It’s a harsh – and arguably unfounded – realisation that I’ve been drawn towards recently, the death of originality and an alternative scene. The above piece of graffiti in La Gomera (a Spanish island off the coast of Morocco), in many ways encapsulates this fact. Graffiti by its very existence is the expression of self at the expense of the establishment and the government. And yet, here we have a ‘graffiti artist’ who is helping the corporations do their job. It might as well proclaim, ‘say yes to government surveillance’ or ‘let’s bail out the banks again!’
However, my argument isn’t merely an attack on the lack of creativity and sheepish nature of modern graffiti. It’s more that this is the way that everything has become. I speak to the teenagers that I teach and see very little in terms of personal or original ideas or alternative viewpoints. It would be wrong to suggest that they are easily manipulated and coerced by advertising and companies in some ways. They are aware of how adverts function and the methods that they use, arguably more than their parents.
It seems that the way in which they lack both the interest or the motivation to rebel against the powers that be is frightening. Was ‘Monster’ energy drink really an expression of the ‘artist’s’ inner feeling? Or was the piece some Banksian pastiche on the aggressive nature of modern advertising?
That said, in recent years graffiti has been assimilated more into the mainstream, perhaps with the popularisation of artists such as Banksy. Therefore, am I being misguided and cynical? Am I merely attacking a single piece of graffiti because it has gone beyond the irrelevance of tagging and yet has neither brought anything new to the table, nor rebelled against the status quo? Is this part of that rough we must scrap through to find that elusive diamond?