Graffito Ergo Sum

Buford Youthward

The promise of every Dubuffet, the desire and yearning in every Twombley, the brutality in every Basquiat, is answered with a graffiti hand style. The logo-like script of New York, the violent print of Philadelphia, the clean authoritative line of the West Coast. For every record-breaking Olympic track performance there are a million first steps. The inclination to crawl is tied to language; to write on walls is to forge an organic regression / progression from paper. In fact paper is only the primary stage in the devolution of writing. From paper to chalkboard is a whole step. From a chalkboard slate to mortar and metal is a half step.

The concept of consumption is revealing. The enlightened individual realizes the duality of consumption. We are consumed by our hungers. Perhaps there's a proper negligence in that we trust our own misgivings, we revel in the delight of our wrongness. We are both good and evil. We choose knowledge over ignorant bliss. We are the kings of primates because we build walls and then write on them. We manipulate nature with both cunning and callousness. We tag in many ways -- not just with gushing mops, shoe polish and spray cans. Human history is little more than a can of spray paint in the right hands on the wrong block.

There is no such thing as behavioral science. Psychology is nothing more than guilt abatement / absolution billed by the hour. There's a difference between dealing with issues and having issues dealt. I always try to keep my hands clean, but there's always an ace up my sleeve, a can of rusto in my grip and something more that I gotta say.

If integrity is the golden rule of documentation, then perhaps we should look for degrees of value in the denial of decency and civility. After all, the point of documentation is to provide the ignition of emotional recall. Nostalgia will always be and never be what it was. One can't discount the fact that graffiti is one of the great analogies of experience. It is much more than trite hieroglyphics. Graffiti is the experience of existence.

You may never know how alive you are till you test your own creative and social limits. By capturing, encoding the experience of existence is graffiti much different than music or the printed word? Certain documents provide their own endings, in that criticisms directed against them (good, bad or indifferent) can never deny the legitimacy of their framework, only the form and content of the author. We all have our personal catalog of tunes that give us goosebumps, dramas that give us chills and graffiti that is capable of stilling time.

Their respective meanings speak and argue on their own terms as their channels of communication and contexts can't be refuted. In fact, you can dance about architecture. And that dance holds its own meanings, regardless of intent and motivation. So why graffiti now? Why celebrate the tag? Why negate the environment with ego?

Because our humanity can't be denied.

Read more in Byline

Art Crimes Front Page