Noises for November
As suprapersonal imagery it's ironic that graffiti writing remains fixated
on charismatic, idiosyncratic personalities. But beneath the surface of
anecdotes, the real agents of change are abstractions to which individual will
Even the Great Legend theory of historical writing, with its apparent focus on
the individual exercise of genius, falls into this category. When
So-And-So is said to have been called upon (like a minister receiving the call
to preach) to change the language of graffiti, to reinterpret its fundamentals
and give it a way to continue, So-And-So seems to have no matter in the choice.
Or more precisely, questions of choice become irrelevant: had So-And-So
declined, or proved unfit to the task, the call would have passed down the line
to someone else.
There is something to this view, of course. Currents in history are often
larger than individuals. But the habit of telling history this way sacrifices
the complexity and ambiguity of lives lived in a particular historical moment.
Bringing the focus of graffiti back from lofty abstractions to quirky
contingencies restores a measure of common sense to graffiti.
Warring abstractions aside, distinguished from the masses by special gifts and
absorbed with the details of their craft, these graffiti tradesman carried out
their work with a certain disregard for their immediate environment.
Servicing rep is usually mistaken as disservice to the community.
But you can say whatever you want. Stories involving identity are never complete.
Graffiti casts great shadows of culture autonomy, yet there's no shortage of
knuckleheads looking for the fraudulent goal of assimilation. Frustration,
ingenuity and despair stake claim and shape pain. Graffiti is unfinished
business. Outliving its time, watching its social and aesthetic meanings sway
into new formations syncopated from original contexts. Demons on missions are
forever trying to find new ways to say old things.
Trafficking in gesture and technique, framing your questions, envisioning a
history, well, these are matters of majestic imagination. Figuring it out is
a game for fools and hipsters alike.
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