Interlude #2: Graffiti

Graffiti was everywhere in Italy. The train ride into Rome provides the passenger with two spectacles: The awe-inspiring beauty of the countryside and graf tags on every flat surface in sight.

Alas, much of it is uncreative name-plastering. It gets pretty boring and repetitive after a while, and I began musing about the purposes of graffiti. Of course it has to do with getting one's name and/or crew out in public, getting noticed. But it seems like such a shame that so little of it is done with any flair or originality.

As a well-to-do white kid from the suburbs, I didn't grow up around graffiti, and its presence always signaled to me that I was in a run-down part of town. On the other hand, I feel a close kinship with rap music and hip-hop culture — and as such, I feel stupid for getting nervous just because taggers are at work in the area.

Besides, as Wikipedia points out, graffiti has been a part of human living areas since we began writing. Thus, this pic Diane snapped in Pompeii is entirely fitting with the rest of our wall-scrawl collection. (I guess it seems like the more ancient graf is done with more attention to detail. So much of the modern stuff we saw was just thrown up there.)

There were some interesting designs in various spots. Bush-bashing was common, and I was impressed by the level of detail on this "True Idiot" stencil (even if Mr. Bush's intelligence isn't what I have a problem with). I felt a bit like a hypocrite photographing the anti-Converse tag, since I was wearing a pair of Converse at the time. Still, it's interesting to see how resistance to corporate dominance manifests around the globe.

I guess that's ultimately what I like about graffiti at its best — it represents an artistic gauntlet, thrown down to the official designers of our planet's architectures: "You make the buildings," it says. "But we live here, too, and we get to play a part in decorating them."

All I can say, then, in the unlikely event that a graf artist ever reads this: Please be sure to make your tags worth looking at!

Next: The Floating City