[…] Last week, (Marc) Ecko, chairman and founder of Ecko Unltd., approached Mayor Goodman about his comments via a letter titled “Re: Taggers, Thumbs and Graffiti Art.”
“You recently suggested chopping off tagger’s thumbs and subjecting them to public canings and whippings,” Ecko wrote in the letter obtained by SOHH. “Your comments garnered national attention. I heard them and reflected upon your frustration and anger. You may be surprised to learn that I share some of your concerns about public defacement and vandalism. I simply believe in a different approach.
“First, graf should be celebrated and encouraged, not demeaned or attacked,” he added. “It is art. It is expression. It is a form of social commentary. It provokes thought and debate,” Ecko continued. “Second most graffiti writers—whom you apparently perceive as being a threat to civilized society—are legitimate and talented artists. Some are entrepreneurs who aspire to design fashion brands, for example, like mine. Many are just searching for an outlet to express their creative energy and establish a name for themselves.”
Ecko concluded the letter telling Mayor Goodman that he would like to meet him next week. “I will be in Las Vegas May 8-9; I’d like to meet you. I’d like you to show me the artistry of your City, while we discuss the finer points of graf and your anti-graffiti ordinances. I’d like to teach you how graf can be a positive form of artistic expression… We can auction off whatever we create, with the proceeds going to the Las Vegas charity of your choice. We can show the people of Las Vegas that graf art, properly created and distributed, is a powerful and effective tool of change.” […]
I do understand why property owners don’t care for graffiti, and why law enforcement (and Malcolm Gladwell) believe that tagging leads to the creation of a social climate susceptable to crime, but I also understand the desire to tag.
Graffiti, in all of it’s various forms, is a complex form of social expression — part peer pressure, part artistic endevour, part shot of self-esteem, part communication. And while a great majority of graffiti doesn’t speak to me personally, when it does, it blows me away — both exposing and reinforcing perspectives and creativity that I might never have become exposed to otherwise.
Look, graffiti artists know that their tags and creations aren’t permanent forms of expression. Tags in the real have a longer average shelf-life than a conversation at a pub, but less than as an expression on canvas. Property owners and municiple government have every right to remove graffiti from their property, yet that legal right is partially what fuels the intent of the artists / taggers themselves. It’s a complex issue.
That is, if you even believe it’s an issue… let alone one to chop thumbs over.
UPDATE: Australia Talks Back covers these very issues.