Graffiti as Art of Resistance

The late 1960s was a period of civil unrest in France. Strikes and demonstrations were general happenings. In those times, graffiti emerged as a popular tool of expression of resistance. Slogans like ‘Il est interdit d’interdire!’ and “Vive de Gaulle” could be seen etched on walls of classrooms, universities and factories. It was not the first time when graffiti – an art form which is ‘vandalizing and defacement’ – was used for this purpose and neither would it be the last.

Art and revolution have always gone hand in hand. Art serves as a medium for spreading and expressing the idea of the revolution. Graffiti, in particular, is emerging as a form of artistic dissent because it drives away from the museum and the canvas. It is often crude, vulgar, and in the face. It cannot be avoided. One example is the graffiti on the separation barrier which runs through the city of Bethlehem. It will exist as long as the wall exists.

The other major factor that popularized graffiti is that it can provide anonymity. In times of reforms or revolutions, when political tensions run rampant, anonymity can be used as a safety blanket from the oppression forces or the political majority. No one knows who drew the ‘freedom lives when state dies’ graffiti on the Central Station train line in Amsterdam.

Some of the political graffiti have become iconic in popular culture like the ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ by Dmitri Vrubel and it is clear that this is just the beginning of graffiti as the art of dissent.

When did graffiti became an art of dissent and can it be placed alongside the other arts like literature of resistance etc.

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