Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Graffiti Saga Continues

Graffiti has remained a hot topic for the Bay Area this week. I'm torn- popularity of "deviant" activity can alternately serve to further hype it up, therefore making it more popular and therefore more hated (as in the case of pit bulls: mo' pit bulls, mo' problems); or, renewed focus on graff could lead to positive community solutions to the "war" on graffiti. Rather than further criminalizing (and in the meantime making it way cooler in the eyes of some) street art, maybe this is a chance to do arts education for the people who are feeling marginalized enough that they have to write on walls and trains.

The online version of the SF Weekly has started a new blog, I Heart Street Art, and the current post is about using murals as a way to curb vandalism. What a novel idea! Refreshing, actually. Quite a contrast to the East Bay Express article, "The Great Graffiti War," which describes the "war" between an anti-graff vigilante and an anarchist tagger, Pigface. The article also describes a draconian measure proposed by the city of Berkeley to penalize newspaper companies who fail to clean tags and stickers off of their boxes. This article seems like exactly the kind of media hysteria that will drive more people to be up-in-arms about graff, on the one hand, and other people to want to damn-the-man and go bomb some shit. Not super productive.

On the upside, both the East Bay Express and the Chronicle state that local governments have acknowledged that graffiti is a low priority. Well thank god. I am so sick of the broken-window theory, and if I hear one more time that someone who tags a building is going to be a serial killer, well, I don't know what I'm going to do. You do know that graffiti caused all these foreclosures, right? Writes the Express:

Berkeley police seem nonplussed about the war between Buffman and the taggers. "We don't encourage that sort of behavior," police spokesman Andrew Frankel said [referring to the vigilante painting over graffiti] in an interview. "If he paints over something before we get a look at it, then he hurts our ability to do our jobs." But clearly, pursuing graffiti vandals isn't much of a priority in the department.

Similarly, although I think Nevius is disappointed about this, he believes that San Francisco does not have a "graffiti problem" but a "commitment problem." As in, a commitment to solving the "graffiti problem." As in, if only we would charge more people with graffiti related crimes, and if only there was a judge dedicated to charging these people, and if only San Francisco would take the problem seriously. And dammit, if they did, there would be no homelessness and Bush wouldn't have lied and I'm pretty sure there would be global peace.

"San Francisco does not have a history of sticking with anything for long," [Gideon Kramer, formerly of the San Francisco Graffiti Advisory Board] said. "We see a big photo opportunity and two or three months later it is gone."

Only the graffiti remains.