Art is a universal thing. We can not define art from one perspective. Art was created initially to describe something that is to be conveyed. There are thousands of kinds of art that can be used to convey or describe something. Along the development of the age, the function of art changed but did not leave the function early. Sometimes when we walk in the corner of the city, we often see the walls of the building that is decorated by complicated writing or drawing. This is one of the quite popular arts among youth called graffiti.

Graffiti is one of modern contemporary art that uses the wall as the media. Graffiti generally contains the writings and pictures that can be categorized as abstract. Graffiti also could be interpreted as an art activity that uses color composition, line, shape and volume to write certain sentences on the wall. Generally, the tools that are used are spray paints (Bomber Community, sec 1). The word “Graffiti” was coming from Greek which is means to write (Graffiti Definition: The Dictionary of Art, sec 1). With the increasing of time, Graffiti later became a trend among teens because graffiti is considered as a tool for teens to express their freedom. Freedoms here are about human rights including freedom of opinion and how you express yourself in a text (The New Racism, p. 45).

The development of Graffiti was very rapid. Almost in every country in Asia, Europe, America and even Australia, you can find graffiti. A variety of opinions emerged about the graffiti. There are positive and negative opinions about Graffiti. But it did not make the bomber recede in working in the graffiti. Meanwhile, the presence of graffiti also becomes a new phenomenon in society. Communities consider graffiti as a criminal act because generally a bomber (a called name for graffiti lover) makes graffiti on the wall without asking permission first and damage the beauty of the city. In addition, in the political world, graffiti is considered as a subculture that tries against establishment (Palgrave Macmillan, sec 8). Punk which is considered as the resistance movement against the establishment uses graffiti as a means to disseminate their concept.

Graffiti comes from the Greek “graphein” and then in Italy is known by the name of “graffito” which means cuts or scratchesListenRead phonetically (Graffiti: Art and Crime, sec 3). Graffiti actually had been around since humans first set foot on earth. At that time, Graffiti is used as a medium or a means to arouse men to hunt and as a means of spiritual. Graffiti is also a means of communicating between ancient human because they have not known verbal language (The Great Graffiti Wars of the Late 20th Century, p.54 – 55). Then Graffiti also has evolved during ancient Egypt. This is evidenced by the paintings on the walls of the pyramid. In ancient Roman times, Graffiti is used as a means of citizen dissatisfaction against the government. This can be seen from the sentence satire on government buildings in the city walls of Pompeii (Graffiti: Art and Crime, sec 5).

In continental Europe and America around the year 60’s, Graffiti expanded to urban areas and become a community trademark. Since it considered as a trigger war among community groups, Graffiti in that era was prohibited. In America on the same era, Graffiti was used as a tool of political activists to protest like the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and Savage Nomads. Although prohibited, the development of Graffiti never stopped. Year 1969 – 1974, was the “Pioneer era” for the Graffiti because it was the era when famous Graffiti artist showing up like Taka 183 and Tracy 164. Then came another Graffiti artists like Dondi, Futura 2000, Daze, Blade, Lee, Zephyr, Rammellzee, Crash, Kel, NOC 167 and Lady Pink. In that era, the famous graffiti designs were polka dots, crosshatches, and checkers (Graffiti: Art and Crime, sec 12). Then in 1974, the graffiti artist tried to make a new design by combining cartoons and landscapes.

Stepping in 1980, this was an era where Graffiti dominate subway transit system. Almost all of the subway in America filled with images of Graffiti. In 1989, the U.S. Government issued a policy to clean all of graffiti on the subway, known as the era of New York Clean Train Movement. Stepping 1990, Graffiti is often associated with hip-hop. This is because the graffiti artists often do some experiments with elements of hip-hop. Year 2000 until present, Graffiti has been made as commercial materials with many leading computer manufacturers use Graffiti as a means of promotion. In addition, there is too much software with Graffiti theme scattered in the community. So, Graffiti is a contemporary art that still rampant in society in the world.

2.2 Graffiti and Youth Expression of Freedom

Graffiti on some teenagers has become a lifestyle trend. This trend provides a wide influence in the lives of teenagers. The effect of graffiti that could be visible is how the graffiti lovers express their sense of freedom. Freedom is one of the basic human rights. In graffiti, the basic rights are also embodied in the spray paint cans scratches. The bomber poured all the ideas of freedom that exists in their minds into graffiti in the terms and varied design. It is also based on the spirit which they held, “Keep the tags and throw ups out of the city–bomb the suburbs! Do pieces and art of worth in the city and take the “mark my territory” or “get up” graffiti elsewhere” (James Haskins, p.25).

