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Written on the City

Axel Albin & Josh Kamler Written on the City: Graffiti Messages Worldwide (How Books, 2008)

This is a book about the basics: taking graffiti back to the writers. The techniques, stickers, stencils, marker pens, etc. are not as important as the text on the wall. The content (lots of photography) is mostly focused on the west coast of the USA but with images from around the world. I notice that A1one from Iran is amongst the many writers credited in the  “acknowledgments”. Translations are provided for non-English text. And the book does have a geographical index of all the images (there are 3 from Melbourne and 2 from Sydney).

Written on the City is a book by designers; this is acknowledged in the “acknowledgments” at the start of the book. “It is a funny thing that designers aren’t considered authors. Because there are three designers out there who deserve an author credit”. Nobody deserves an author credit for this book; that would be an insult to all hard working authors. The book’s actual text is very limited, haphazard, irrelevant and plagiarized – copying pages of the “New York City Administrative Code” relating to graffiti may not be a copyright violation but neither is it original content. This is a pity because there are issues about graffiti messages that are worth writing about. The spontaneity or planned messages and the media employed. Then there is the dialogue between different writers, the crossing out of words, the augmentation of the text and the replies.

I borrowed the Written on the City from Moreland City Libraries; I’m glad that I didn’t buy it. The website version http://www.writtenonthecity.com/ is better because there is more photos and less trees die. There are so many books about street art that are rushed into publication to exploit what the publishers believe is going to be a brief fad. And as the decades of street art go by I am still waiting to see a book that deals with the breadth of street art in depth. I will probably have to write it myself.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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