Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Graffiti on Campus

I've recently been re-intrigued in the sometimes subtle (and almost-always controversial) art of graffiti and urban / street art. Last week, the Associated Students showed the 2007 graffiti-documentary Bomb It, and there seems to be an increase in "unofficial art" on campus. So this is more than a relevant topic for this week.

First off, I have to at least touch on the fact that there is a debate raging about whether graffiti is art, vandalism, or knife's-edge between the two. Personally, I feel that graffiti can be art that expresses feeling and adds color / life to the environment it is in; regardless of legal-status. At the same time though, the type of graffiti is a big factor for me.

I don't count people quick-tagging / scratching their names as art. Sometimes it catches my eye because the style and colors of the tag are intriguing, but for the most part it isn't art in my eyes--It's just someone trying to put their name somewhere. This may be a bias on my part (granted, there are some really well done name-tags), but I've come to associate that type of graffiti as a visible form of territory-claiming, name-bombing, as well as gang-related activities.

The type of graffiti that usually interest and lure me to them are tags, stickers, stencils, murals, and message-driven. All of these (as well as name-bombing) can be found around the campus of Western Washington University, and technically speaking, it is all illegal (as in, it hasn't been commissioned by the campus).

I don't believe this reflects poorly on WWU--practically any social center will undoubtedly have graffiti in one form or another; whether its blatant or subtle. There will always be people trying to influence their surroundings through graffiti in one form or another.

Just over this weekend, I actually went photo-hunting for all of the graffiti / urban art that I could find on campus. I was able to get a lot of pictures, and have started to post them on my Tumblr (NWArtist) under the # (hash-tag) WWU Urban Art. If you have a Tumblr and have taken photos of urban art on WWU campus, please post and tag them accordingly; I'd love to see what you've found.

Some examples of my finds are:

What I found through this hunt is that the campus is very clean for the most part, and the graffiti tends to be subtle, not in places of high traffic, and centers around smoking areas and less-patrolled areas. True, there are exceptions to this trend, but it is still good news that the "artists" are for the most part respecting the overall feel of the campus--and I think this reflects upon WWU and it's populace, but in a positive manner.

Of course, there's a daring student with chalk every once and a while...

[All photos by me, from my Tumblr]

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