Not all Graffiti is gold

General news0
girl with pets
One of West End’s more popular graffiti icons. The pet spider appeared in a range of graffiti

See latest story on local graffiti management plan. 

Recent coverage of the State Government’s clean up graffiti campaign has revealed a divergence of opinions on the topic.

Community journalist Jan Bowman, quoted Westender’s coverate on Radio 612 and there was significant discussion on the Westender facebook page.

While most of the activity and comment concerned the government’s blanket opposition to graffiti, its infamous painting over of some of Brisbane’s largest street art and the lack of space and support for street artists, some local businesses supported the government’s view that unauthorised graffiti is damage to property.

Paul Hey of Montague Developments wrote:

  • unpopular graffiti
    Less loved graffiti on a property in Montague Rd

    I regard myself as being reasonably broad minded when it comes to art and also graffiti.

  • I don’t think any society can say it should be encouraged randomly without it being intensively managed.
  • As land owners we get a lot of totally shit graffiti happy to show you some photos, this is a big cost to clean it up and repaint when it is done.
  • I am more than happy to encourage good graffiti in appropriate locations with consent from owners, but that probably takes the fun out of it for the authors of the graffiti, I think many do it because it is illegal and a crime.
  • There is a big difference between acceptable Street Art as you call it and out right vandalism awful scribble (and sometimes there is a fine line between the two, who is the arbiter?)

His comments were in part inspired by the  list of questions that Westender provided to a number of outlets. (We have yet to receive any response other than Paul’s).

Those questions were:

  • Q. Crime stoppers make a link between community safety to the presence of graffiti, can you please provide the research that they base this claim on?
  • Q. What type of crimes are linked to graffiti?
  • Q. How exactly does graffiti make neighbourhoods unsafe?
  • Q. Isnt it true that the only reason graffiti is listed as a crime is because its an offence against property? Or are they claiming that humans are hurt in the practice of graffiti, like physical assault or sexual assault?
  • Q. Can Crimestoppers list the street-art projects that they have supported in the last five (5) years?
  • Q. How many specialist art curators does Crimestoppers employ for the purposes of distinguishing street-art from graffiti?
  • Q. In the minds fo Crimestoppers what distinguishes political comment or artistic expression from graffiti?

Paul notes:

Unless I read them wrong, your questions you seem to be suggesting graffiti is desirable.

I don’t think the image above fits into the “Street Art” tag or maybe I am out of touch.

are you suggesting that dealing of peoples walls and business  premises is ok and should be encouraged?

This issue is a constant problem for property owners and the idea of encouraging it is an interesting (but maybe troublesome) concept.

Westender is keen to work with readers to find the resolution to these very different starting points.

If we take the concensus approach and identify the common ground as a sensible starting point then we would all agree that there are some forms of street art that need to be celebrated and maintained and there are forms of graffiti that are undesirable and cost property owners money to remove. That leaves the questions about who decides and what disincentives should be used.

If we treat this as an application of dialectic, one point of view might be that the outer walls of private property are public space. Now that is a controversial argument. It was brought to a head in England when a property owner carefully preserved and sold a Banksy street art piece called ‘Slave Labour’ for $US700,000 before demolishing a property. This raised questions over the copyright inherent in illegal, public street art.

Now there’s a different point of view.




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