• Ana Lúcia dos Santos Vieira e Silva "Universitat de Barcelona"


Graffiti, Urban Art


These paper intents to develop an approach to Graffiti as kind of urban art. Graffiti can be seen as an operation, either individual or of a group, which enables to transform places, to establish communication, to improve city aesthetic quality. It allows people to participate in the transformation of urban spaces, it refines the dynamicity of forms, and puts color on grey walls, but is still considered illegal.

Graffiti artists interfere in public spaces through informal appropriation. This action started around the end of the 60s in the ghettos of New York and represented an innovative and revolutionary way to mark a territory where Hip-hop, Rap and Skate culture were growing and demanding visibility (Poato, 2006). Later grafitters started covering city walls with subtle and creative demonstrations of art, ethics claims and they established a kind of clandestine communication.

Nowadays, graffiti is considered and legitimated as an artistic trend, but rises continuously polemical questions. Between the boundaries of vandalism and art, anonimity and identity, it acquires acknowledgement, while it develops aesthetically. The performance itself is more important than the aesthetic results, because it qualifies the language of graffiti as a practice and as a process created in urban spaces. Graffiti’s art can be described as “deprived art”, in the sense that the artist is conscious he will loose any kind of possession of his work, in the moment when he leaves the physical space, where his artistic creation took place. Once accomplished,
the work of art is liable to any kind of interference, possibly erased or overlapped by another work. Therefore can be said that Grafitti is subjected to the informal laws of the city, on the other hand, is the city itself being transformed.

There are different technics in the making of graffiti, but two streams are predominating: Graffiti rises on unused walls of constructions or demolitions. It avoids public patrimony and private spaces, uses paintings and strong colors and can take months to be finished. Writer (scribbler, tagger, trow-up) is an intervention of illegible nicknames. The writers consider the risk to mark prohibited places such as high, invigilated, inaccessible public spaces, private walls, edifices, bridges, train stations and sculptures, but they affirm: “When we have some place in our mind there are no limits, no barriers” (intervewee in Poato, 2006, p. 35)”. Among these streams, lots of interventions are accomplished: stencils, writing painters (piece), stickers, etc. With some exceptions, all of them are prohibited. Two reasons why they are prohibited can be suggested: the first one is that it is not clear defined where vandalism finishes and art begins, the second can be recognized in the fact that “workers” arrogate themselves the right to interfere in public space, without asking for previous approval.

In a generic sense the city is complex and mutable. In a subjective sense the city is everyday’s life experience. Both aspects are considerated by analysing the practice of graffiti. If we understand urban art as an aehstetic dimension of the city and the city not only as language, but also as a growing practice, graffiti increases the variety of aesthetic communication and works against an inactive and passive social behaviour. Do grafitti language and method only keep their original meaning and coherence if they are illegal? What is the right posture of public politics? Shoudn’t be stimulated as a policy open to citizen participation and free comunication?

To begin, we will see the city like an integrator element, context and suport of this practice. We will then approach many kinds of contemporary arts related to graffiti. To end, some paradoxes of this art will be brought up to discussion.



How to Cite

dos Santos Vieira e Silva, Ana Lúcia. 2008. “GRAFFITI: DEMONSTRATION OF URBAN ART. GRAFITE: MANIFESTAÇÃO DE ARTE URBANA”. On the W@terfront, no. 11 (October):131-41.