Defining Graffiti. And Art.

Weekend Assignment #333: Writing on the Wall

Have you ever written on a bathroom wall, or left graffiti anywhere at all? Confess! I promise we’ll go easy on you! How do you feel about the ethics of graffiti, and the level of discourse sometimes found in illicit art and messages in public places?

Extra Credit: If you were to leave a message to the world on a public wall, what would it be?

I find it rather difficult to believe that I have never left any graffiti anywhere, but I just can’t think of any.  It would be just like me to block out any deliquent behavior, though. 

There is a famous pizza place in Chicago called Gino’s, where the graffiti on the walls and tables is legendary – practically encouraged – so I must have written something there, but I can’t come up with it.

In high school, I used to scribble song lyrics all over my notebooks. David Bowie here, Queen there, U2 and whatever else was going through my head when I should have been conjugating verbs in Spanish. But it isn’t graffiti if it is my own notebook, I don’t think.  Do you have to deface someone else’s property for it to be considered graffiti?

So I had to look up the exact definition.  From dictionary.com:

markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like

O.K.  by that definition, I have clearly created graffiti in the form of chalk drawings on the sidewalk.  Hopscotch boards, mostly.  Foursquare boards on my neighbor’s patio.  And perhaps, “Anne Rules the Universe”.  That was all gone by the next rainstorm.

There is a schoolmarm in my head, that might only be my mother, telling me graffiti is bad because someone is just going to have to clean it up after it is done.  I don’t know what the cost/benefit
analysis is for allowing the (temporary) artistic expression of the few and the theoretical enjoyment of some others to create the work of the clean up.  Some graffiti artists are really talented.  Which leads to a greater argument on what defines art.
In any event, I will be working my last volunteer shift in the old library on Thursday – we are moving to the new building beginning Sunday – so I should really scribble something on the bathroom wall before they tear the place down. Any ideas?

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