Over at Cultural Sabotage, Ranjit states the following objective:
We seek to decriminalize artistic expression. No graff writer should ever end up in County. Instead, we seek greater opportunities for artistic expression, specifically in the form of funded art programs and MORE LEGAL WALLS, particularly in neighborhoods under threat of gentrification.
I’ve only met one or two graff writers in my life, but I wonder if having more legal walls would necessarily reduce the “illegal” graff writing. There are two points one might make here. First, I assume that part of the fun of tagging things is the taboo associated with it. Isn’t it sort of like an amnesty situation, wherein you start writing on the legal walls, but in so doing you out yourself as a graff artist? Secondly, does the creation of more legal outlets for artistic impression require a demarcation between illegal and legal expression? Do we allow writing on this wall but make explicit that the community rejects writing on the newspaper box?
It seems to be a reincarnation of the “sellout problem.” How do you expand opportunities for artistic expression, especially in a community/state sponsored way, without creating the impression that you are buying out the artists. To put it another way, how can the state or an institution sponsor or patronize the arts without creating the impression that the art so-funded is an extension of the expression of the state?
When I applied for a Marshall to study immigrant theater in England, the interviewers managed to trip me up on just this issue: they asked me if there were people I would not take money from to fund a production. I told them that one necessary condition was that the money would be strings free, but that I would also have to ensure that said funding would not jeapordize the relationship between the theater company and the community it was trying to serve. They asked me what I meant, and I then foolishly gave an off-the-cuff example without thinking and that sunk my interview, I’m sure.
It’s a tricky situation, to be sure. But one worth thinking about.