The Role of Graffiti in Democracy

Democracy plays a big role in graffiti practices and vice versa. Graffiti, as a social medium, provides people with  a public voice that otherwise may not be heard in a society flooded with personal messages and opinions via blogs, Twitter, and other social media platforms which corporations are beginning to take over. Graffiti is a tool that can promote choice, equality, freedom, etc. People can learn from it. It can act as an educational tool. It can act as propaganda. It can act as art. It is as powerful as public statements and because of its’ function through visual images and words, it can be more powerful and influential than speech alone.

Perhaps the most powerful characteristic of graffiti is its’ ability to evoke emotion. It is an outlet for people to publicly “speak out” in regards to important social and political issues. In response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15 graffiti artists from all over the country have taken to the streets and produced art in support of Boston and the people whoseboston1 lives were affected by the attack. The words “Boston Strong” are spelled out in bold lettering across the wall of a building on Tremont St in Boston (right). The letter “B” takes up the majority of a graffiti wall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (below). These pieces of graffiti represent what democracy is all about. They bring people together in a time of disaster. They create a hegemonic feeling of national pride and patriotism.

Almost all media representations of graffiti are negative. A handful of powerful conglomerates own a large portion of media outlets in American society. The reason graffiti is portrayed negatively is because it can be used to challenge the status quo, which currently is heavily in favor of corporations in our capitalist Big business executives are getting richer and richer while the middle class shrinks and poverty levels skyrocket. Why would corporate leaders want change? London street artist Banksy created a simple piece of art on the side of a building that read, “If graffiti changed anything, it would be illegal.” Corporations are scared that graffiti has the power to start revolutions, American citizens don’t know that it has the power too.



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