Shedding a Light…

14 09 2009

A while ago I wrote about the levels of graffiti in and around Sheffield station produced by one ‘Bloodaxe’. I couldn’t fathom the motives for his apparently methodical covering of every immovable object around the station. It seemed so mindless, so pointless.

On Saturday, whilst waiting for my shift at work to begin I was reading the Indy and its numerous inserts, including the magazine. In the mag there was an article about “covert ‘street bombers'”. Those folk who go out and scrawl graffiti onto buildings, walls, power boxes or trains. It was a hugely interesting read. It began with tranquility, with the ‘bombers’ pausing, stopping to take in their surroundings, plan their actions, and appreciate the quietness of a train track in the depths of night.

Naturally the writer of the piece reflects public opinion when she wrote that the increased governmental offensive against these ‘bombers’ was being successful, however the nagging feeling is that we are meant to sympathise with these people. But there is more to it than that. Not only are we meant to sympathise, we are meant to be aware that these people do not care whether we sympatise with them. “They do not seek or want your approval”. That is what we are told. That is what we should understand.

Philby tries, unsuccessfully, to explain why they do it. She gives us reasons which are not reasons at all, they do not want to be famous, like Banksy (who, it is suggested, is not really part of the same movement at all, and has instead moved away from everything which makes the street artists do what they do), nor do they crave approval. They do it for the rush, the thrill of breaking the law. They try to offer new perspectives of the world, try to give meanings to inanimate objects. They do it to make a point (the main proponent of the piece, Fuel, recalls his feelings when he graffitied a train with a message about the war in Iraq), they do it because they can.

Whilst the piece was a hugely interesting read (it can be found here), I was left with the nagging feeling that this wasn’t the point of Mr Bloodaxe’s trawlings. There was no message, no agenda, no attempt at colour or art. It was just a tag. He isn’t a street bomber in the same way that those described in the article are. He’s a tagger, in essence, very different; yet to the simple, the same as those who draw the images with a passion, an enjoyment, a feeling of euphoria achieved not by taking drugs but by large, yet usually inoffensive, vandalism.

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