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Images of Risk Taking : On Graffiti as Process and Gesture

Bengtsen, Peter LU (2011) Nomadikon 2011
Abstract
At the IMAGE=GESTURE conference, I presented my thoughts on graffiti – which is related to, but still rather distinct from, street art (my dissertation topic) – and the way that this type of expression functions as a gesture.



In his book "Taking the train: how graffiti art became an urban crisis in New York City", associate professor of History Joe Austin discusses the discursive construction of graffiti as “a dangerous and even subversive threat to local authority” instead of what the author polemically describes as “perhaps the most important art movement of the late twentieth century”.



It is my argument that the illegal and clandestine nature of graffiti is today an integral part of this specific... (More)
At the IMAGE=GESTURE conference, I presented my thoughts on graffiti – which is related to, but still rather distinct from, street art (my dissertation topic) – and the way that this type of expression functions as a gesture.



In his book "Taking the train: how graffiti art became an urban crisis in New York City", associate professor of History Joe Austin discusses the discursive construction of graffiti as “a dangerous and even subversive threat to local authority” instead of what the author polemically describes as “perhaps the most important art movement of the late twentieth century”.



It is my argument that the illegal and clandestine nature of graffiti is today an integral part of this specific arts practice and that it is essential for an understanding of visual graffiti expressions as gestures. In accepting and eventually embracing the dominant discourse and understanding of graffiti as problematic, agents within the subculture have reached a point where graffiti is not seen solely as visual and aesthetic expressions, but also as indexical signs of the unsanctioned and often illegal act of graffiti writing itself. As a consequence of the public discourse on graffiti, it has become prestigious to paint in high-risk spots (e.g. places that are hard to reach and/or publicly expose the writer and the illegal act), even if painting in such places means that the end result may not be as visually and stylistically accomplished and complex as pieces painted in undisturbed locations.



While aesthetics still play a central role in the graffiti world, it is clear that graffiti expressions are not solely being judged on a scale of aesthetic value, but also in relation to their context and as signs of the process that has gone before the end result. Where outsiders may see a hastily and smudged tag, agents within the subculture may instead focus on the skill required to create the tag in that particular location. In the latter perspective, it is my argument that the graffiti image becomes a gesture which points to a meaning beyond its own being-as-image. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
published
subject
keywords
graffiti, street art, gesture, counterculture, subculture, risk, indexicality
conference name
Nomadikon 2011
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
24d1bd16-6738-467b-b507-3288fefe36c5 (old id 2204141)
alternative location
https://www.academia.edu/2960653/Bengtsen_P._2011_._Images_of_Risk_Taking_On_Graffiti_as_Process_and_Gesture
date added to LUP
2011-11-21 08:30:47
date last changed
2016-10-31 09:51:45
@misc{24d1bd16-6738-467b-b507-3288fefe36c5,
  abstract     = {At the IMAGE=GESTURE conference, I presented my thoughts on graffiti – which is related to, but still rather distinct from, street art (my dissertation topic) – and the way that this type of expression functions as a gesture. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
In his book "Taking the train: how graffiti art became an urban crisis in New York City", associate professor of History Joe Austin discusses the discursive construction of graffiti as “a dangerous and even subversive threat to local authority” instead of what the author polemically describes as “perhaps the most important art movement of the late twentieth century”. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
It is my argument that the illegal and clandestine nature of graffiti is today an integral part of this specific arts practice and that it is essential for an understanding of visual graffiti expressions as gestures. In accepting and eventually embracing the dominant discourse and understanding of graffiti as problematic, agents within the subculture have reached a point where graffiti is not seen solely as visual and aesthetic expressions, but also as indexical signs of the unsanctioned and often illegal act of graffiti writing itself. As a consequence of the public discourse on graffiti, it has become prestigious to paint in high-risk spots (e.g. places that are hard to reach and/or publicly expose the writer and the illegal act), even if painting in such places means that the end result may not be as visually and stylistically accomplished and complex as pieces painted in undisturbed locations.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
While aesthetics still play a central role in the graffiti world, it is clear that graffiti expressions are not solely being judged on a scale of aesthetic value, but also in relation to their context and as signs of the process that has gone before the end result. Where outsiders may see a hastily and smudged tag, agents within the subculture may instead focus on the skill required to create the tag in that particular location. In the latter perspective, it is my argument that the graffiti image becomes a gesture which points to a meaning beyond its own being-as-image.},
  author       = {Bengtsen, Peter},
  keyword      = {graffiti,street art,gesture,counterculture,subculture,risk,indexicality},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Images of Risk Taking : On Graffiti as Process and Gesture},
  year         = {2011},
}