Controversial graffiti will stand test of time

By Robb

This is in response to Steve Thompson’s disgruntled letter to the editor, “Vandalism without permission,” that appeared on Monday. I would like to add my perspective to this battle of artist versus vandal. I bet if Mr. Thompson took a look back in history, he would find that graffiti writers are not the first, and have not been the only, controversial artists in the course of time.
I see my efforts in this letter going nowhere, because no matter what I may say, the law is not going to change, unfortunately. However, what I am about to say should make good sense to anyone who claims to have insight on what is or is not art.
Thompson asks to set aside the issue of whether or not graffiti can be defined as an art, saying “setting the definitions of art aside, this attempt to minimize graffiti is an insult to common sense.” In doing this, he should also set aside his argument because this is the whole debate — no “if”, “and” or “but” about it. The comparison of bombing up a wall to rape as sex without permission is idiotic for two reasons. First, this simple cliche has nothing to do with the matter at hand.
Second, if writers tried to get permission to do a mural on somebody’s garage, they would be exposing their identities (which is one of the unique things about graffiti — that the artist exists in anonymity yet still can be known by his tag). They would also be setting themselves up for prosecution. Is Thompson insinuating that from now on all rapists are going to ask first, before violating their victims? It is the fallacy of the use of his cliche at work.
Graffiti artists are far from too lazy to ask permission to perform their art. I would actually call it something more like fear — fear of being sent to jail, being forced to tell on fellow writers, being forced to do all of the things that once made up the punishments of political dissenters who were not afraid to speak out against their governments. He goes on to say that “if I, as a business owner, want to have a mural done on a wall … I am within my rights.” From what I understand about Minneapolis graffiti legislation, even art done with permission is actually, by code, still unlawful. So I’m sorry to say that Thompson would not be within his rights; rights are actually being controlled ultimately by the city.
If he really holds his rights to be so true, maybe he should try to change the piece of legislation that makes that statement the word of the law.
I hate to keep referring back to what Thompson says because I do not want to pick on him, really. He is just as much at fault as everyone who reads his letter to the Daily and believes what he is saying. On behalf of the artists, some who happen to be among friends of mine, I do not appreciate how he refers to “legitimate artists.” His reference is to say that the only time art is good is when everyone likes it. If this is what he really believes, I would like to ask him if he feels that the plaza in front of the new federal building (downtown Minneapolis) is an artful representation of northern Minnesota. In the eyes of its creator, (abstract artist Martha Washington) it is … yet many Minnesotans would rather die than look at it, let alone sit down on one of those silver things that are her representation of “fallen logs.” One person should not be left to decide what is “good” art. Michelangelo didn’t become famous because three people believed the Sistine Chapel was beautiful; he created a following of hundreds of thousands upon thousands of people who believed in his work and what he had intended by it. So much of the public view of graffiti comes from an undereducated philosophy, which, in an attempt to understand, mixes it up and ends up misrepresenting what is actually being said in a certain work. For example, I bet 99 percent of the tagging around the University campus is not gang related. Gangsters don’t have time to mess with spray paint; they have drugs to sell to your children, man! Yet, still I hear people who talk about graffiti as “just a bunch of gang signs”.
The “desires” of graffiti artists are far from “narrow” as Thompson is quoted. I think it is funny that in order to stake a claim against graffiti movements, people try to portray them as bloodthirsty mongrels who bombard the cities with a milk case full of Krylon aerosols. … (The public is in danger!!!!) “Narrow” is how you should describe the minds of people who claim to know so much about art, yet feel free to let their own affections about what art is judge how other people should see something as artful or trashy. I am no fan of Picasso, yet his paintings still sell for a lot of money, so who am I to judge?
Robb Clarksen is a sophomore in General College.