January 2009



Until I moved to Weimar, I can honestly say I never really gave graffiti a second thought beyond “Why do people have to deface public property?”

However, I’m somewhat of a pragmatist and I can remember clear as a day when I once sat next to a staunch conservative Republican in America—she had little tolerance for questioning authority until she was confronted with a Greenpeace video showing evidence of one country’s military to clearly break the law and attack Greenpeace protestors—it might be noted that the only reason we could see the evidence was that a woman was willing to personally store the rolls of film some place rather personal that went unsearched. After that the staunch conservative Republican started questioning authority more often.

Strangely it took me a six or seven more years before I really began to understand that graffiti can, sometimes, be just as valid a way to communicate ideas, defy authority, and make a statement, as what others would consider to be more traditional methodologies—say letters to the editor, protests, or running for office.

That’s not to say that 90% of the graffiti out there isn’t crap: It is crap. So are 90% of the letters to the editors, protests, or candidates for office.

The first graffiti artist who caught my attention here in Weimar was D°poL. I started noticing his work all over town. Honestly, I didn’t like his freehand crap—the large blockish letters appeared to be, simply put, a branding effort. There are a lot of graffiti out there that is, simply put, tagging for branding. However, D°poL also used stencils—some of which were quite detailed. Often they packed a punch.

Somethings missing!

Something's missing!

Strangely, I have to confess, that it took me a few minutes to figure out what made for a “Pleasant World”—but once I figured it out, I laughed. Today I wonder if America would be reinstated, now that Obama is president.

D°poL’s stencil work has had pretty good durability. I haven’t noticed anything new around Weimar for a year or two, but I keep seeing many of the same stencils that people haven’t bothered to paint over, including a Pleasant World stencil that I walk past probably once or twice a week.

Of course, the “Pleasant World” graffiti isn’t the only graffiti I’ve ever seen directed at me.

Talkin about me?!

Talkin' about me?!

In Lisbon, I saw this fascinating scrawl on a wall. I had to laugh, I noticed it as the tourist was posing in front of the famous yellow Lisbon Elevator/Funicular—I was there because I was playing tourist for a few hours and I wanted to ride that very funicular. Given that the local language is Portuguese, I think it’s clear that the message was aimed at tourists and not the locals.

Of course, not all graffiti has to have a political message in order to be relevant or interesting.

Imaging removing this.

Imaging removing this.

Last November I was walking across a bridge in the middle of the CMU campus when I encountered Yarn-Graffiti Art. I cannot begin to fathom how long it took to put this work up. Talk about all the weaving involved—surely, I think, this graffiti had to be sanctioned—otherwise I think the police would have noticed the artists hard at work.

I bring this up, because I want to share my love for the Wooster Collective—a website dedicated to the finest in graffiti from around the world. I was planning on talking more about what they post, but I ended up talking about work I like—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out—especially the Monument to a Keyboard.

3 comments to Graffiti

  • Reminds me of one I saw in Schwerin.

    We should go on a graffiti hunt next time you are in Berlin!

  • Cb

    I rather enjoy the subversiveness of GOOD grafitti– like Banksy.

  • @Snooker: We must… and I love the graffiti you linked to.

    @Cb: When I was in Bristol, I saw two of Banksy’s work in the wild: The Mild, Mild West and a sniper. The Mild Mild West is the wallpaper on one of my computers right now. as you note, he’s incredibly subversive and fabulous… I actually went on the hunt for his work quite specifically whilst in Bristol.