Graffiti and Public Space

“Graffiti belongs to everyone and no one. On a section of a condemned wall, I put up a graffito… a bank director stopped the construction work, had my carving cut out as a fresco and inlayed it in the wall of his apartment.”
- Pablo Picasso

Bomb It challenges one's perspective of public space. Since viewing the film I have not been able to look at barren walls and those dressed in graffiti the same way. Before Bomb It my brain merely decided whether I found a particular graffiti piece aesthetically pleasing or not. Now, a sequence of questions come to mind: Why was this particular space chosen? Did it vandalize anyone's private property? Does it bring joy or disgust to others?

At one end of the graffiti public space debate you have artists that contend they are reviving downtrodden oft-neglected neighborhoods; that they are simply expressing themselves. On the opposite end one will find "anti-taggers" that argue that graffiti is uncivilized; that communities are being taken over by incomprehensible violently innate messages.

One particular scene from Bomb It in which Barcelona natives Kenor and Kode
are shown painting the side of an abandoned building along a narrow Barcelona passage way underscores the graffiti public space debate for me. An angry store owner confronts them, gestures in disbelief and suggests that the two artists lick the paint off the walls. On the other hand, passerbys express their delight. Kenor and Kode candidly proclaim they are adding life to a dull street.

Where do you stand? Is graffiti street art a series of free outdoor museums or outright vandalism? An outlet for expression or a cry for attention? A peaceful venture or one that wages war on others' liberties. Or, like most things in life, does it depend on the 5 w's and 1 h- Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? One thing is for certain, just as the omnipresent jumbled letters, vivid colors, spaces, messages and icons featured in graffiti street art work take time and research to decipher the culturally dense art form's history, purpose, commercialism and impact can not be taken at face value.

Kenor and Kode in Action

Bomb It director John Reis's Director Statement sheds light on his motivations and thoughts on public space.

Barcelona Street Art!

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