The Symbolism of Graffiti


For the sake of choosing somewhere current to start, I thought we could begin looking at why it is natural to see graffiti emerge as a component of protest, which we have been seeing quite a bit of lately.

Graffiti, simply through its illegality, but also through its assertion of itself over present structures, is inherently a message of dissatisfaction with those structures. As an act, it signals disregard for both the physical (buildings) and cultural (laws) structures, and plasters over both of them with an assertion of one’s individuality and self-actuated authority. Just as the building now wears the tag, the law is equally stained with a sign of refusal to submit and participate. In the figure of the tagger, we can see an example of what in the past Jonathan Pageau has termed ‘the mutant’.

“The Mutant is the absolute individual, an Übermensch whose very body, dare I say whose very nature is unique, and this uniqueness, (Especially the Marvel Comics version of the mutant) appears as a power and an idiosyncratic appearance. It is even represented as “human avant-garde”, the next step in the evolutionary progress of humanity. The extension of the mutant into society is the rock star, the artist as genius, the self-made millionaire and the indomitable rebel who stands against the “system”.”

Unsatisfied with the identity or ‘name’ being provided from above by the city and society, the mutant/ graffiti artist breaks the chain of submission to authority above them and thus enters into a process of cyclical self-naming, which, because it comes from no authority above oneself, must constantly reassert itself to fight against the implicit identification and boxing in of the individual that happens as a result of living in the societal environment. Here we see the impossibility of rest in rebellion.

Read More at The Symbolic World

Read the rest at The Symbolic World