The freedom that the young graffiti lovers understand produces a variety of graffiti designs. This is the meaning of freedom that the bomber believed. We can see the variety of graffiti design created by bomber that actually every designs fall into the category of graffiti styles:

  • Piece style is one style of graffiti that is fairly common used by the bombers. This type of graffiti using a blend of 3 colors that aims to clarify the meaning of drawings or writings. To use this graffiti technique, a bomber must understand well how the basic theory of this graffiti technique. (Graffiti Styles, sec 4)
  • Tag Style is the first graffiti appeared. Generally graffiti of this type typically have the arch in graffiti letters. This graffiti is easily to be found in every corner of the city and be done with marker pen, spray paints, spray sketch. (Graffiti Styles, sec 5)
  • Throw up is quite complicated graffiti design style to do. This design combines 3 colors. This design looks almost the same as the piece of writing style but the letters in this design in the form of bubbles. Generally posts in this design refers to the important issues that occur in society.
  • Wild Style is quite popular design among the bombers. This design requires a high level of accuracy. Generally, this design contains elements arrows, spears, and a big spike in 3D. In order to understand the meaning of this design, it requires the logic high. This design was first introduced by the graffiti artist like Zephyr, Stay High 149 and Tracy 168.
  • Blockbuster graffiti design is a style category that requires a fairly complicated sketch, requires extensive media and wide places. This design is different from other graffiti design mainly lies in the media equipment, ie a paint rollers. This design is usually used to cover other graffiti. Posts in this design are made oversized and simple.

2.3 Graffiti and Societies Point of View

Graffiti has been endemic to teenagers worldwide. Graffiti was originally categorized into a branch of art turned into a lifestyle trend. Almost in every country around the world, we can see the graffiti with a variety of designs and patterns. It was later affecting social conditions of society. People have their own perspective of the graffiti that could be positive or negative. Here we will see how the public views on graffiti in the two countries, which are Indonesia and Australia.

Graffiti in Indonesia has emerged since the time of independence. In an age of independence Graffiti became a propaganda tool in encouraging fighters against the DutchListenRead phonetically (Graffiti di Indonesia: Sebuah Politik Identitas ataukah trend, p.1). Then Graffiti thrive when introduced again by the artist named YB Mangunwijaya in 1990 in the form of mural art. Then, graffiti spread to all corners of Indonesia and become a separate trend in the community. Indonesian people consider graffiti as one of the branches of the eccentric or abstract art. Graffiti lovers get a special place in society as a personal who has a sense of high art (Graffiti di Indonesia: Sebuah Politik Identitas ataukah trend, p.3). This is because the characteristic of Indonesian society with open hands receive all sorts of things from outside that are different from the culture of Indonesia. General Paradigm in Indonesian society, people who are adept in the field of arts and culture, indirectly get a high place in the society. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Graffiti also became a social identity in society. Social identity here is the fabric of the chain of past relationships with various social, cultural, and economic in space and time in a community (Graffiti di Indonesia: Sebuah Politik Identitas ataukah trend, p.5). So, lovers of graffiti have earned a place in the social strata of Indonesian society as people recognize their existence.

Almost the same with Indonesia, Australian society was acknowledged and admired Graffiti as a branch of art. Even in Australia, in one State, Graffiti is used as a way to promote tourism (The Faith of Graffiti, p. 43). Most Australian people assume that Graffiti is the best way to reduce vandalism. Many cities in Australia provide a wall as a medium for the Graffiti artist. However, some people also think that Graffiti is an illegal activity ListenRead phonet(The Faith of Graffiti, p.46). Some people argue that legalizing graffiti Australia is not a way to reduce vandalism as the result of illegal graffiti. As a result of this, some state governments issued policy named “Anti-Graffiti Squad” which aims to clean up the city from illegal graffiti (The Faith of Graffiti, p.48).

Thus, the people in both countries, Indonesia and Australia, are having different views of graffiti. However, Graffiti remains an art that will never disappear.


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