Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere

The graffiti-street art argument is polarising. Part of the everyday of elladee_images is street art, so I’m weighing in on the  debate.

Big, savage guard dogs like these could keep away those bad bad bad graffitists-street artists who would save us from politically & aesthetically incorrect walls

Talented graffitists & street artists add colour & culture to the streets but vandals, no. Unfortunately many can’t or don’t want to accept there is a difference.

The Hulk “somebody who could change from a normal man into a monster” (Wiki) is personification of the graffiti-street art issue.

Apparently graffitists are busy multi-taskers:

“It has become apparent that graffiti offending is actually a ‘gateway’ crime to more serious criminal offending including high-end crimes such as burglary, arson, robbery, drug trafficking, possession of weapons and child pornography,” he said…. This was highlighted by the fact that during Operation Eraser, police officers seized an alarming array of weapons, drugs and stolen goods from the homes of graffiti vandals.” Western Australian Police Minister Rob Johnson

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Snippets from more reasonable debate:

“Rather than being soft or hard, light or heavy after the event, we need to be smarter in dealing with the causes and effects. People who are (understandably) offended by graffiti or whose property is damaged by it should still not expect their feelings to dictate the way the offenders are dealt with. The world and its inhabitants are more complicated than that, as the criminal justice system recognises… Prevention is best. Keep the possible offenders lawfully occupied and protect the property – by lights, barriers, CCTV, police and security patrols, surface coatings – whatever it takes. And promptly remove graffiti when it happens – by using offenders, if that can be arranged.” Nicholas Cowdery, former NSW director of public prosecutions.

“What seems to get up the noses of some of the city fathers is that street art has not gone through the exhaustive process of climbing up and down the bureaucracy for sign-off at every level. It has not been authorised and possibly sanitised. But we need to remember that mostly it is ephemeral and self-regulated for quality by the local street artist communities… It is interesting that the state’s nannies are usually much more protective of our collective sensibilities than the community itself… Graphic marking of ceremonial sites is part of many ancient cultures, including our own indigenous rock art… Street art is a great Australian democratic tradition and we should be encouraging and supporting the best it has to offer.” Tamara Winikoff, executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts.

“With two-thirds of offenders aged under 18, there is a clear need for better parental supervision. Most graffiti attacks occur at night, often by children as young as 13 or 14 who should be at home rather than roaming the streets… Many offenders seem to view graffiti as a victimless crime, but it’s really a crime against the whole community. Our legal system needs to better reflect this in the way offenders are punished.” Ian Cross, mayor of Ku-ring-gai Council.

” My first exposure to graffiti vandalism came in September 2005 and involved three adolescents who entered our property. The whole episode was captured on a newly installed CCTV system, but police told us no arrests could be made as we had not displayed a sign warning that ”Video surveillance is operating on the premises”. Three days later, we installed numerous warning signs… Ultimately I had to repaint and sign-write two trucks, which cost my business about $30,000 in downtime, lost productivity and other direct costs. The most recent incident, last November, affected the exterior walls of our premises… But it doesn’t matter whether we threaten to send them to prison or to confiscate their cars. I believe the best deterrent is to make sure they can be tracked, identified and prosecuted. In the same way that victim impact statements are read before a criminal, graffiti vandals might change their ways if they could be made to understand how much damage they do. One way to do this is to make them clean up their mess.” Thomas Cann, owner of Baulkham Hills Landscape Supplies.

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Title quote: G.K. Chesterton, English author & mystery novelist (1874 – 1936)

5 thoughts on “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere

  1. The title is brilliant! Great quote.

    I don’t consider street art to be vandalism but that won’t surprise you. I do admire some of the creativity and inspiration that portrays images on such huge canvases (plural spelling there?)

    I posted some pix on one of our new motorways over on the Landy blog, it hadn’t been open for long and some of the crash barriers on the side were already full of colour. Spaniards seem to love not only art/graffiti but combining it with danger!! 😦

    Those dogs are great 🙂


    1. Thank goodness for quotes. I couldn’t come up with titles on my own. I slipped over to your Landy blog, and I like the graffiti, just plain old wholesome harmless graffiti. Nice motorway. Looks mostly the same as anything in 3 directions from here. Universal engineering. I like the dogs too. Ok, they’re murals not street art or graffiti but I’m sure in some neighbourhoods, not Newtown, they’d be controversial.


  2. It’s a bit of a vexed question, isn’t it? When do we consider lines and colours to be art, or antisocial acts of vandalism? History tells us that that’s a moveable judgement call. And it worries me because I’m vehemently against censorship, yet fear anarchy in our disenfranchised societies. What has been the result of the Street Art movement in Melbourne? Has it resulted in a lessening of ‘vandalism’ type of graffiti?


    1. I’m not sure about Melbourne but I’m guessing like Sydney the status quo of vandalism type of graffiti is unchanged. A good point you make.


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