Monday, February 15, 2010

Express Yourself: the Graffiti Subculture and Blogging

Last night I saw an episode of "Cold Case," wherein taggers and graffiti artists were the subject matter.  I have always thought of graffiti "artists" as human rats who befoul their own nests with meaningless paint splatter and incomprehensible words and symbols.  However, the Cold Case episode gave me something of an epiphany:  there is more to graffiti than meets the eye.

Most of these "artists" are kids who are invisible to society and want to be seen, to be noticed.  So they paint "art" on buildings, bridges, boxcars, billboards and walls.  After a while, the really good ones emerge and are respected by the graffiti art "community."  Competition is inevitable, as well as bitter rivalries and even violence.  As warped as it may seem, graffiti often represents a struggle for meaning and identity in the society of the streets.  Many kids see it as their only means of self expression.  That, of course, doesn't make it right, but it makes it a bit more understandable.  Graffiti is a very human activity.

Bloggers are not dissimilar to the graffiti subculture.  We too want to express ourselves and to avoid being invisible.  We too strive for recognition.  Alliances are formed, friendships made, reputations established, rivalries created.  Nevertheless, the point is this:  human beings have to express themselves in some way, in order to feel whole.  It is all about feeling valued and validated, i.e. that you have somehow contributed to the larger society around you.

If no one sees your street art, or reads your self-published book, or visits your blog or listens to your band, you may feel you have failed.  It is a lonely feeling.  However, many artists, writers and musicians follow a simple rule on the road to success:  please yourself first.  Once you are satisfied with your creation, chances are others will find it pleasing too.  That rule is certainly working for me in music.  My bass playing is unfolding like a flower, and I really am enjoying my art.

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