I have never been a big fan of graffiti. Long ago, I heard my mother say this about people who scrawl their gnarly epithets on fences and bare walls: "Bad toilet training." It took me a while to figure out what she meant, but once I gathered in just what she meant, this marking of territory started to wear on me. Moving to Oakland did little to take the edge of this aversion. There aren't a lot of "blank canvases" around here.
When I managed a book warehouse here, one of my employees insisted on leaving his tag on every surface he could. That tag was "Intel." He was careful to annotate, as he had space, his borrowed catchphrase: "It's what's inside." The artsy part of me appreciated the hip message that he was sending. The management part of me was incensed by the defacement of company property. Intel's scribbles were everywhere: carts, crates, posts, walls. If it held still long enough for him to get his permanent marker on it, it got tagged. As "The Man," it fell to me to express this outrage on behalf of the company. Since it was an employee-owned company, and I was talking to one of the owners, it turned out that my rants were less than effective. Intel felt pretty solidly that he was only adding to the ambiance of his work surroundings, and as an owner he felt that his mission of self-expression far outweighed the concerns of this petty little man who stood before him complaining about "vandalism." Graffiti, for Intel, was not a crime.
Nor is it for Banksy, whose work is currently on display in and around New York City. This street artist is giving his fans and graffiti abatement crews a real run for their money, announcing online the appearance of new pieces with the hopes that they can be seen by those who might enjoy them before they are painted over. Banksy's street art scavenger hunt is a return to his roots, before his stenciled bits could be found in prestigious galleries and movie theaters across the globe.
I wonder if I'll ever find a documentary about Intel in my Netflix queue.