all over the walls, in the street, or the London Underground. If you think Hoxton Square is ‘visually void’, you must walk around with your eyes closed.
As for the artists you list, I’d have to say their work has little to do with tagging. These are people with something more to say than just their names repeated ad nauseum on someone else’s garden wall. The reactions provoked by banal repetition of tags are entirely negative and don’t enrich the lives of anyone but those juvenile minds that created them.
In Madrid there is a major problem of kids scratching tags on windows with glass cutters. This is the same mentality that gives us statues, monuments, parks, buildings and trees covered in ‘Marco y Monica – 1996’ and similar exhilarating, creative, expressive stuff. To grace such marks with the elevated rubric of ‘creative expression’ can only demean work that is done with purpose and thought.
It serves to lump all graffiti in the same category of vandalism. Madrid has many graffiti artists such as Doctor Hoffman, whose work enlivens the streets and the many decrepit and poster-strewn walls here. There is also a beautiful piece of spray can graffiti on a huge block of steel opposite the Reina Sophia art gallery that contributes positively to the its position in the public space. I’m all for giving credit where it’s due, but don’t just, unthinkingly, support every half-hearted scrawl as if it’s the latest work of the next, as yet undiscovered, Picasso. If tags are a visual identity then they must serve only to unite their creators as they do little to distinguish one from another.
As for practising the style and look, I have to disagree.
Taggers, if fact, use the public spaces they operate in as practice pads. Tagging is just another facet of youthful vandalism and it really does not deserve to be elevated to an art form.