Accepted paper:

"You Thought We Wouldn't Notice" : Graffiti as Art Form, Vandalism, Campaign and Culture.

Authors:

Dianne Rodger (University of Adelaide)

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper uses the example of the utilization of graffiti imagery in marketing campaigns to analyze the complex relationships involved in the struggle to define what graffiti actually is and how it should be appropriately used in different cultural contexts.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines rights over the use of imagery associated with graffiti and is based upon ethnographic studies carried out amongst the hip hop communities of Adelaide and Melbourne. It explores these rights in relation to rifts within the graffiti writing community itself, in particular the emerging division between more traditional graffiti writers and those who employ the 'stenciling' technique. These divisions are typically based upon disjunctures between understandings of graffiti as illegal subculture and legitimated art form respectively. Graffiti and hip hop artists have often argued that the illegal nature of graffiti writing makes it impervious to the dangers of commercialization often associated with other cultural forms and therefore a less likely target for exploitation and wrongful appropriation. However, numerous recent Australian marketing campaigns have utilized graffiti as a selling point, using graffiti style fonts and imagery or settings with graffiti backdrops, both real life and manufactured, a practice that has been vigorously criticized by members of the hip hop community. This paper avoids the depiction of graffiti as a static cultural package which is formed and then appropriated by advertisers. Instead, it advocates a dialogical approach to the analysis of relationships between different graffiti artists and commercial agents in order to understand how multiple actors struggle to define what graffiti actually is and how it should be appropriately used in different cultural contexts.

panel P14
Appropriating the (in)appropriate: rethinking pageants, contests and the anthropology of emblems