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Vandalism and Art

Vandalism over Vandalism

Begum Gucuk

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1Vandalism over vandalism is something we see very often today. Ultimately, it is seen in contradistinctive forms of expression. All sentient life is concerned with ownership either instinctively or rationally while having varied demands to express in relation to property.

2Graffiti is increasingly transforming into a cultural practice in Turkey in the sense that the urban space is artistically re-defined. This study aims to debate/discuss the issue of urban space and new cultural methods in the substructure of graffiti culture. The transformation of urban spaces evolves together with social communication and cultural production methods. The inevitable result of deep social fragmentation that’s caused by urban transformation, the submerged culture group look for and target alternative channels to express themselves by means of highlighting their artistic expression, predominant values of subculture, power and rebellion.

3In this process, the city is transformed into a playground and social matters of individual crisis is argued out and expressed by subcultures through a cultural and artistic environment, who act outside of what is legal, yet inside the line of legitimacy. Predominantly in the city streets, empty walls, bridges, railway stations, subways and so on. Graffiti has become one of the most essential areas of the subculture's visual production, exhibited on the surface. The young people who create Benjamin’s ‘Spielraum’ for expressing themselves against the Habermasists destructive bourgeois public make their own means of existence possible by inventing their own game rules, within the rules of the city that does not involve them. Graffiti is the voice of those who cannot speak; the practice of self-expression is the expression of self. In fact, as a citizen, the graffiti writer re-seizes the city walls and transforms self-expression into an alternative media. The graffiti image is like Huizinga's actor human (homo ludens), expressing a demand for liberalization based on creative destruction and creative construction. Graffiti writers turn the city into a Carnival zone where they conquer the steril, monochrome and wholesale urban space and re-interpret; Uncanny, very colorful, vivacious.

4Graffiti does not recognize the City’s invisible variant social realities and boundaries such as (social rank, ethnic, religious, etc.) but instead undermines and makes up its own boundaries. Graffiti’s Spinozal approach to the multitude creates and open space of self-expression based on different sub-, counter-, and alternative cultures.

5Because it is a practice that is beyond artistic rules and limitations, anyone with a spray-can can administer it.

6The Graffiti writer rejects the city’s absent, broken, battered identity and gives himself a new name that is self chosen and engraves it on the city walls. The graffiti writer re-identifies his own existence along with the city. It regulates an alternative display against the urban power display, where the display is carnivalesque and violates all boundaries while revealing the return of the oppressed. Graffiti at the same time is a practice that reflects public affect- anger, sadness, disappointment, rebellion, hope and love , etc. Each emotion reflects the graffiti writers personal emotional state with colors, forms and words. These graffiti’s harbor the emotions of invisible individuals with a visual avatar.

7Cities are not self-created, they are constructed and de-constructed by means of power relations and catastrophes. Urbanization is a product of multiple layers, fragmentation, and the destruction of the state, and the outcome structure of extermination, (Foucault) politics. The city’s poverty, the “others” are diligently kept outside of the picture. Although they are in the city, they are not included in its grand depiction and official game. These silent residents of the city have to find new ways to express themselves.

8Citizens who are invisible to the politics of power over the citizens develop different forms of resistance against this attitude. Resistance patterns developed on the cultural scene are based on alternative cultural practices. Graffiti is one of these practices, and it is a practice that grasps this reality by recreating the boundaries of the urban space and extracting the map of fragmentation within the shapes of these boundaries. In this sense, graffiti is the rebel of urban power. It does not recognize prohibitions on public and private property, graffiti turns the city into a playground of its own rebellious cultural practice. These cultural practices have raised awareness on the system as a criminal offense.

9The pressure created on the existence of man leads him to different forms of resistance (J. C. Scott). This resistance is indispensable so that the power can feel the existence of man, even though this resistance is defined as a crime or vandalism.

10The criminalization of Graffiti, its definition as a vandalist action, is the result of the cartography of the rebellious city. The inhabitants of the city - gangs, illegal political organizations, and rebellious objects - can be seen with their underground cultures creating their identities, their voices. Living in a social catastrophe transforms the streets of the city and other communities into a scene where people start speaking their own language. This scene violates the fake game of power and vandalism appears to be real and for this reason vandalism is condemned by power. The graffiti writers, who describe the destruction of power in a rugged form, create a new playground, like every rebel, that escapes violence and this area creates new faces, new names and identities. Reclaiming the streets of their own urban spaces, while expressing themselves, give the struggle of nullifying everything they say about their power.

11Vandalism is linked to the way the government operates, while authoritarian power suppresses the practice of graffiti - even with terrorism - while less oppressive forces silence or expose areas of graffiti practices to reduce social pressure. If the authority and pressure is stronger the resistance is more intense and if it is the other way around then the resistance diminishes.

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Electronic reference

Begum Gucuk, « Vandalism over Vandalism », CeROArt [Online], HS | 2018, Online since 09 December 2018, connection on 20 May 2019. URL :

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About the author

Begum Gucuk

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Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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