What Is Graffiti Art Or Vandalism?

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Graffiti has and always will be at the center of controversy. Key questions about ownership, vandalism, and legality of the work remain unanswered due to their convoluted twists and turns that generally leave people speechless in regards to formulating a thoughtful and educated answer. Analyzing the origin of modern day graffiti helps to provide a justification for such confusion. Graffiti is rooted in the unsanctioned use of public space; it was meant to “break boundaries and def[y] the law” (Elias). In this sense, the fundamental purpose of the art form is what makes it such a controversial topic. Because the work done is mostly unsanctioned, graffiti has been seen more as vandalism than art by pedestrians. This distinction places graffiti …show more content…
“Slave Labour” (Figure 1) is a piece made by him in Wood Green, London that depicts a child working in a factory like setting working on a sewing machine (Battersby). Several have interpreted the piece as a sort of commentary on the Diamond Jubilee celebration for the Queen; in order to save money, children were being put to work in factories for outrageously low wages producing decorations and souvenirs for the grand celebration (Battersby). What makes the meaning of the piece even more convincing is the location of the piece: a “bargain goods shop Poundland,” which is similar to a dollar store (Battersby). The specific Poundland which Banksy targeted was at one point putting goods on sale that were created by a seven year old worker who was working “over a hundred hours a week in an Indian factory” for a wage that did not come close to making ends meet (Battersby). Both the timing of the piece, which indicates the piece’s ties to the Diamond Jubilee, and the location of it, which indicates the piece’s ties to the Poundland child labor controversy, make it clear that Banksy was attempting to make a statement regarding child labor: profiting unfairly off of another’s work is unfair when the author is not …show more content…
The difficulty that arises when attempting to take a position stems from graffiti’s original purpose: unsanctioned use of public space (Elias). It was never meant to be put into such a situation where the greater public began commercializing the art form. This entire controversy goes to show the difficulty that arises when two different worlds collide, not only in the context of graffiti but for most disputes that arise in the world. Differences between politics, cultures, morals, etc. have formulated complicated questions that are not remotely easy to answer and still have not been answered

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