Seize the Context

Buford Youthward

Conversing with an ex-writer, I noted the following complaint: Is graffiti merely an act of individuals trying to define themselves or is there a message being communicated? Is graffiti the greatest non-message humanity has to offer? Is graffiti a gesture worth celebrating?

When we hear the claim that the medium is the message we must acknowledge the medium as nothing more than the context; the framing. My ability to determine or rather interpret truth is shaped by the context in which I consume information.

The cause of graffiti offers an interesting dilemma in that the context not only subsumes the message but simultaneously beguiles it. Determining what something isn't often clues us in on what something is.

If we accept graffiti as a vehicle of invention, we should keep in mind that when we cast gazes at masterworks we aren't staring at the icing on a cake but the summation of experience.

What is happening is not unlike an improvisation on a theme. The ability for the graffiti writer to provide challenging and demanding variations of themes demonstrates the writer's command of the context. This is how we should judge our heroes.

If graffiti walks on the tightrope the aforementioned questions pose, then one must consider graffiti gigantic for its refusal to be trivialized. There is always more to matter than our perceptions allow. Obtrusions upon the scenery are required lest liberties become vacant.

Read more in Byline

Art Crimes Front Page