This was an essay I did while studying for the leaving certificate twelve years ago. Reading through it now, it strikes me as very dated. Hope some people will remember the popular graffiti from that time.
Graffiti, art or vandalism?
When stone-age man carved the picture of an animal onto a cave wall, was he creating a work of art or was he the first graffiti artist? These stone-age carvings are considered to be fine examples of primitive art. Yet are they any different than the smiley faces and peace signs painted everywhere by young people today? Art has always been a matter of taste; today’s graffiti could possibly be considered the great art form of the twenty-first century somewhere down the line.
How many times have you smiled at a particularly witty addition to a dull poster? Anything that makes people laugh can’t possibly be considered vandalism. “Kilroy” has intrigued everyone for years; he’s signed his name everywhere, from Bray to Timbuktu. How can he afford all this travelling? I’ve made it my life’s work to track him down. Even when the powers that be paint over his name, he returns to write it again.
Who is this elusive character?
Even in war zones people are inspired to paint pictures and slogans on any available wall. The walls of Derry are covered with beautiful murals commemorating the recent troubles.
It is hard to dismiss them as the work of philistines.
Native American Indians and the aborigines in Australia have always carved figures and animals on cave walls or cliffs. Indeed the Indians of South America have carved lines and figures that can only be appreciated from an airplane. What art critic today would condemn them as vandals? These same art critics would turn up their noses at clever pictures drawn on a wall outside an exhibition venue as they entered to admire an un-made bed or a pickled cow’s head labelled as art. Does this make sense? Do we really need “experts” to tell us what to consider as art. No two people see the same thing when they look at an artist’s work.
Graffiti has always provided a commentary on the times, and should be included in any time capsule. Sometime in the future, witty slogans painted on such things as “the floozy in the Jacuzzi” or “the tart with the cart” will say more about life in twenty-first century Dublin than the statues themselves will. Tastes change, and yesterday’s work of art is today’s eyesore, but graffiti is universal. It is hard to decide which ancient drawing is “art” and which is, so called, “vandalism”
The human race has always had a need to leave its mark on posterity, and graffiti is the poor man’s art form. What right have we to condemn him for “defacing” an ugly public building with a cheerful picture or a comment on the absurdity of life? I for one would like
to make it compulsory for everyone to record their thoughts on life on any ugly blank wall they happen across. Think how interesting it would be to wander down O’Connell Street reading the walls. Hooray for graffiti.