Swatch1 Interview

Part 3

AC:Why did you start writing?
SW1: It may go into the answers above, but also once I started and was working downtown. I would tag everywhere so the fame eventually makes you do it more. And when you meet other writers and they treat you like some graffiti god, it gets to your head. And of course

no outsider who wasn't in the graff scene, when the graff scene was nyc, could understand 100% the feeling of seeing your name on the train.

AC:Has the reason you write changed?
SW1: Yes, of course, I'm 26 now, so I don't write like I used to. We were all kids, living at home, cutting school. It was the culture. Today's writers don't realize that it was all we did: write, bomb, cut school, hit the trains at night, go to the bench, and start all over. It's sad, however, that although most people are destined to stay in the ghetto, a lot of us wasted our public school education and chances to improve our station in life.

For example, when a friend of mine from LA came to NY, I took him to a wall that people where working on, I'm not naming names cuz I'm not trying to dis them, but, he commented that in LA you wouldn't see so many people writing at such an age, late 20's to early 30's. But I told him that anybody else is just writing for the fad and still getting on with college, jobs,etc. We lived the graff life and sadly, for whatever reasons, society has it stacked against minorities. I told him that they really don't look like someone could accept them as stockbrokers or bank managers...but I'm not running the system. And that's one of the reasons that I still write, because I love the graff life, and if I feel that it's wrong to criminalize a whole culture. Sure we bombed the trains, but it was art. And a lot of people could have the chance to express themselves through this artform, but cannot [because of the laws]. And you know graffiti writers are the front line for public information. We put out the facts before anyone else. A lot of artists put messages about drugs, AIDS, and anti- violence in their artwork, so the system is happy to repress any form of expression that it can. It has taken up the responsibilty of fighting graffiti without giving people the chance to do graffiti art, or presenting the facts for the public to decide.

The media likes to talk about gangs and drugs, but in NY the gang scene died in the 70's. So [to the media] any group of young Latinos or Blacks is a gang. They fail to realize that in graffiti a crew is just a group of artists with the same goals or style. And the media like to say that drug dealers use graffiti to advertise their drugs. That's the dumbest thing that I have ever heard of. Normal people can't really read graffiti, they just see it as scribbles or vandalism. But if you put yourself to it, and have an open mind, you could learn to read it very quickly. But throw in the idea that it's drug/gang related and you have a public relations nightmare. Just because someone has a craving for drugs he all of a sudden knows how to read graffiti to find his drugs? I dont think so.

The fact that a lot of graffiti attracts more vandalism and signals neglect doesn't mean that if you erase graffiti, problems will end. You can have a nice painted wall but you're still in the middle of the ghetto.

It's just a politician's ploy. Just like when that kid was paddled in Singapore, every politician and their mother wanted to introduce a bill for paddling graffiti writers, (it happened in New York and LA) even though there would be a chance in hell of passing it they got their soundbites and they play on TV that they expected.

The police do the same. they've been on TV talking about beefed-up vandal squads and hi-tech stuff like night vision goggles, but if graffiti was allowed then they would be out of work. And I never heard of them catching any real writer thanks to those goggles.

Its just like the drug war, you have all these agencies and police fighting drugs in our country and overseas but they will never end man's need to change their existence through mind altering substances. It's been a characteristic of human beings for thousands of years. The only thing that the drug war has created is a whole generation of criminals who are now ostracized by normal society but accepted by the criminal society. So where do you expect them to go to for money, jobs and acceptance? I won't even get into the unfairness of mandatory sentences and crack vs. cocaine, thats a whole book right there....

Another media myth about graffiti that I always remember was when the TV news said stay tuned for the secret language of graffiti. They then had TV cops talking about graff that any writer would say is BS. But the best example was when they went up to a wall by Bio and Lase TAT and pointed to the blood drip graphics that Bio did in his piece, they said that this person was killed by a knife because of the drips. So much for the secret language of graffiti....

Back | Forward

Interviews and Articles

Art Crimes Front Page