…But is it Art? [repost]

Posted on December 30, 2011


***This post is from my old blogger site. You can see the latest graffiti post here:  http://pondfrogsplash.com/2011/12/30/graffiti-update/ ***

I was watching the streets one night from my balcony as I tend to do. Like the crotchety old man of the neighborhood, I keep a vigilant watch so long as the temperature is agreeable. I noticed too youths walking down my street this night. One of them was carrying a plastic grocery bag -everyone carries a plastic bag around here. They walked to end the of the street, stopped, and looked around. I knew something was up. One, acting as a lookout motioned to the other, and I began to hear the sshhhhh sound of of an aerosol can. They were spraying the walls of the Greek school which seems to happen every other day. I choose my battles. I don’t holler at the school children who hop the schoolyard fence to drink beer, smoke, and spray paint after class. But something about these guys got under my skin. They were my age or older, and they were so cowardly! First off, they chose a very quiet, harmless street – not daring or cool at all. Second, they were way to cautious and strategic about it. Worst of all, they weren’t putting any art or effort into this. They were simply vomiting the most basic ugly writing in black paint. They did this in several places along my street. I knew their type. I was almost certain they were from the young communist groups which are so popular. I bet they were the ones from the stupid Devlis.org who uglify the city with their stupid political sentences such as “Death to NATO.” It’s fine if these pathetic rich kids want to hang out together and cultivate dreadlocks and read ideas from dead men which seem so outdated and naive to me they may as well be reading about the Easter bunny. But, why do they feel they need to write their poorly thought out opinions over people’s homes without even the decency of making it look cool. Then they started spraying the girls’ school and I decided to yell at them. “I’m calling the police!” I said in Turkish. The lookout friend fixed his eyes on me, and, instead of the panic I was hoping for, he just gave me the “it’s ok just calm down old man” hand motion while his friend finished the sentence. I really felt like an old fogey at this moment unable to stir even an ounce of intimidation. This is what they wrote:

Was I just too up tight to appreciate this youthful expression? This got me thinking. And, in light of this incident as well as someone’s attempt to sell Banksy’s identity for a million dollars on E-bay
(http://venturebeat.com/2011/01/17/banksy-identity-ebay/#), I’ve decided to do an examination of the graffiti here in Kadıköy. While I consider this previous example of graffiti as insipid and annoying at best, there are others which have merits. Perhaps the most admirable work is the graffiti which was actually risky to paint in the first place. And the best example of this in the city can mainly be found in Taksim, the night life center of Istanbul. I noticed this artist’s work while I was living in Beyoğlu near the Galata Tower. Since then, I’ve seen his stuff in several parts of the city. The guy really covers some ground, and I always wonder how he gains access to so many rooftops. It’s like if Banksy were Spider man. Here is his signature joined fight-the-power fists. If you have lived here, then I know you’ve seen these before:

I like how he has turned these three buildings into a mixed media triptych:
Notice the winged fist above the air conditioner:
Can you find the fist in this picture?

Now this guy or girl is fearless. They have a cool edge and a particular aesthetic going on. I approve.

Here on the Asian side, the art is much less cool. Here they tend to stick to a cutesy purple and pink color palette that reminds me of the Lisa Frank binders and trapper-keepers popular with schoolgirls:

Here is are my two favorite examples of this Kadıköy street-art style:

This one of Marilyn with a bucket of white paint splashed over her eye is my favorite:

But the graffiti which brings me the most pleasure are the attempts at English. Here is someone’s noble effort near my apartment. Somewhere, his or her English teacher is crying and they don’t know why:

You can see where someone has attempted a correction. Sadly, it was too late. Here is a hilarious bit of graffiti I found. Surely, everyone has seen the classic viral video being referenced:

If you are one of the few who haven’t seen this, you simply must. Here it is:

A timeless testament to random childhood stupidity. And now moving on to an inexplicable phrase that keeps cropping up around my neighborhood. What do they think this is supposed to mean exactly. I guess this is a case of how everything sounds cooler and more significant in another language:

Very deep. However, for the best English language graffiti, you must go to the islands. On Büyükada, there are a couple of awesome abandoned villas just off the horse-and-cart path. Here you can find a wonderful homage to the stereotypical Italian:

As well as this very thug-style tag:
No gangsta should forget to put on his rouge. This next person really wants us to know that they love their “lower:”
This next bit of graffiti English is gold – pure gold. Who is cooler than James Blunt, riddle me that? You can see someone has quoted the poet of the streets:

Can’t you hear his bizarre Muppet-like voice crooning “goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend.” Truly, an anthem to the streets. Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to this post. To sum up: you have a few types of graffiti here, but most of it has a middle-schooler immaturity about it. I like my graffiti with  more grit and grime. I wish folks would stop before they spray and ask themselves some simple questions. What does what I’m about to do actually mean? Should I use less pink? Have I spell checked this? Everyday, my street acquires more and more lazy political graffiti. And the day after I yelled at those punks, they sprayed my apartment’s nice wooden door. Again just a boring black tag. All I ask is a little more effort guys.