Rethinking graffiti – as deviance

So my last blog post was an introduction to a talk I gave recently about my observations from studying graffiti in Stoke-on-Trent and Valparaiso, Chile. Todays blog has almost sprung out of that one really. When considering graffiti as community action, a huge part of what it means to be  graffiti artist and part of such subculture is missing. That is the deviance and the adrenaline.

So although I observed much of the cosy, comfortable and consumable graffiti whilst in Valparaiso, there are still those who view graffiti as a deviant way of having fun, making a statement and reaffirming their place within the deviant subculture of graffiti.

This is the plus 21+ crew.

They are the young, up and coming graffiti crew in Valparaiso. Older veterans of the scene are now moving towards graffiti as an acceptable part of everyday culture, where as this crew are fighting hard to retain the deviance that was once so neatly wrapped up in graffiti subcultures.

The artists I met thought this was childish, called them toys and spoke of how they were putting the street art community at risk with their antics. But, is this not what graffiti is about?

Chilean graffiti was never really that influenced by New York hip-hop culture, rather it was popularised as a form of protest in the labour rights movement of the 1960’s. Therefore, this form of graffiti is a sign of the globalised world in which we live. These young men and women are exercising their power as graffiti writers to break the rules and the law, copying and aiming to out-do similar graffiti events that have occurred in mainland Spain. This CCTV footage shows the kind of youtube videos the Plus 21+ crew have found their inspiration, combining the adrenaline rush of possibly being caught with different forms of media.

The end product is not the graffiti on the side of the train but the video. It is filmed at many angles, produced to show the excitement and risk. Overlayed with music that is in line with the crews brand image. It doesnt matter that the graffiti is erased at the end of the day, what matters s the commotion, the attendance and evading of the police, and the bragging rights that are produced with the video, which is then shared across the world.

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