Thursday, December 1, 2011

Graffiti Has Its Uses

You might think all graffiti is bad; simple destructive displays of vulgarity that serve no purpose other than to promote gang-related business, disparage women or promote the artist as a wunderkind of spray paint.

The fact is, graffiti is as old as language as itself and unlikely to go away any time soon. And for this, we should all be grateful.

The graffiti artist is at once a revolutionary and a practitioner of a respected tradition. He (or she) is demonstrating his opposition to conformity by putting his message in a place where he is not allowed to put it--thereby taking the right to freedom of speech to its highest level.

It is also true that not all graffiti is wasteful, vulgar or pointless. Some messages are poetic, memorializing deceased relatives, friends or those who have had a positive impact on the course of human events, like Gandhi, Mother Teresa and even Albert Einstein.

I am sure you have seen examples of graffiti which have amazed and delighted you, either with their intricate patterns and vibrant colors, or their message. Instead of rushing for a can of paint to remove them, I suggest you capture them on film for posterity. Write down the message in your notebook and save it for a rainy day. Appreciate the artist who created the message and encourage them to express themselves. If you don't like the place where they are expressing themselves look around your community, I'm sure there is at least one abandoned building in need of some decoration.

I would like to start a collection of popular graffiti. If you have seen something interesting, snap a pic and post it to my Facebook Wall (, or Tweet me (@jerrybattiste) or leave the message in the comment box below.

The walls of some of Orange Coast College’s bathrooms display art that ranges from drawings to philosophical questions, and sometimes even a running log of conversations that are presumably continued by different stall users.

Though most of the writing appears to be regular gang related graffiti, upon closer inspection, some of the messages are as deep as they are varied.

“I’m not in a gang, but I like to write on walls, scribbling haikus,” wrote one anonymous contributor.

My first encounter with these hieroglyphics was during my first semester here at OCC. I was just beginning to settle in and enjoy the maturity that came with a college campus.

I walked by the free speech circle and was barraged by anti abortion activists brandishing pictures of dead fetuses and was encouraged to sign a petition to legalize weed. All of which was unheard of on a high school campus.

Click here to read more about OCC graffiti.

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