COMMENT: Gagging on Golden City graffiti

Tyler Austin Bradley
By Tyler Austin Bradley
August 31st, 2010

Ah, the plight of rural youth. It is a tale rife with intrigue, admonition, and teenage angs– inextricably coupled with a deep-seated need for attention. Cries for help, guidance, parental intervention fan their way over back-alleys, side streets and decrepit abandoned edifices in need of a coat of whitewash; country-fried graffiti, the domain of disillusioned and misguided churls gone wild, lends an exclamatory element to the oft-overheard assertion, “this place has gone to the dogs!”


And what better comparison, really? Dogs are as territorial, as pathetically predictable in their Pavlovian behaviours and practices as the Mountain Kingdom (or similarly far-flung) graffiti ‘artists’.

Krylon and Tremclad cans are suitably comparable to canine bladders when the message is effectively the same; haphazardly sprayed messages are fleeting, the inside jokes of quickly disbanded social groups, packs or roving idiocy. Left off-leash, should we really be surprised?

“No curfew? Sweet. I’m gonna go paint a pot-leaf on the back of (insert local business name here.)”

Sadly, marking paints are decidedly more enduring than dog piss. The next storm system that blows through will not erase proclamations of so-and-so’s promiscuity or penchant for performing fellatio on who’s-is-that.

Oh, I pine for the days of truly acidified rain.

Your pot-leaves look like poorly rendered dwarf ferns. Your shaky-handed text is worse than that of a gibbon fed a steady diet of Red Bull and crack cocaine. Your message can hardly be described “the medium” as your minimal life experience can only be described as small. Extra small. Sheltered, even.

Small-town graffiti, like well-placed highway-side billboards, affects us all. It is in the public view, the purview of the populace at large. Where statements are made, and retractions or countering arguments are not readily issued or apparent, the natural (easiest) course of action is to shrug and accept the word as possible, if not plausible, truth.


Remember that assertion? Scrawled in six-foot high letters across the front of Cominco Arena, we all cringed. Poor spelling aside, it, at the very least, gave us a cause for pause.

“Hm. Barakoff Obamov. Doesn’t sound so far-fetched.”

Most of us probably shook our heads disappointedly, but the visibility and fore-frontedness of the message, its brazen out-thereness and absurd lack of context given its bizarre placement on a Canadian smelter town’s hockey rink was unmistakeable. This was either the work of an unknown, near-genius political satirist, or the half to full-cut renderings of a complete and total moron.

As it turned out (as is so often the case with small-town acts of vandalism), it was the work of a complete and total moron, someone with no established political agenda or viewpoint save that of the last-call set that, nightly, so enthusiastically joins in with a chorus of “stoopid government stealing all my munny.”

Having come from the city (statement of fact, not an endorsement for myself), I have seen, borne witness to, and even participated in the creation of unsanctioned and unsolicited public artwork: stuff that didn’t suck.

I balk at describing said work (and it is work) as “graffiti” primarily because in its best and most appreciable form it is not “a rude decoration inscribed on rocks or walls.” Or painted on rocks or walls, or slathered on bathroom stalls, or laden with calls to brawl (“I will fight you because U R gay”, sharpied into a McDonald’s sit-down toilet spot, was something I recently witnessed locally).

Really? That’s the best you’ve got?

Check out Banksy or Nelson’s “Dedos” Garcia before you sweat your way through the procurement of some high-visibility tree-marking paint to blight our highway with “Grad ’11.” Seriously, you’re embarrassing us all. Get yourself a proper respirator and practice in your parents’ garage, backyard or back forty before subjecting us to “XJISKS;” No one can read your sucky, backwater rendition of faux NYC influenced ‘Wild-Style.’

Tagging is beat, and if you really think your name is worth a pot to piss in, and that you should be reaping the benefits of some local (population 3200) notoriety, have the nerve, no, the courage, to put your real name on your artwork (a name alone is not artwork- no artist ever made a dime signing their name to a blank canvas despite what some gallery owners may spin you on- though I doubt very much any of our local spray-bombers have ever attended an art gallery, or have any illusions of ever earning a living at their art given their apparent disdain for actual craftsmanship).

If you are a legitimate, artfully motivated individual that has wreaked one or more of the abominations, nay, atrocities of pictured street art upon our unsuspecting and woefully unprepared citizenry, hang your head in shame and resolve to do better work.

Pathetic attempts at immortalizing your graduating year, your shaky-kneed sexual conquests and your hard-edged homies smack of idle desperation and boredom. Read a book, find a cause, hone your skill, show us something original. Do a halfway decent job.

Giant circumcised penises with dappled testicles simply won’t cut it any more. Your style is whack, your efforts unworthy of the expense incurred by locals to cover up our collective shame; if your aim is to co-opt public property, to win the favour of the masses, to be topical and current, give us art, not more careless stupidity.

Anyone can shake a can of aerosol paint, depress the button and loose a tirade of racial epithets, lewd, body politic imagery or slander. The division between artist and retartist takes place where intent is properly met and tempered with skill, where imitation or originality serve to advance a notion, an idea or principle, rather than mimic an already wasted, temporal, decrepit assertion:

“Grad ’11 FOREVER!!!!”

If that’s all you have to say, draw, or paint, man, are we in trouble.

Categories: Op/Ed

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