Home > graffiti writing > WHAT IS GRAFFITI?


April 24th, 2007


*The word "graffiti" is derived from the Latin word "graphium," which
means "to write". It was originally used by archaeologists to describe
drawings and writings found on ancient buildings and monuments in
Pompeii, Egypt and in the Roman catacombs.
The most basic definition of the term "graffiti" is "inscriptions or
drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed on a surface, originally as
inscribed on ancient walls."


*Although it has been proven that graffiti evolved during ancient times,
it did not play a significant role in society until the mid-1960's.
Therefore, it will be easier to comprehend the history of graffiti by
separating certain time era's dating from 1966 to the present time.

*1966-1971- The Evolution Begins*

Graffiti made a huge impact in society, when it was used by political
activists to rebel against their country's government.  However, it also
made an impact in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where many argue it
originated.  Gangs would use graffiti as a way of marking their
territory in many communities.  As time progressed, graffiti expanded to
other American cities, most notably in New York City.  This is where
graffiti artists began to be recognized individually, and not through
the gang or crew they were associated with.  Cornbread and Cool Earl
were the first artists to be known in New York City.       
*1971-1974- Competition Through Tags*

During this time, more and more people were becoming aware of graffiti
in New York City.  Once Cornbread and Cool Earl made their names known,
many other artists began to break through.  TAKI 183 was one the first
artists to write motion tags on subways.  His real name was Demetrium,
but had adapted the title Taki in his neighbourhood.  He lived on 183rd
Street, and was a messenger who used the subway frequently.  As a result
of his unusual tags, and the street name he acquired, he gained much
popularity throughout the city, even being featured in a New York Times
TAKI 183 is credited as being the one who began the competition among
graffiti artists.  CAY 161, JOE 136, JULIO 204, and FRANK 207, and TREE
127 were just some of the many artists who competed in NYC.  Since their
tags were being seen by almost everyone, their individual goal was to
have the most tags on the subways, trains, cars, and buildings in the
city.  They also tried to make their tags as unique as possible, so they
could stand out from the rest.

*1975-1977- 'Throw Ups' Are Created*

"For the most part innovation in writing hit a plateau after 1974.  All
the standards had been set and a new school was about to reap the
benefits of artistic foundations established by prior generations and a
city in the midst of a fiscal crisis."  The 'throw up' style was a way
of making a letter.  It was outlined, though barely filled in.  01, 167,
IN, IZ, DY, FL, PI, and TEE were best known for their 'throw ups'.  This
breakthrough added to the already aggressive competition that was
established within the art of graffiti.     
*1978-1981- Graffiti Expands to Overseas*

At this point, the competition between graffiti artists was at its
peak.  It just so happened, that also during this time, the Metropolitan
Transit Authority began to enforce the elimination of all graffiti
throughout New York City.  In the early 1980's, American graffiti
artists began to head overseas, where graffiti was now becoming better
known, and not yet illegal.
*1982-1985- The Implementation of Laws*

Due to the growing rate of drugs, guns, and violence in the streets,
laws were being implemented to make cities become more safe.  One such
law was to restrict the selling of paint to all minors.  Also, train
yards and lay-ups were being more heavily watched, since they were known
to be the 'ideal' graffiti areas.  The concept of graffiti removal was
also put into place, which eventually led to the decrease in graffiti

*1985-1989- Graffiti's Darkest Era*

By mid-1986, the Metropolitan Transit Authority took full control, by
having full-time security on the subway system.  This had a positive
effect on society, in that the violence decreased, but it also led to a
drastic decrease in the amount of graffiti artists left.

*1989-Present Time- The Clean Train Movement*

"On May 12, 1989, the MTA 'declared a victory over graffiti.'  They
effectively removed all marked cars from running, activity which became
known as the Clean Train Movement.  Many writers believed that tagging
on trains meant that you were a 'real' writer, which tagging on walls,
freights, and scraps meant you were 'fake.'"
More recently, graffiti artists have been gaining more recognition for
their work, as much as the criticism is still in effect.  Graffiti is
being featured throughout various media sources, and continues to be a
popular artform in urban culture.        

Due to the consistent growing population of the internet, graffiti has
become more and more recognized by society.  Since graffiti is a complex
art form, most internet sites depict a specific genre dealing with
graffiti.  Such genres include websites pertaining to *graffiti crews*,
*graffiti equipment*, *the history of graffiti*, and *graffiti writers*.

*Graffiti Crews: *These sites are the homepages of various graffiti
writer crews.  Sites differ depending on the crew, but most include a
brief history of the formation of the crew, biographies of its members,
and photo galleries of their work.*

*"*Disruptiv.com* <http://www.disruptiv.com/>* *is a site which
showcases the work of members of the Disruptiv collectiv.  It features
New Zealand based artists, and also features collaborative works with
Daim, Can2, Loomit, Tasek, Seak and many others.

*VMD70S.com* <http://vmd70s.com/> is the official site of the VMD70S
crew from Milan, Italy.  It contains hundreds of photos, as well as
several videos and links (Directory, 2003)."

*Graffiti Equipment*: These sites are of webpages the sell graffiti
equipment to the public, directly over the internet.

"*Graffsupply.com* <http://graffsupply.com/main.asp> is a site selling
graff supplies (caps, videos & magazines).  They also sport a graffiti
picture database consisting of over 3413 pictures from 642 writers.

