Sunday, October 26, 2008

Graffiti or Art?

From the New York Times, October 24:

Banksy, the pseudonymous British artist, keeps New Yorkers guessing ab
out where his next mural or installation may pop up, a council in London has ordered that one of his works must come down there, the BBC reported. The Westminster City Council has ruled that a 23-foot Banksy mural must be removed from the wall of a building on Newman Street, in central London, as a message to discourage graffiti. The mural, “One Nation Under CCTV,” refers to the closed-circuit televisions that have become ubiquitous security devices in London. It depicts that slogan stenciled in large letters, being painted by a youth in a hooded sweatshirt, as a police officer with a camera and a dog stand nearby. “If you condone this, then you condone graffiti all over London,” said Robert Davis, the council’s deputy leader, according to the BBC.

When does graffiti become art? And, on the other hand, where is the line that separates public or street art from a community nuisance?

It depends on your perspective, I guess. I think that finding things like Banksy's murals can be one of the best parts about living in a city: you have to always look for them, but it's still surprising every time you find one. And then you have that wonderful feeling of discovery, as though you're the first and only person to ever notice the stencil or the mural or the writing on the wall.

It's also interesting that this mural was the one selected to be taken down. One of the first things I noticed about London was the prevalence of CCTV cameras. They are absolutely everywhere - I've stood on a street corner and counted 7 cameras within sight, and that was just on the outsides of the buildings. This mural is actually relatively near where I live. Although I had seen pictures of it before, the first time I walked past it still made me pause: just outside the frame of the picture is a security camera.

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