"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Graffiti needs an intervention

I couldn't help it! My photocopy of Conscientizacao is filled with comments all over the margins.  I found myself using the keywords from the handout Dr. Muth gave in class about Reading Against or With the Text.  I found a lot of legitimizing and reification (in Dr. Muth's words, making something so great, you can't question it).

My own opinions about grafitti can come from having grown up with it all my life in New York City. Graffiti (mostly tags) polluted the landscape on trains, building facades, and literally any canvas available, whether it was a seat on the train, or the sidewalk.  For me, graffiti has always been categorized as vandalism and it was quite challenging to see it another way.
Though I fully understand the value of graffiti art and it's genealogy as stated in the article,  I continue to consider the majority of it as a selfish act; in other words, many graffiti artists create art to propagate their name and not to 'conscientizar', or critically reflect.

Even before reading this article, I had my own opinions about Sao Paulo's graffiti.  Sao Paulo's architecture is colored with graffiti tags, graffiti art, graffiti sentences, graffiti 'everything'.  The endless traffic allows you time to observe the city's landscape and to view how graffiti interferes with the sterile structures of the buildings.  The juxtaposition of the graphics on such bland canvases (cement walls, someones garage door) just screams: "can we get noticed?"  I understand that the article was getting at just that; how people who had little ability to read and write used signs to shape their environment and to communicate to others their social and political role.

My question is: Do you have to communicate your social and political role as a graffiti artist on my fence? How far is too far? Though it may be on my fence/wall/garage door, I still consider it art...just clandestine art!

What was most appauling was the last picture of the man creating graffiti with piles of trash surrounding him. "Zezao affirmed a desire to bring social awareness and action to the community.  He says: we see all the trash that accumulates in the city, and no one seems to care. But when you paint there, it calls attention to the trash, then someone happens to come by and clean it up."

My response to that are many.  

Zezao, keep thinking like that, and your country will never change expecting others to pick up YOUR garbage.  Keep investing time in painting pictures on someone else's property and protesting about what does not get done.  You talk about civic responsibility? Well, if you are so famous, instead of painting around the garbage, why don't you rally people from your community and pick up the garbage that you yourselves created? 


  1. I love this blog entry. It goes to show that there are two sides to every story, and the perspective of the writer and the reader can be totally different. Even with a "sympathetic" writer, your beliefs (shaped over the years) could not be swayed. I love it, partly because it makes me feel better about my rants :)

  2. Carol - I love it too--but not because it reinforces Greg's ranting! :) Rather, as we discussed in class (I did not have time to read this before class), it points to the fact that advocacy is ideological too. Ideology is not just something the bad guy or big brother uses, but all of us. Literacy is never neutral, and the reification that the authors employed is just as important to deconstruct as the reification that BP uses to talk about how much they care about the Gulf Coast after Katrina! I will never read the article the same now, and that is always good. In fact, if feel a little used by the authors in their selective retelling. But I also strive to see the graffiti through the eyes of the street dwellers--those who are rarely authors and almost always written about (if not just ignored out of hand); who have no one to complain too, no traditions to preserve, no property to protect, no territory to mark their existence. These are the ones the graffiti wants us luckier ones to think about, to consider, to see, to hear. Maybe the authors could have been more responsible about their portrayal of graffiti as something complex and in need of careful attention. Maybe they could have still raised our awareness and disturbed our consciences, but would have made us think harder. Maybe we would have had to think about other ways for amplifying the voices and presence of street dwellers. Maybe in the long run we could have found a solution that didn't polarize...

  3. Carol! I had the same instinctive reaction you did to these readings! I think my bias was so strong against graffiti that I had a hard time even READING this article!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.