My previous post considered some ancient Roman graffiti. The ancient “bathroom stall graffiti” in question consisted of crude humor, local gossip, and personal confessions. This “Jimbo was here” graffiti seems to have expanded to include an entire art form. I was curious about the history of graffiti, so I did a couple quick dogpile searches on the topic. What struck me most was not the many purposes of graffiti (fame, shock value, art, political message, personal confessions, gang tags) but the transition into a recognized artform. Driving through any large city, one will see massive paintings spanning bridges, buildings, and other public surfaces. These attention grabbing paintings have been recognized and this graffiti “style” is becoming popular among artists and museums. What does Banksy have in common with the ancient author of “Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera?” I think it happened something like this:
Antiochus and his GF are going for a walk one day, and they decide to commemorate their wonderful romantic relationship by scrawling “Antiochus hung out here with his girlfriend Cithera” onto a tree. They are now their own local celebrity!
The personal message just wasn’t personal enough. Soon we have people feeling the need to write their secrets on secret walls. We find graffiti like, “I screwed a lot of girls here.”
Personal confession + Illustration = Shock Value!
Soon people are writing vulgar little confessions on every alley wall they can find and sometimes decides to illustrate! Hence the array crude local art on many gas station toilet walls.
Shock value drawings and scrawlings increase over highly populated areas. Gangs decide to use this to their benefit. Soon, tagging (a graffiti signature of sorts) becomes popular and we see a wave of colorful, artistic words scattered around the city.
Art & Political Messages
Funny how a little note can come a long way.