“It’s kinda hard to put into mere mortal words, but I guess I should say that being righteous mean you’re more or less on the side of the angels, waging Armageddon for the ultimate victory of the forces of Good over the Kingdom of Death (see how perilously we skirt hippiedom here?), working to enlighten others as to their own possibilities rather than merely sprawling in the muck yodelling about what a drag everything is.” Lester Bangs
(Lester Bangs “The Clash” Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, 1987, p226)
There is a lot of political graffiti, there always has been. Graffiti was one of the first tools of politics from back in the days of the Roman republic and it is still effective today because it is immediate, public and graphic. Stencils are now most commonly used for political graffiti because the message is easily repeatable. A few freehand aerosol artists will add political statements into their pieces, mostly in the clouds.
Now “political” is a big word encompassing many issues, as well as, the type of polemic discourse that is being engaged. One of the issues for street art and graffiti is its illegality. Graffiti, to state the obvious, is done by people with an anarchic attitude towards property. The majority of Melbourne’s graffiti and street artists could broadly be described the libertarian left. There is very little right wing graffiti. Graffiti is, on the whole, anti-war, anti-corporation, anti-police and anti-right wing.
This gets us back to my quote from Lester Bangs – most street artists are more or less righteous. Yes, there are destructive vandals and taggers who are definitely not righteous, but the street artists painting walls and engaging in political graffiti are righteous. They are “working to enlighten others as to their own possibilities”, trying to show everyone that we can make the city more beautiful, more engaging and more personal. They are out on the streets democratically expressing their opinions and engaging with current political issues.
Here are some more of my favourite righteous pieces of political graffiti from around the world.