Where I have a problem with the London Olympics is in its branding. Now I don't want to go into a rant about how horrible the logo is (it is awful), I want to go into a rant about its origins: Graffiti. Yes, the design agency that birthed this horrible piece of graphic art chose to celebrate the territory-marking piss dribbles of taggers. They, in their wisdom decided to, celebrate gang culture. Knife crime. Gun crime. Drugs. They decided to celebrate the lonely, dispiriting, expensive, ongoing battle a very nice, elderly Italian gentleman from my neighbourhood has with a graffiti tagger, who defaces his home on a weekly basis. Is graffiti what sums up London??
Nearly all towns and cities suffer from the hideous scarring of graffiti. Some of it is a genuine attempt at making art - and on rare occasions it adds a positive, interesting detail to the cityscape. Most of the time it definitely does not. Some tagging is gang related – marking out territories. Most of it though, is simply the pointless, thoughtless handiwork of bored "youths" (some are well into their twenties) who just like to show the world where they have been. Quite why we would want to know where these pointless vandals have been beats me, but there is at least one valuable dimension to their 'work': We get to keep count. And each instance of their tags is (well, they bloody should be) one count of vandalism added to their charge sheet.
This tag "Zerx", is seen all over north west London in quite literally, thousands of places. I would be unsurprised if the cost of professionally repairing/removing the damage doesn't run into several millions.
What we need to be very clear about is that tagging is in no way a legitimate form of self expression. Tagging has no wit. It has no merit. It destroys the work of much better artists and architects. Near my home is a body shop and panelbeating business. The owner of the property commissioned a proper, bona fide graffiti artist to create some stencil paintings on his external walls. I liked them. My son's band even had their publicity shots taken in front of them. They were pretty clever. Simple black on white. They had wit - he'd created characters with cameras for heads and named them Mr FFFFFF etc. (after HTML colours). Whilst not being everyone's cup of tea, they were indeed art; the visual expression of someone's talent and imagination.
So there we are, a small body shop having added in its own little way to the artistic value of London. What happens next? I will tell you. "Zerx" whose many thousands of acts of vandalism litter north west London scrawled his tag in flourescent pink paint over the artwork, ruining it in just seconds.
In London, graffiti is considered to be if a crime at all, a minor crime. The police it seems, believe they are too busy to have to deal with it. (I challenge the police to arrest and charge this criminal - there is no question as to his identity) They have come to accept that our buildings, our architecture, our street furniture, graves (yes, graves), trees, shopfonts etc. are continually covered in ugly tags and obscenities. They appear to have given up. And why not? The courts merely treat taggers as naughty little scamps. They might be sentenced at worst to a little bit of community service (almost certainly NOT cleaning up the mess they created). They might be ordered to go for counseling (the poor little dears are releasing their pent up angst by defacing peoples' property). Bullshit!
The punishment does not fit the crime. There is no connection between the crime and the consequence. I can understand that the courts would not want to impose the death penalty on a tagger (Its been abolished, apparently) but to sentence them to a hug and a nice chat? That is just not justice.
It is my belief that if someone is convicted of tagging then they should be made to pay for the costs of having their work removed. Any of their victims should be allowed to pursue them for the costs of repairs. Obviously most of these idiots could never in a million lifetimes earn enough to properly pay for the damage they have created, but I believe that there should be a way of having for the next few years (depending on the severity of the damage), a deduction from either their benefits or their wages - when and if they ever bother to work.
Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.