Banksy is a millionaire. He’s earned it. Anyone who can creep about at night on city streets scrawling things on buildings without being mugged or having their ears cut off by a PCP addict deserves some kind of reward. OK, I like his art work, I like his commentary on the Human condition, and I would guess we’d probably get on. Fair enough? But art is art, and shit graffiti is just shit graffiti. For street tagging and spray painting to become something other than pointless it must have a point. Yeah?
I live where the air is clear, the skies are high and the people few. And today I hiked up onto a view point about twenty minutes from my house. It’s beautiful up there. But now it’s covered in graffiti. It’s not art, or even well rendered. Here are a few selections of large-lettered pearls now smeared on that ancient rock formation –
“HELLO YOU CUNT.”
“UNIT HAS NO FORESKIN”
The list goes on. I walked back down the steep scree face feeling old and angry. Then I remembered something. I did a very similar thing many years ago. At the time I thought I was being clever, arty even. In the village where I grew up, me and a girl I liked (Lynne) spent one late night writing things like ‘SATAN lives,’ and ‘Come to SATAN,’ all over shop windows and the windowsills of houses on the main street. It was funny at the time, even made the local paper. People talked of Satanic cults in North Lincolnshire. The Vicar sweated for a few weeks. There was a palpable sense of fear in the air. Fun, eh.
So who’s worse? Am I coming from the same place as the author of the stuff on the rocks? Neither of us are Banksys, or have any artistic talent, but we both had our say for all to see – crass as it might be. His message is no less valid than mine.
I enjoyed the evening me and Lynne defaced those few shop fronts, but it was more about spending time with someone I liked than the actual vandalism. The words were stupid. Teenage actions can go any place, skewed or straight line. Youth is all about grasping the moments while you can, and if you can’t find those moments floating in space then you make them. Action equals reaction. It makes complete sense to me and it always will.
No-one died as a result of my silly messages. And Satan didn’t show his face. Peace returned. Lynne and me hardly saw each other afterwards. Our graffiti was washed away and forgotten by everyone except perhaps the nervous owner of the cycle shop, who would always wonder what Satan had to do with him and would mention the episode from time to time. Everything eventually faded, like the paint up on the rocks will. But the sentiment and the action remain in the brain of the graffiti maker forever. For whatever reasons, for that brief moment, like me, he/she was the ruler of the world.