The Threat.

Is graffiti dangerous? Does it pose a threat? Some people seem to think so, which is why it so often gets covered up or is in hidden areas. This particular piece, for instance, is in a largely abandoned industrial area—a place that’s been sitting empty so long it’s become kind of a graffiti gallery, and even getting to it requires slipping through a hole in a fence.

In the United States and many other countries freedom to speak, especially to criticize the government, is a cherished right. It’s not an absolute right—depending on what you say there may be consequences—but generally we don’t have to worry too much about what we say. At various times throughout history and even now in some countries that’s not true, and yet people in those places were, and are, sometimes willing to take the risk of speaking out even when the result is imprisonment, exile, or even execution.

Every artist who shares their work takes some risks, even if the only risks are ridicule or rejection. Having had my own ego bruised on occasion I don’t want to downplay those risks, but there’s something especially powerful about people willing to risk their freedom, maybe even their lives, to create and share a work of art with the world. Even if graffiti isn’t making an overtly political statement, even if it’s not speaking truth to power, it challenges conventions and laws. It’s art that won’t behave by confining itself to a gallery or private collection, and it dares to ask, even in a free society just how free are we?

Yeah, there is something threatening about that.

Anyway that reminds me of a joke: two Romanians are sitting in a bar. One says, “Fifty-four” and they both laugh. The other one says, “Eighteen” and that both laugh. The bartender says, “Okay guys, what’s with the numbers?”

One says, “Under Ceausescu we weren’t allowed to tell political jokes so we gave them all numbers. Then when we wanted to tell a political joke we’d just say one of the numbers.”

The bartender laughs and says, “Oh, I get it. Hey guys…forty-three.”

They stare at him blankly, then one says, “You know, it’s not so much the joke as it is the way you tell it…”

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  1. Ann Koplow

    My late father used to tell a variation of that joke, Chris. Thanks for expressing yourself freely, as always.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      And thank you for reminding me once again what an amazing and funny person your father was.

  2. Moonwatcher51

    Iartis in the eye of the beholder. I wonder what graffiti artists move on to when they get tooold to make it through the fence?

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s a question I’d love to ask a graffiti artist. Perhaps they move on to restroom stalls and other more accessible areas, although the question of what they move on to reminds me of Spinal Tap’s Viv Savage who, when asked what he’d do if there were no rock and roll, said, “I’d probably jump around and get a bit stupid because there wasn’t a stage for me to go on.”


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