Reflection on Style Wars.

Q: How are these hip-hop kids changing the face of the city; re-imaging and reconstructing the aesthetic of the city?

Through graffiti. What is interesting to me is the mobility of there canvases. They paint the trains underground or at night, places and times where they are hidden from the world. Then the sun rises, the day begins, and the trains come to life. This paintings are in transit and it is impossible just how many people see the tags. They carry traveling shows, these mobile galleries.

Q: How does hip-hop culture “bomb” the city, remapped and reclaimed control in an otherwise powerless demographic. How does the presence of bodywork, such as break dancing play into the language of freedom? 

The discussion of the mother to the camera with Hera son interjecting is very relatable. One of his points it’s that it’s not for anyone but himself and other graffiti writers. These trains go everywhere throughout the city, presumably to neighborhoods the writers have never even been. It’s a way to be present in something you feel excluded from.

The film breaks the culture of hip-hop down into three different languages: written (graffiti), spoken (rap), body (breakdancing). All three are forms of individual expression within a cultural context; it’s both a sense of freedom and belonging.

Q: Is graffiti and tagging an attempt at ownership, born from a demographic that owns close to nothing historically? How can this be contrasted, with say, the modern day Banksy, whose works are collected all over the world (and probably has less “ownership” economic hardships than the men in this movie)? Why does Banksy continue to choose corporate spaces, or perhaps the “security” walls of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, as site for graffiti? Is tagging/defacing public/private property a means for exercising power? Does it extend, rebel or re-define the meaning of “owning” and if so, how so? If not, why?

I think is less about ownership and more about being seen/heard. There’s a thrill in breaking the rules especially when doing so put no one other than your self at risk. Graffiti is bold and loud, it’s screams at you and it upsets authorities. No matter how hard society tries to ignore marginalized people, white collared New Yorkers see their words everyday on their way to work.

The Banksy question is tricky. He has managed to elevate graffiti into art (at least for himself, and in doing so has entered into the sticky capitalistic world of the art market. He remains anonymous which conveys a sense of loyalty to other writers. He understands his position to draw attention and careful selects spaces to draw this attention to.

Q: How does the imaging of hip-hop culture defy societal expectations and stereotypes of social scales? Why do you believe affluent/white kids attracted to graffiti?

It seems to be more about youth than race and this adolescent want/need to live forever/be remembered. Your world and your understanding of it are so small (I realize as I’m writing this that I am still apart of this). Our motives are more selfish at this point in life. The white boys from the prep school just want their names everywhere too; for them it’s about inclusivity. The white kid in the Van Halen tee stealing spray paint astounded me. He literally states that he knows the only reason he gets away with theft is because he is not black or Hispanic. Yet he still steals and uses his stolen goods to write his own name on trains instead of using his privilege to shine a light on racial injustice.

Q: Please comment on how these hip-hop artists use their own body as a means to activate, penetrate, and shift the physical, social and political space of the city. Remember, graffiti is only one element to the puzzle of hip-hop culture on these aforementioned spaces.

One kid says it’s about getting in and getting out without being noticed, that it is in a graffiti artist’s best interest to remain cool, calm and collected. They have to fade into the background in order to get their art into the city. It is a guerrilla tactic, and one that proves incredibly successful in an art world that constantly excludes these voices. For these people, remaining unseen is the only way to be heard. It’s an infiltration of stealth and it is incredibly affective at making sure you presence is known to those who pretend you don’t exist.

Q: 42:24 “Yeah, I vandalism (sic), but I did something to make your eyes open up, right? So what are you talking about it for?” What is his point, and do you agree?

This is a classic example of ‘do the ends justify the means?’. He believes that they do. In his mind, it doesn’t matter that it’s illegal so long as it makes someone think about something differently. I agree. There is no change without rebellion.

Q: Discuss this war in terms of social space. More vs. Quality. What is more important, and can you discuss it with other parallels in terms of social power and a platform for notoriety. Is one cultural, and the other, something else?

This part of the film serves as a reminder that people are people. There are kind people and there are jerks in every group, clique, race and class. For cat it’s about survival of the fittest and remembrance of self. He has no social platform, he just doesn’t want to be forgotten. The burners think it’s a matter of jealousy, that’s also probably part of it. It’s like the bully on the playground that pops your balloon; if he can’t have it, nobody can. The burners on the other hand show respect for an unwritten code of conduct: certain lines belong to certain groups, don’t deface somebody else’s artwork (basic acts of human decency). For the burners it’s not about quantity, but quality. They want people to pay attention to and respect what it is they do.

Q: Do you agree that it holds the same intensity when it is “peeled off the train?” Is the art the expression and form, or does it only exist in the high stakes theater of illegal activity and claiming of public/private spaces?

The woman in the gallery says these pieces have they same impact and intensity as if they were on a train. She is wrong. The gallery takes these cries for ownership and recognition and flips them into something profitable (for the gallery). Trains are seen but everyone, galleries are only attended by a few. It’s a way to place what many see as ‘unsightly’ in the white cube so that they don’t have to be confronted by societies shortcomings.

Q: It should be noted that a city/space is planned and designed by those who have power; that design/aesthetics equals our everyday experience of it. However, we the people, are not in control of what our city looks and functions like. How do these artist claim the public spaces (even if on private buildings, cars, etc). Do they have as much right to reinterpret how a city looks, and whom it reflects?

They go into places where they weren’t considered and make themselves present. If you are not being represented in your city’s public spheres, I believe that it not unjust to intervene.

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