GUILDENSTERN: What’s the first thing you remember?
ROSENCRANTZ: Ah. (Pause.) No, it’s no good, it’s gone. It was a long time ago.
GUILDENSTERN (patient but edged): You don’t get my meaning. What is the first thing after all the things you’ve forgotten?
ROSENCRANTZ: Oh I see. (Pause.) I’ve forgotten the question.
-from Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
One of the problems with collecting graffiti and trying to talk about it like any other art form–because it really is like any other art form, or at least any form of painting or visual art; it just happens to be placed in places where it’s not always wanted–is that usually I don’t know anything about the artists who produce it. I used to think that every work of art should be judged individually, which I know is a pretty extreme position, but think about it this way: if somebody tells you a musical composition is by Mozart you’re probably going to think it’s better than you would if they told you it was by Salieri, especially if you’ve seen Amadeus. And maybe that’s true even if you know music pretty well. Why does Mozart deserve a leg up just because of name recognition? He was kind of a genius, and even if not everything he did was great most of it was at least pretty darned good.
And there’s also the fact that every artist’s work changes and evolves over time. They’re influenced by where they’ve been, what they’ve done before, and what they’ve encountered. And the same is true for us, the audiences, viewers, spectators–whatever we are. We don’t see, hear, read, or experience anything in a vacuum. Everything we experience is judged by and compared to everything we’ve experienced before.
These are things I keep in mind in case I do meet a graffiti artist because there are so many things I’d like to ask: what are your influences, what made you choose that particular tag, how much did you have to practice, did you have help or did you learn on your own, what do you want to accomplish with your work? Knowing me of course I’ll probably forget all these questions.
I fell in love with and married a Graffiti Artist. I helped him start doing his art legally and getting paid for it. Unfortunately, his attitude changed to drugs helping boost his creativity level. I don’t mind Legal Graffiti but a true artist does not draw on every wall or sign they come across just to flatter themselves.
I agree completely–a true artist doesn’t have to draw on everything, and even though I find graffiti, including the illegal graffiti, fascinating I wish the artists who do it illegally wouldn’t. Some are exceptionally talented, and I think it’s unfortunate that their work is almost inevitably going to be wiped out because it’s breaking the law.
I love this post, not just because I love to hear you talk about art but because R and G Are Dead is one of my all-time favourite plays. I discovered it in high school and never got over how cool it was?
Funny, I also read Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in high school–as part of a college level English course, although I’m not sure the teacher was qualified to teach anything, much less college-level English. I was the only person in the class who didn’t hate the play. The teacher even hated it–she said she couldn’t make sense of it. A funny thing is I dropped by my high school a year later, when I was out of college on summer break, and saw that teacher. I told her I’d read some more Tom Stoppard plays in college. She couldn’t remember having taught R&G the year before and didn’t remember that I was a former student, all of which seems like something out of an absurdist play.
You and I are cut from the same cloth–I was the only one in Grade 13 English that liked it–I was chosen every day to read one of the key roles and I had a terrible time not laughing myself silly. No one else got it…
Street art can be wonderful. Free spirited and inventive… personally I don’t put tagging in the same category.
Makes me wonder what R & G graffiti would look like though…
I can’t remember the first post I read by you, Chris, but I am forever grateful for all you’ve accomplished.
I can’t remember the first post I read by you, Ann, although I think it would be possible to figure it out. That may be a question best left unanswered, though.