Graffiti, also known as street art, is probably the best thing that happened in my life. It’s made me who I am today, and has lead me to pursue a career in advertising; honestly, it is just amazing. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same toward the art style. At its best, Graffiti is considered to be art, at its worst it is considered to be vandalism. I believe this modern art movement serves as visual artifacts critiquing societies’ values and beliefs, and many artists want to convey their messages through the streets of our community, whether it is a serious message regarding poverty, social rights, etc or something heartwarming to brighten someone's day. We discussed a couple of people in class that fall under the category of street art, which made me the happiest of all school girls. We discussed Banksy, the most known “unknown” street artist, and Shepard Fairey’s OBEY movement. I think I'm going to begin with Banksy, because in my opinion, he’s the coolest.
Banksy. Banksy. Banksy. He’s a joker all right. He specializes in stencils and wheat-paste graffiti, and can be characterized as ironic and satirical. He’s funny, he’s cool, and honestly who can’t love him? Banksy takes a huge hit on our materialistic, capitalist, and selfish world. He wants to mock society’s love for their love for meaningless material goods, the capitalist economy, and social problems. For example, he hates advertisers because they use their creativity to ruin the world [that escalated quickly]. Advertisers are telling everyone what to love, what to buy, how to look, what to be, and pretty much how to live our lives, but in a very subtle way. It taps into our self-conscious, how? Well we are exposed to around 500 advertisements every day, trapped in an ocean of brands, labels, ideologies that we are brainwashed to follow because "they" say that is the “norm”. They have so much power, and as consumers, we are vulnerable to buy into their scheme.
"People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs."- Banksy
It’s ironic how I love Banksy yet he hates on the one thing I want to become, but he’s got a point. The advertising business has a strong influence on our mind, and dictates what is acceptable and what is not. For example, shock advertisements today are shown throughout the world, where they rely on the photograph’s ability to arouse emotion and shock potential audiences. Unfortunately, instead of spreading awareness of violence against women, they are desensitizing us from the ordeal. They are making it out to be a usual thing, while still trying to promote their products. High end retailers such as Dolce Gabbana, Calvin Klein, and many others exhibit themes of rape, violence against women, and provocative and controversial images to sell jeans, clothes, alcohol, and other material goods. Society has come to the point where violence against women is made fashionable; we can beat women or be beat, while still looking cool.
“Gorgeous women have been visually beaten and burned, bashed and slashed in service to fashion, art, and commerce—each of which seem to take cultural precedence over women’s health, well-being, and personal and political agency.” - Karrin Anderson (Bag News)
Here are some advertisements that I am referring to.
Banksy also makes his mark on the subject of human and animal rights. He created a stencil featuring two cops making out, he portrays children in poverty wearing shirts that says “I HATE MONDAYS.” In 2008, Banksy opened his first “official” exhibition in New York. His exhibition included chicken nuggets being dipped in BBQ sauce, a fur coat made to appear to be a tiger, fish fingers swimming in a fish bowl; he is trying to make society question their relationship with animals. His art makes us take a step back and seriously analyze our lives, and the society that is shaping it.
To learn more about Banksy’s and his art visit his website, which was not made by him, the documentary, Exit through theGift Shop, which he directed with Mr. Brainwash, and the books about him.
The OBEY movement would have to be my least favorite part about Street Art. I just personally dislike how OBEY made graffiti “fashionable,” similar to Urban Outfitters making anything considered “ethnic” fashionable; it’s just insulting. They know nothing behind the culture, besides that the fact that it is sold at Zumiez. I am probably over-generalizing those OBEY fans, I’m sure there are plenty of people who know every detail of the history of OBEY, Graffiti, and much more. But that is beside the point; let me tell you about this movement.
Inspired by Andre the Giant, a professional wrestler and an awesome actor in The Princess Bride, Shepard Fairey took this man’s face and created something much more than what he anticipated. Fairey was a graphic designer and illustrator attending Rhode Island School of Design . In the 80's, he became fascinated with Andre the giant, because his face seemed “sinister and goofy,” all at the same time. He then began creating a simple sticker featuring Andre the giant; soon after that, the movement was formed.
For years, he plastered the stickers and posters all around the world, and it had develop a cult following. The purpose of this movement was to make society question EVERYTHING, including authority. Fairey justifies his actions of vandalizing (placing his art everywhere without permission) as an extension to his freedom of speech. Why should advertisers be the only ones to “occupy the graphic communication of public space?” Though, this may parallel with Banksy’s opinion on advertising, Fairey’s views are a little more complicated. He is a proud capitalist profiting from his clothing line, stickers, posters, music covers, etc. Some say he sold out, others say he is living the dream of what any underground street artist would have ever wanted. Whatever opinion you have, OBEY is everywhere; on the streets, in museums, at Zumiez, on the bodies of teenagers who know a little of the art movement, etc.
Here are other well known graffiti artist that are pretty awesome.
Here are some local graffiti from Austin that I am honestly impressed by.
Some music artist that remind me about graffiti in general would have to be Typical Cats. I used to listen to them non-stop in high school. Like it was literally my JAM of the day. It is a bit "guetto," but if you enjoy the culture of street art and graffiti as much as me, you will LOVE IT. Please enjoy.