Our trip to 5 Pointz was an interesting look into the current state of graffiti culture. What once was “bombing” trains and going “all city” just to know that your work is being seen in a sort of traveling display, to signing up for space and being judged on your work in order to determine how long it will stay up for raises an interesting question for me, is the graffiti we know today the same as it was in it’s surge on the scene in the 80’s?
There can be two simple reasons to answer both yes and no. Yes, because the act of graffiti is still illegal and to do it is still an act of defiance. No, because the materials and technology has changed so that the actual paint choice has become an art form in choice vs. the material you are painting on. But in both, I feel there is another reason that 5 pointz displays clearly.
Is it the same? Yes. There is still a pioneer sprit in those who are creating at 5 pointz. Writers are always trying to modify their style as to be identified as different and more skilled in a certain areas. One could also argue that not only is it the same, but in fact better. In the 80’s, a writer had to go to train yards in the middle of the night in order to create and have their work be seen by the masses. At 5 pointz, you can make an appointment and take as much time as needed in order to express yourself as you see fit. Creating new styles and inventiveness that one would not be able to create given other circumstances. You can then photograph it and send it to people across the world and it is totally acceptable, bringing about an acceptance to what is deemed illegal by society.
Is it the same? No. Where 5 Pointz is a place where one can freely express themselves without fear of prosecution, it has also lent itself to be a place that might defy against the true nature of the first writers, rebellion. How can someone rebel against society and express himself or herself in a way that might bring notice to their situation if they have to sign up for space to do it? And if his or her work is not “good enough” or “as good as”, then it is painted over by someone who is next on the list. Going “all city” was the first realization of many writers that their name could be seen by thousands of commuters in one day of existence on any given subway line in the city. At 5 points, no matter your message, if no one shows up no one sees it. And if it is not “good enough”, it is gone, unable to be recreated the same way because each piece is an individual work.
5 pointz is an attraction and the work there outstanding and pushes creativity to new levels, but at what cost. I feel it’s existence has changed the landscape of the graffiti in NYC, but has also brought about what I think is necessary acceptance of a truly innovative and unique art form. Did the original “bombers” of the subways ever dream of graffiti coloring books? Probably not, but I don’t think that is what they were striving for in the first place.