Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Graffiti - Irish style

Amongst all the polls and analysis that have been discussed ad nauseum in recent blogs and news paper articles regarding the effects of immigration on Irish society, and what the populace makes of it, one thing has been glaringly absent from discussion and that is this: Since this new wave of immigration began back in the mid nineties, the quality of graffiti on offer on walls the length and breadth of the country has increased proportionately.

This struck me as I drove into work this morning, along a route that takes in a direct line from south County Dublin to the city centre. Wall after wall was adorned with an array of scrawls, which thankfully served to alleviate the boredom of staring at yet another D registration crawling along in front of me.

This got me thinking. I knew all along that "Johnno hearts Na’alie", as I have been told numerous times. Johnno used to be very fond of urban bus shelters, retail loading bays, post boxes, and lampposts as media through which to extol the womanly virtues of Na’alie. I have learned for instance that she is in fact a “ride”, sometimes so much so as to be termed a “slag”. This latter must be true as I have seen her moniker scribbled alongside those of “Anto” and “Tommo” on more than one occasion. The prodigiously untalented Johnno was also in favour of the irretrievably dull “black-marker-running-out-of-ink” school of graffiti, as many eminent art critics don’t call it. All of which, while interesting in a general way, is wholly unedifying.

Some people see this rise in graffiti as vandalism of the worst sort, and actively campaign for the practitioners to be punished accordingly. Johnno’s lazy brand is of particular offence. It is hard not to agree.

However, having only a vague awareness of the cultural theory behind modern graffiti, I do know that it belongs to an ancient human tradition that has precedents in both the Old World and the New. I know also that Graffiti surges in importance during times of great political upheaval and changes in a society – In ancient Rome for instance, at the height of empire and as the rot set in, it was prevalent in the streets of the capital. Modern “street” graffiti surged in usage in the USA during the seismic nineteen-sixties. It has been long used by political agitators – John Trudell named a whole album after the practice. I know that it has been used a method of territory marking from Ogham stones to gang lands today. Northern Irish murals must be products of the same impulse.

I have been searching the web (well Flickr anyway) for decent examples of Irish “street” graffiti, but there does not really seem to be much attention paid to it, which leads me to believe that the upsurge is due to immigration. So given that we are all agreed that Ireland is undergoing huge socio-economic changes, do our new exponents of graffiti have anything to actually say?

Here are some random samples I found.
Capture Capture
Iced Coffee


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irish Graffiti(Aerosol Art) is alive and well.
It has been for the last 22 years,Belfast, Drogheda, cork were amongts the first towns and cities to catch the bug.
Ireland has a very high standard of graffiti in all its forms, legal, illegal, political.
your going to have to dig a little deeper if you want to find us.


22 October, 2007 15:06  

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