Monday, April 4, 2011

Daniel Durant (2011)

Moving on from the tag, artists develop their own style, doing ‘throw ups’ and going ‘bombing’. The locations and context are usually still the same however the tag has evolved into a colourful, larger version that begins to incorporate the hand styles and improving skills of the artist. (above is a 'piece' i created legally for a community project, It incorporates the style of the letters from my original tag but also uses bright vibrant colours to give the letters depth and help them stand out) Again they usually do not show a contextual critique of society however they lead onto and help develop the skills necessary to create murals, commissions and commercial potential. All three of which are essential if you want to make a living out of graffiti.

In contrast, other forms of graffiti exist that critique society through contextual artistic methods e.g. Street installations;

Banksy (2006). Boadicea: [video] London: avaiable from:

stencils and murals. Artistic graffiti is a modern day offspring of traditional graffiti that has elevated itself from just scrawling words or phrases on a wall, to a complex artistic form of personal expression” ( Bernard Smith, Terry Smith and Christopher Heathcote, chapter 17)

George W Bush Football Bomber Graffiti

Maya (2005). bush bomber: available from:

For example, the image above shows a political context, appropriating an image of George bush in an American football kit, with a bomb in his hand. The three images on their own have simple denotations but the connection of all three has created new connotations. (This is the process of Détournement) it can be said that, The bomb and the kit could represent George bush’s war ‘games’. Showing the ease at which he went into conflict (simply throwing the football). His dopey, confused expression could also represent his lack of knowledge and the frivolity of his actions as president and going to war in Afghanistan. The Stencil art clearly has a strong contextual influence and shows resistance to current social ideologies. It also shows how graffiti opens up the boundaries of reality, speaking out for the resistant population in a way that expresses their views to a wide audience but remains anonymous and problematic to society. And this leads back to capitalist mentality. They exert their power through courts, newspapers, TV, police and seek to prosecute, denounce and condemn the individuals, simply for speaking out, but in a practical and creative manner as opposed to demonstrations, riots and letters of complaint.

The process of Detournement can be described in two ways, as Guy Debord notes: “

- Minor Détournement is the Détournement of an element which has no importance in itself and which thus draws all its meaning from the new context in which it has been placed. For example, a press clipping, a neutral phrase, a commonplace photograph.

- Deceptive Détournement is in contrast the Détournement of an intrinsically significant element, which derives a different scope from the new context. A slogan of Saint-Just, for example, or a film sequence from Eisenstein.”

Détournements’ ability to create new meaning from previously significant images shows its “intrinsic propaganda powers”, “clashing head-on with all social and legal conventions.” (GUY DEBORD, GIL J WOLMAN, 1) This point makes Détournement a perfect political technique for graffiti artists to express their views in a coherent and relevant context.

Detournement can also be linked to Baudrillard theory of hyper reality and Guy Debords theory of ‘the spectacle’. Detournement suggests that manipulation and subversion of images can create new meaning in its current social climate. However Jean Baudrillard feels that through Détournement we are entering a new reality, the hyper real; Whereby reality is simulated by simulacra. As Baudrillard puts it, it “is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” (Jean Baudrillard, 1) “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” (Jean Baudrillard, 2). Hyper reality from Baudrillards’ pessimistic viewpoint therefore represents a “crisis of signification’ by which representation becomes detached from external references and confronts us instead with the spectacle of the image. “ (Anna Middleton, lecture notes, 2010)Guy Debord takes this degradation of representation further in his theory of ‘the spectacle’. He states “It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society.... the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life.” (Debord, Thesis 6) He believes that "The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images." (Debord, Thesis 4) We have been “drugged by spectacular images," (according to Simon ford) and these have come to control and define our contemporary reality. However Debords aim "through radical action in the form of the construction of situations," is to “bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics, and art" that is spear-headed by "a sense of self-consciousness of existence within a particular environment or ambience".(Simon Ford)This revolution can be seen within graffiti, as the artists show a personal connection to particular environments through the use of subversive techniques like Détournement and appropriation. the previous video of Banksy ‘Boadicea’, reifies the point of self conscious thoughts evoked within street arts in its battle against the ‘spectacular’.

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