With the middle-class appropriation of street-art now complete and concerns about the vandalisation of high-value commissioned murals perennially popping up in appropriately middle-brow columns and websites, I was amused to see that the Melbourne City Council is now running a program aimed at young people to encourage them to respect street murals and not “deface” them.
Let me put this bluntly: in my opinion, the only valid form of street-art now surviving are tags.
It didn’t use to be the case – beautiful forms of graffiti claiming large amounts of public space used to be valid too. It could have survived middle-class tolerance but the movement died as soon as street-murals started being commissioned, protected and made so respectable that hoards of privileged art-school types started doing it.
Living in a city where the only other form of street expression are the homeless camps on the sides of major city streets, I encourage taggers everywhere to continue their good work: extrude their excrement-like scribblings on every mural, fence, wall, window, billboard, street-sign, vehicle and if possible “graffiti” artist.
Tags are ugly, incoherent, mindlessly destructive, but therein lies the truth: We live in one of the richest cities on earth and we cannot look after our own. Our underclasses are disengaged and oppressed more than ever before. Worse still, their modes of expression have been appropriated. Their spaces (our spaces) have been made private. Tags which are completely un-digestible by the middle-class is an entirely appropriate response.
For those middle-class types who would disagree, consider this: better that they tag than molotov.