Freedom of speech is not a crime

“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.” 
― BanksyWall and Piece

What is art? Art could be a canvas splashed with bright colors to a portrait of beautiful naked lady. It could be lines drawn all about the space or it could be a blank canvas. In short, art is about defying rules and letting ones perspective take shape. If you agree, then why call graffiti an act of vandalism?

Communication evolved from the time when cavemen started painting on the walls of their caves and started to express themselves through these paintings. And till date we go to places like Egypt, Ajanta Elora, Lascaux, Magura…so on to admire cave paintings done to communicate stories and document events, and yet when we see a graffiti on the walls of the backdoor of your favorite restaurant we exclaim saying “ahh today’s kids!”

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Graffiti on the walls of Milan, Itlay

Graffiti is considered an act of vandalism because we don’t know the reason behind its existence. Graffiti started off as, early stages of communication, when speech was still being developed. Moving from the pre-historic to World War I, graffiti became a form of visual representation; a code, used to communicate messages that could be decoded by a fellow member. And now, in the modern day, it used to state political orientations, to make a dull brick wall colorful, to describe what is on one’s mind and finally to create art.

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A “No Tav” political graffiti on the walls of Milan, Italy

In the mid 90’s the youth started to use graffiti as a way of coming out of the closets, which is to boldly express their sexual orientation without being discriminated against. In the past few years, places like Lebanon, Palestine, Gaza and Beirut, the youth continues to use graffiti as a way to making their voices heard without any noise. And today graffiti artists like Banksy, is paid to paint walls on the street. So how is it vandalism?

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“Love is staying awake with a sick child or a healthy adult” – David Frost

According to Oxford’s dictionary vandalism means- “Action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.” So if vandalism is destruction of property, then how is it that graffiti is exhibited as art in various museums? If it is really damage of property (property for which we are paying tax) then why did a graffiti that read “Make your mom proud” make you think of what you are doing in life? If graffiti was considered a serious problem then why has it been gaining recognition from the art world more and more as a legitimate form of art?

Vandalism can take place within a split second, no one plans to vandalize a phone booth or your neighbors lawn. But graffiti is much more than just dawning and painting what you think. Most graffiti artists carry something called a ‘black book’, in which they practice the kind of art they want to do. Because painting a door can be spontaneous, but painting an entire train needs a lot of planning and practice.

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Modern form of street art on the shutter and the electrical transmission boxes in Milan, Italy

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Random graffiti done on the door of a building in Milan, Italy

Like all other artistic forms, graffiti has experienced movements or changes in style. From the first tag scribbled on a subway train to the large, complex mural on a billboard, to famous museums. The tools and the means have changed as well. Markers were traded in for spray paint, and stencils and stickers were introduced to make pieces easier to execute in a hurry.

The messages have also evolved. Graffiti has always been somewhat political, but it has come a long way from simply tagging one’s name to parodying world leaders to make a statement to creating simple profound art.

This proves that graffiti is a form of art and not just a result of random acts of vandalism. The graffiti community moves in different directions and the resultant artwork moves with it.

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