Graffiti As A Medium To Insight And Influence

As opposed to the many more expressive forms of graffiti, gang graffiti often underscores much of the social recognition that those other forms expressive medium merits. (Bartolomeo Ch.1) There is a depth of creativity and value within graffiti methods that are not used in affiliation with gangs that becomes masked. They are intended as an extension of art that ends up being unfairly grouped with the negative sentiments that are associated with assumptions about gang affiliation. This phenomena occurs due to the inherent difficulty that comes along with distinguishing types of graffiti from one another. Although many people are aware of different methods of graffiti, few care enough to take the effort and distinguish the differences. This same occurrence can be compared with the many similarly structured misconceptions that occur in today’s society. These occur as a result of the lack of ability or often concern to take the time to seek out significant differences and relevant information. Examples include preconceived notions about “inherent” characteristics we automatically associate with different races, people from particular parts of the world and any other stereotypes that operate in deterring us from readily seeing the truth in matters. For example, “This insight identifies a common theme in popular society by which the public often categorizes and groups individuals together for need to exhibit control around the surrounding environment.” (Bartolomeo) Whatever the reasons why people do this, graffiti still serves a valuable use in its art form to help individuals realize inner truths and comforts regardless of whether or not others take the time to recognition them.
Although our inclination to use stereotypes can be damaging to the constructive and positive aspects that more expressive forms of graffiti provide, we can not lose sight that graffiti is a crime. Unless a graffiti artist was authorized permission to tag a wall, they are under penalty of the law. Although the law often seems irrational and unreasonably incriminating (especially from a younger persons perspective), there usually exists a legitimate overlapping and more encompassing reason why the law was created in the first place. In the context of why graffiti remains illegal the larger reason outweighs the benefits graffiti art allows in the artists personal lives.
Acts of defiance toward societal standards can be seen as perpetual in nature. Meaning, that when people observe disorderly conduct it is likely to have a negative psychological impact on their future decisions. This idea has been around for a long time and was just recently documented as science affirming that fact that, “human behavior receives influence from the elements of the surroundings and environment that people occupy.” (Keizer) This occurred after a study showed that people are more than twice as likely to engage in anti-social behaviors when their surroundings show signs of them.
Those in charge of the creation of law’s and the direction of society have a bias focus on issues that will benefit those with more representation in society. Due to the highly competitive sociality in the United States, these levels of representation are more often achieved by citizens with higher levels of income, and those that are considered law abiding citizens and contributors to society. Effects of this reality have been magnified in recent history contributing to the existence of an incredibly uneven distribution of wealth in the United States. The rich continue to get richer with evidence supporting that americans at the top of the wage scale are doing better than ever with the top fifth of families in control of 44.6 percent of US income. Compared with the bottom fifth of families in control of just 4.6 percent. (Anonymous Editorial) The uneven distribution of power and other societal inequalities have heavily influenced forms of desperate expression such as graffiti. However, there are signs that show progress in the efforts that graffiti and other forms of expression attempt to accomplish. “There has been an increase in the study of gang culture by anthropologists in recent years. Due to growing social concern of gang violence, gang warfare and specifically the underlying political threat of gang politics to the


American political system.” (Phillips) This reaction by government officials can be seen as evidence that the outcries of the voices of the marginalized sectors of society are gaining at least some valuable societal representation. form of progress can be seen in the recent manifestation of forms of rap music in popular culture, in which gangs have gained an accepted outlook more widespread than ever before. This too is seen as a threat of possible large scale political influence if rap listeners conform with anti social ideologies they hear in rap music.
By taking a step back in an attempt to trace what is influencing this surge in use of graffiti, its cry for representation should make it evident that there are critical flaws in the structure of our society that we are failing to address. The fact that they are beginning to catch on by such a huge number of americans from all types of different socioeconomic backgrounds is very telling.

Works Cited__
- Bartolomeo, Bradley J. “Cement or Canvas: Aerosol Art & The Changing Face of Graffiti in the 21st Century” Anthropology Honors Thesis
- Keizer, Kees “Can the Can” The Economist Newspaper Article Vol. 389 Issue 8607
- Anonymous “Deciphering Gang Graffiti” Entropic Memes: Random Musings on HIstory, Politics, and More

Devin C.