Graffiti for Social and Political Resistance – Democracy?

Defining terms for what a ‘democracy’ is, tell us that freedom, equality, choice, and justice should be the words we live by and for.  Controversies like the student debt crisis, health care, poverty, and the state of our economy, force us to question if these ideas are really at the forefront of our politicians agendas. I challenge the idea of freedom, and who the freedom is really given to in our country.  A country whose citizens drown in debt, unhappiness, and hours of advertisements that are pumped into our brains.  I question graffiti control simply because, if thousands of billboards can cover our cities, why can’t our art and ideas be expressed without it being a felony?

Example of a simple stencil graffiti, expressing thoughts and frustration with democracy in the United States.

Example of a simple stencil graffiti, expressing thoughts and frustration with democracy in the United States.

Consumer industries take precedence over our own ideas, and that is a key problem in our society today.  Are we really able to carry out these democratic principles we so proudly call ours?  Why don’t we have the same freedom to put our thoughts on the walls of our cities as McDonald’s does?

LA crimes street art detail

“LA Crime Street Art”

Bradley Bartolomeo states that “Graffiti writing is one of the easiest and most efficient ways for individuals and opposing groups to register political dissidence, express social alienation, propagate anti-system ideas, and establish an alternative collective memory. Groups can use graffiti to push their agendas or generally to make their presence felt, for it is an extremely easy means of communicating ideas and establishing a collective identity with the masses by putting a government on notice that anti-system sentiments exist with a definite historical memory. Given by the circumstances of doctoral regimes, graffiti communication can be, if recognized by groups and if organized sufficiently, an important medium for breaking the dominant control and censorship which authoritarian governments exercise.”

In the video below, a group known as Cyrcle from Los Angeles, have battled with the LA City Council and other political groups on the issue of illegal billboards and street art.  They express frustration with what they believe should be democratic versus what the city of Los Angeles allows the be scattered across the city.  Movements in the US are becoming more real and possible due to groups like Cyrcle, who recognize their rights as US citizens and are determined to change things.

–Erika Hoekstra


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