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+2 votes
Does graffiti and/or street art (depending on if they are differentiated) play any important or useful role for furthering anarchist interests and tendencies? We're surrounded by statist, commercial, authoritative and coercive symbolism and imagery, could graffiti (not just specifically anarchist art) act to combat these undesirable and forced-fed "values"? Or does it really accomplish nothing at all and just hurt the public worker that has to clean it?

1 Answer

+2 votes
Graffiti serves to break up the aesthetics of control. Even if it isn't explicitly anarchist, it creates a slight break with the monolithic and imposed architectures of capitalism, and has often been noted, one tag is quickly followed by another and another. Optimistically, this helps create a growing sense of disrespect for property, commodity, and law.

AG Schwarz has written about similar things, sounding much smarter than I, referring to them as "signals of disorder," here:

As far as the poor public workers who have to remove graffiti, there are some anarchists who would argue this, I am sure (along the lines of the smashing a Starbucks window only hurts the employees argument), but I would counterpose to my more workerist friends that perhaps the taggers and street artists are doing their best to ensure ongoing employment for the masses. I mean, if their job is cleaning graffiti up, they need graffiti to clean, right?
by (22.1k points)
edited by
i agree with your point ing, but want also to add (as demonstrated in this video ) the process of doing graffiti is also one of avoiding straight people and cops, etc, and i think that is at least *as* (if not more) worthy of anarchist attention as the "product".

edit to add - things like the success of banksy tends to the cooptation of graffiti as just another art form, another spectator sport, for the observers at least...
you hit on a great point, dot.

as someone that spent 3 years doing almost nothing but subway graffiti (and essentially living in the nyc subway system) when i was a young teen, i learned more about avoiding authorities and how to stay under the radar (and also to somewhat control situations where the authorities were unavoidable) than pretty much anything i've learned in the 40 years since.

it also taught me how to be a rather successful shoplifter.  :-)

edited to add the last point.