There's something childishly rewarding about graffiti. Putting a tag on a building or landmark somewhere is possibly a primally motivated action, calling back to notions of territory and boundaries. Also, it shows the world in general that we, the artist, do not care about the social rules that prevent us from making a mark. The thing is, although most graffiti is harmless and if in the right place, accepted, putting it in the wrong place offers a bigger buzz to the individual, in the way that it is frowned upon. Sticking it to the man, and putting our personal mark on something public offers a double sensation of personal back patting, from the perspective of the anarchic individual.
So it makes sense that for this characteristic, if the building is famous and culturally valuable, then that buzz in tagging it with our own personal mark is often too big to refuse. We itch for the feeling of putting a graffiti label on the biggest and most famous buildings out there. As I writer, I guess it would be the vandals equivalent of getting published in the Guardian. I can well imagine it, the sexiness of it, getting the privilege of having our contribution there for all to see, with such a grand association.
Ruining perfectly good places of cultural interest is the other side of this coin, and for the majority, that is exactly what it is and always will be. In order to shift interest and capture imagination, the cathedral at Florence, Italy, has installed two digital art tablets which use cameras to allow users to draw their own graffiti and tags on the screen. The background is the real image of the cathedral walls, with beautiful classical art work and architecture , but the graffiti is digital and printed out. In order to honour the work of the 21st century taggers, the designs and scrawlings are all printed out and archived in the official cathedral store, alongside all the traditional and relevant literature and records.
Whether or not this will deter the groomed graffiti artists from defacing the antique walls of the cathedral is unclear, but it is definitely sending the message that the younger generation is being listened to and their desires and concepts are being given cultural value by their peers. It is a good move for bridging the gap between the digital generation and the rest of the world.
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