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Is graffiti art or vandalism?

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Jamie Bruno

on 24 March 2015

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Transcript of Is graffiti art or vandalism?

Is graffiti art or vandalism?
Google defines graffiti as "writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place" but there's more to this interesting subculture than you think. I will be exploring peoples opinions on graffiti as well as topics into why people do it, graffiti in Hong Kong and so on. Enjoy!
The Etymology of Graffiti
The word "graffiti" actually originates from the Greek word "graphein" which means to write, draw or scratch. However graffiti went way back than that to the dawn of human civilization when cavemen used colored powder made up of crushed substances such as crushed up berries. They then used these color's to create images painted on cave walls. History also shows us that graffiti was even around in the Roman times. In Pompeii slogans belonging to political groups were written on house walls by charcoal or paint. In some cases political groups would hire professional painters to do so. In other words graffiti has been around ever since the dawn of mankind which has then then passed from generation to generation till this very day.
Why do people do it?
Various people do graffiti for different reasons. Here are some of the reasons the Saskatoon police service think people do it.

In Hong Kong and China another popular reason why people do it is for advertisement. If you look closely around the streets of HK you will see many stickers and markings of phone numbers on street poles, walls and electric boxes.

Types of Graffiti
Tagging: When an individual draws, scratches or sprays their signature or street name illegally onto a surface

Sticker Tagging: also referred as to "slap tagging" it Is when someone either draws their tag or name onto a sticker and then sticks it to public services. This is a popular method of graffiti as they can be deployed more quickly on the streets.

Stencil: Stencil graffiti is when a person cuts a design into either cardboard or another medium and then uses spray paint to reproduce the design onto a wall or other surface

Mural: A larger and more detailed piece that has been either commissioned or done legally with the building owners permission. However it can also be done illegally. Often a lot more spray paint and time is consumed during the creation of the masterpiece.
Governments responses on Graffiti and Punishments
In Hong Kong there are few punishments that can be handed out to you if you have been caught doing graffiti illegally. "Criminal Damage" Section 60(1) - The creation of unlawful urban art can land you up to ten years in jail while two other laws which follow closely behind are section 4(19) - painting and posting onto an unpermitted surface as well as section 8(b) - Marking any letter or character is prohibited. Both in which could potentially result in three months of jail time. However a notorious Hong Kong tagger who goes by the name "Xeme" quoted in a interview "Usually you can talk your way out if you're not running from the cops. Worse case if you do get busted, there wouldn't be any jail times but most likely paying some fines. However, if you're hitting a train or something serious, then it's a different story." This gives us the impression that the HK police are not really that strict about graffiti. I talked with another artist "Peter Yuill" at a street art event and asked him about his experience with hong kong police. He said that he had been arrested around 30 times and told , me that HK police are un-confident and often scared to apprehend you sometimes they will also turn a blind eye to you as you are beautifying the city.

Graffiti in Hong Kong
The subculture Graffiti is actually relatively new to Hong Kong. Graffiti really took on in New York around the 1970s to the 1980s however graffiti in Hong Kong on the other hand started around the early ninety's mainly introduced by foreigners. A prolific street artist in HK called Tsang Tsou Choi famous for going around Hong Kong and painting chinese calligraphy onto an array of places including: Utility boxes, lampposts, pillars and so on. This is because he believed that Kowloon his ancestors used to own Kowloon. Records show that he was arrested several times. After his death followers expected his works to get removed due to the HK's governments hostility but on a rare occasion they actually decided to preserve some of his remaining work with plexiglass. In 2014 a famous modern graffiti artist called "Invader" visited HK. He uses square ceramic tiles to create images which he then sticks in prolific places often high of the ground to prevent his art from being stolen as one piece can be worth up to $250,000HKD. He put up a total of 49 works dotted around HK. Unfortunately the government reacted in a very hostile way against his artwork and quickly removed most of his art work within days. This seemed a very unusual response as in other countries they have removed or taken down his work yet preserved his artwork.
By: Jamie Bruno
Peoples view on Graffiti
My opinion on Graffiti
graffiti can look messy and make a city look dirty and uncared for. Run down maybe. My personal opinion is that graffiti can be art whether it is legal or illegal. It depends on the type of graffiti. I view tagging and scratchitti as a form of plain vandalism. On the other hand, beautiful murals and detailed stencils, I think, are art because they add life and character to a city, and colour to dull environments. They change a plain, boring wall into a vibrant playground.
There are mixed views about graffiti. Some may argue that it is a art form, a way of expressing feelings and adding interest, colour and vibrance to a neighbourhood. Others may say that it can be ugly, destroying public property with no meaning and costing taxes to go into graffiti removal. They feel it makes the environment around you look run down and uncared for. Some even liken it to the primitive marking of territory, no better than cats and dogs
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