Rebuttal Essay – Jodi Dziedzic

A common misconception in today’s society is the distinguishable line between tagging graffiti and graffiti as an art form. When presenting someone with a work of tagging graffiti, it is typically disapproved of for its lack of pleasing aesthetics and legality. Tagging graffiti artists abuse the art of graffiti, and turn it into a form of self advertisement by tagging their street name onto a surface, or to disrespect the “system” by placing it on a home or store front. This technique is expected from gang members as an act of feud between themselves and another gangs or gang members. This history of tagging graffiti is well known, and has been a fact since the 1970′s when tagging graffiti first developed.

A natural occurrence in the art industry is for a style or form of art to become known to the art world, gain popularity, then either die out or alter into a different and newer form of art. This is something that has happened to the underground world of graffiti and street art. When tagging graffiti was first invented, it wasn’t necessarily used as an outlet for the artist to express themselves, it was used to get their name out into the world. Nowadays, graffiti is not just tagging; it has developed into it’s own form of art. Street art is more visually impacting, with the use of materials and colors that are aesthetically pleasing. Street art is still a form of graffiti, when it comes to the large factor that is the environment the art is placed in, but it means more than just a name. This tagging graffiti causes street art, graffiti and any non-commissioned public art to be disapproved of by the people, because of association with gangs, violence and dangerous behavior.

Tagging graffiti, however, (as well as street art) is illegal. This is where people become uncomfortable with the idea of something like street art, because it is associated with tagging graffiti. Tagging graffiti is not the exact same moral intention as street art. Tagging graffiti artists sometimes don’t even like the idea of street artists, because street art is more likely to be bought out and put into a gallery; it “symbolizes the death of the movement.”

In Sao Paulo, Brazil lies the Choque Cultural Gallery, an art gallery which proudly exhibits works ranging from pop art to photography. During the exhibit Trimassa! a group of tagging artists broke in and spray painted tag graffiti all over the street-art being displayed in the exhibit. The feud between street artists and tagging graffiti artists is constant, due to the conflicting interior motives that the artists hold. Graffiti artists feel strongly that they have a reputation to protect and that the act of tagging is worth their life. According to the Denver Post, within a matter of three months, there had been three men shot in cases that were linked to gang tagging violence. These gang members fill the streets with what appears to be just colorful letters and words, but are actually territorial markings, or identity battles between gang members.

Street art is sometimes also called guerrilla art, which involves anonymously leaving a piece in an unauthorized public place, for the sake of leaving a statement or message. This lawfully turns this practice into vandalism, because the only thing separating legal street art from illegal is granted permission. Even though tagging graffiti and street art share this in common, it does not make them the same, because of the radical difference in intentions.

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2 Responses to Rebuttal Essay – Jodi Dziedzic

  1. davidbdale says:

    Jodi, the best moment for me in this essay is what happened in the gallery in Sao Paolo. It’s the perfect illustration for the “distinguishable line” you want to draw between two types of graffitists. Get it into your introduction and let it do most of the heavy lifting for you.

    Next, decide on some very specific terms and use them consistently throughout. Your “tagging graffiti” and “graffiti as an art form” are too clumsy to repeat. I would suggest:

    • tagging, tagger
    • street art, street artist

    Try hard to avoid alienating your readers by pitying how little they know about art. You risk doing that right away by pointing out their “common misconception,” and calling them “civilians.” You can either acknowledge that you are a civilian with your own misconceptions, or you can avoid pointing out failures of understanding completely. Just provide the information to resolve the misconception, and your readers will both learn and appreciate your discretion.

    How do you do that? You take them into that gallery in Sao Paolo and point out the beautiful irony that some graffitists were invited indoors while others broke in to pee on things. You distinguish between the street artists (who may or may not have more to say than the taggers but who at least intend to say more) and the taggers (who are happy just to mark their territory).

    You don’t have to tell us first that we’ve been wrong to lump these two classes together; just show us how the two groups interact and we’ll be better educated civilians.

  2. davidbdale says:

    Jodi, I had to publish this piece to get it to accept comments. I wrote a much longer version of these notes and lost them when WordPress failed to save them to a draft. I’ve rewritten them here and won’t make that mistake again.

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