*BeatBreaks.com* <http://beatbreaks.com/index2.html> is a very large
net-store selling almost everything from battle records and videos to
graffiti supplies and books (Directory, 2003)."

*The History of Graffiti*: These sites focus on a detailed overview of
the history of graffiti, which dates back to the mid-1960's.

"*at149st.com* <http://www.at149st.com/history.html> focuses on the
period of 1976-1981 in the New York City graffiti scene.  On this site,
you can find a writer's list, a crew list, and a historical overview
with photos.

is an all-around site focusing on all four elements of hip hop
culture.through the medium of video.  This site also contains an
excellent archive on written material on the history of DJing, MCing,
graffiti writing, and b-boying (Directory, 2003)."

*Graffiti Writers*: These sites display the works and talents of
individual graffiti writers.

*Loomit.de* <http://www.loomit.de/> is the website of the very talented
graffiti writer, Loomit.  It displays his creations on walls and
canvases, as well as the creations of his favourite graffiti writers.

*Daim.org* <http://www.daim.org/> is another graffiti writer website,
which displays his various styles, murals, canvases, sculptures,
etchings, animations, sketches (both colour and black & white), glasses,
and photos.  It also features a brief biography, including interviews
and newspaper articles.  


Dating back to the 1960's, when graffiti first began to make a scene in
society, only those who were directly associated with it (ie. graffiti
crews and writers), could interact with eachother.  However, the
internet has used the art of graffiti to give all online users a chance
to interact with eachother.

One such way that graffiti and interactivity co-exist is through
"*Graffiti Boards*."  Many online sites have used graffiti boards as a
way of having their site's guests interact with them, as well as
eachother.  Graffiti boards are simply a place where users have the
oppertunity to  give their opinion on a particular topic.  They have the
chance to relate their opinions to other user's postings, or even with
regards to supporting or arguing against what has been said on the
actual website.

One example of a popular graffiti board, which is online, is seen *here*
<http://www.pbs.org/art21/edu/student>.  This particular site is where
users have the chance to state whether or not they feel graffiti is art
or vandalism.

Another way in which graffiti has become interactive is by having
graffiti writers and crews compete in offically sanctioned *Graffiti
Competitions*.  Such competitions are done to give artists the chance to
expose their talents to other artists, and compete for brags as to who
is the best.  Contestants have the choice of working on walls or
canvas.  For most competitions, the winning contestants are able to
showcase their finished graffiti pieces  over the internet.  They have
become very popular across Europe, and are only now spreading over to
some North American cities.     

Graffiti is constantly affecting breakthroughs in technology through
various forms.  Some were mentioned above, under the headings *VIRTUAL
affects that graffiti has had on technology are seen through websites
that give online users a chance to purchase graffiti equipment over the
internet, as well as through graffiti boards, which have taken websites
by storm.

However, graffiti has also affected technology by initiating
breakthrough inventions for the purpose of destroying actual graffiti.
Two examples of such inventions are given below:

*The Anti-Graffiti Painting Vehicle*
"The New York City Department of Sanitation has designed and developed
in-house a self contained mobile anti-graffiti unit.  This unit is
utilized by the department to battle the widespread problem of graffiti
throughout the city, it has the ability to clean, prepare, and custom
paint the site to its original color (Vehicle, 2003)."

*The Anti-Graffiti Powerwashing Vehicle*
"The New York City Department of Sanitation has developed a
self-contained mobile graffiti removal unit.  This vehicle is used by
the Department to chemically remove the widespread problem of graffiti
throughout the City (Vehicle, 2003)."     

Technology should be given much credit to the dramatic increase of
exposure that graffiti was given, after the internet was developed.
Some examples of how technology has affected graffiti are stated above,
under the heading *VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES*.  To recap, the internet has
given graffiti crews and writers the oppertunity to expose their talents
to the world through the internet.  Also, more and more people have
become aware of the history of graffiti through many websites on the

Another way that technology has affected graffiti is through spreading
more awareness of controversies surrounding graffiti.  One such
controversy that has caught the eye of many internet users is the debate
as to whether graffiti is art or vandalism.  Thousands of sites use
message boards to obtain the opinions of online users with regards to
this debate.  One such site was given under the heading *GRAFFITI AND
INTERACTIVITY*, which can be seen *here*
<http://www.pbs.org/art21/edu/student/>.  Another graffiti board
pertaining to the debate is seen *here*

This controversy has also led to being a feature story on many
television programs/stations.  An example of this is seen on *CNN.com*
<http://www.cnn.com/US/9603/graffiti_art/>.  Also, many editorials by
various jounalists, have been written, including an article *here*
<http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/113202/news/113202nn8.html>, written by
Christina Toth.

Another way in which technology has affected graffiti through the
internet, is by allowing anti-graffiti program's/organization's sites to
be created.  This has led to more people becoming aware of the supposed
down-falls that graffiti exhibits.  They are usually formed by the
government of a particular city, and are extremely common in most US
cities.  Some examples of such websites are given below:     
    *Anti-Graffiti Program
City of San Jose* <http://www.ci.san-jose.ca.us/antigraf/Program.html>     
    *Mayor's Anti-Graffiti
Task Force* <http://www.nyc.gov/html/nograffiti/home.html>         
            *DNS Anti-Graffiti Program*
*BACK TO HOMEPAGE* <http://www.geocities.com/laeeque1650/>     

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