graffiti & ads


when graffiti artists tagged buses and subway cars, their designs gradually got larger and larger, until they had their “edges” cut off by the shapes of the buses and cars themselves: the designs were intentionally made larger than the media, giving the effect of expansiveness, ambition, confidence---living large and tagging large.

Denunciations of these designs were sharp from the very beginning, but became especially violent when the designs became so huge. security in bus yards and subway car yards sharply increased, making it more and more difficult to do large and complex work (which could take up to an hour of spraying). There were also smaller tags, for small spaces---doorframes, edges, rails. These were made intentionally compact and dense, with an illegibible spikiness as if bristling in defense of their space and their claim on the wandering eye of the passerby.

meanwhile, advertising designers noticed these designs even as they were being denounced and destroyed. now it is common to see ads with lettering and graphics so huge they are cut off by the edges of the bus or car, though they still remain legible. art museums use these kinds of ads for their blockbuster shows.

brand names that are easily recognizable by letters and colors---Marlboro red, DKNY black, etc.---use it, making their messages seem to burst their containers with size and importancce and power, almost flaunting the fact that we can recognize...

(One Marlboro ad had room for only the M and the A and part of the R, plus a familiar graphic of cowboy lighting a cig with a stick from his fire on the prairie....)

No denunciations here; these ads are bright and graphic and proper---and have of course been paid for, so they must be legit. In fact we take pleasure in doing the ad’s work ourselves, in reassembling the “whole” brand and its message given only a few clues, a few fragments. unconsciously we take pleasure in this: it affirms our citizenship in consumer communities, virtual communities that these days seem more consoling and familiar than the communities in which we go to sleep at night.

Designers also copied the other extreme of tags, inventing a style of gigantic simplicity but compact, illegible, hit-and-run. Compact spiky scribbles became in as logos on brand-name swimsuits, skaterboard and surfer gear, etc.
So: brands are OK, tags are OK when linked to brand names. but tags by those others, those underground subversives and criminals---that is not OK. [?]



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