Dirty Walls

Music. Dabayji, Sapho. Digital Sheika 1997

In the economy of signs graffiti, by which I mean tagging and stencils as opposed to more bravura displays of artistic intent, represents surplus value. The re-inscription of the cityscape according to a-social, anti-commercial and subjective values.

The zero-tolerance policies adopted in other cities benefit only the property owning classes for whom compulsive renovation equates entirely with self interest. The ‘depressed’ economies of neighbourhoods ‘blighted’ with flyposting, graffiti and stencils facilitate creative and alternative lifestyles. The landscape of the street a constantly evolving macro and micro political text.

The continual overwriting of slogans of individual or collective political position, alienation from socio-economic structure and simple affirmations of authorship and ownership (the signature) are a spontaneous dialogue enacted on the street akin to the ‘dialectic’ use of sound advocated by Godard in its constantly evolving hierarchy of statement and counter statement, here enacted against architecture as opposed to celluloid.

The creativity, spontaneity and poetry, free of the constraints of career building within the cultural economy, as advocated by Vaneigem in The Revolution of Everyday Life, are here found in their ur-forms. Where individual writers (as in the case of Haring, Ramelzee and Banksy) are co-opted by (or co-opt) the discourse of art an inevitable compromise occurs, undermining its efficacy. The tension between anonymity and the narcissistic imperatives of authorship constitute the primary dialectic of this dialogue.

The currency of ‘respect’, which allows specific instances of Graffiti to remain (for a time) unadulterated remains subject to continual renegotiation.

The frames which constitute “Dirty Walls” do not constitute a systematic attempt to catalogue and evaluate individual instances of this speech, i.e. an attempt to fix its hierarchy and meaning, but are rather a subjective and ongoing dérive, a celebration of the diverse and often brutal aesthetics and poetics of the contemporary
(heiro) glyph, its evolution over time and its contribution to the texture of the street.

The images were taken here in Wrangelkiez, between Gorlitzer Park and the Spree.