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Writing as a graffiti artist

Most people probably don't know this. When one of graffiti's many beginnings took place, this time in New York City, the young people who devoted themselves to painting the cities and its elements called themselves writers. They wrote their names everywhere. In fact, they still prefer to be called that. The term graffiti was a biased interpellation chosen by a journalist, back in 1972, to describe the phenomenon that was beginning to worry the authorities and the supposed owners of public expression. However, and perhaps because of its undeniable emotional charge, this naming whim (graffito in Italian means inscription over an object or a wall) lasted for decades and spread around the world. Even today it is used, by some, in a hasty, pejorative and subjugated way to define a complex and nuanced practice that is inexplicable and marginal to them. Possibly, this is the reason or the origin, for the hackneyed and useless discussion that seeks to understand -or exclude- graffiti in the respingado spectrum of art.

Photograph of the famous Martha Cooper in the 1970s. East Coast of the United States

In any case, a look at the exercise of graffiti could orient the technique and the impulse of the writers in eve; among whom I count myself. If one considers that a written text is only the derivation or result of another preceding text, it is inevitable to find a similarity with the graffiti-covered wall. It is enough to walk through some streets that have been painted, again and again, in any city in the world to discover that the support of the visible inscription is a numerous compendium of previous and hidden inscriptions. Graffiti on graffiti. A similar case happens in literature with palimpsests (manuscripts that preserve traces of previous writings) and in the case of painting, with pentimentos (which comes from the word repentance and refers mainly to the artist's change of mind). In a broad perspective, graffiti is both the one and the other.

However, beyond the surface and its antecedents, the practice of graffiti -which I have enjoyed as an observer for the last fifteen years- also suggests another similarity with the craft of writing. This time in the form of advice or suggestion. Let me explain. Rarely have I seen an artist more determined in his work than a graffiti artist. This determination is constituted by the lack of excuses to rush into the first creative step. I have learned - and witnessed - occasions in which the street writer has only an elementary desire to paint, paint and paint his name. Craving is enough. On those occasions, permits, lack of resources or even danger are of little importance. A cultural and social configuration that, among other things, has turned graffiti into one of the hegemonic forms of the city landscape. It is very unlikely that a graffiti artist stays at home overwhelmed by a creative block or an existential crisis. An almost instinctive drive governs him.

However, the most surprising resource of the graffiti writer is his considerable immunity to mistakes. This could be explained by the very nature of the practice that exalts the imminence of the next opportunity. In other words, the graffiti writer knows that there will always be a constant and latent occasion to do it again, make amends and improve. Of course, none of the artists I have met are exempt from frustration but, as the graffiti writer Word explained so well, that burden is released when everything is conceived as just another exercise. To that extent, those of us who intend to lead our lives by pursuing the craft of writing could take advantage of this free and open recommendation and thus enter into a more satisfactory negotiation with the craft: let it be plagued by mistakes, start over when necessary and repeat and repeat until the words are unraveled. Just as it happens day after day in almost all the streets of the world before the indifferent gaze of those who believe that the writer's universe is reduced to the majestic confines of the book.

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