History of modern graffiti
Graffiti comes from the Greek word ‘graphien’ meaning ‘to write’ and also being the plural of the Italian word ‘graffito’ meaning ‘to scratch’. Although leaving your mark on the environment has been around since prehistoric times, the modern form of graffiti originated on the streets of New York in the late nineteen sixties.
It is believed that it began through one particular courier who wrote his name and the date on public property at every stop he made. An article was written about it in the New York Times and it caught the imagination of the teenagers who began to copy the idea. Tagging was born.
Graffiti exploded in the early 1980s – especially on the subway. At one point every train was covered with the markings of various graffiti writers. A whole culture evolved along with the growth of hip-hop music as a response to American ghetto life. For the serious vandal, graffiti has become a sub-culture and has its own unwritten rules and language.
The graffiti sub-culture
Various codes of conduct exist within the sub-culture. These include not writing over another person’s work, as this is seen as a mark of disrespect; not informing on other graffiti writers and not writing on places of worship, private property or trees.
Not all writers follow these codes of conduct and the choice of which codes to abide by is largely down to the individual. Young graffiti writers tend to see the activity as a challenge and it helps to contribute to their self-esteem and identity. Other reasons given for writing graffiti include: alienation, gang culture, boredom, bravado, influence of popular culture and artistic expression.
The graffiti sub-culture appears to be well established. Graffiti writers from all over the world enter competitions, display photographs of graffiti on the internet and travel to other countries to spray graffiti. The internet is used to promote graffiti, with websites showing hundreds of pictures of graffiti from all around the world on trains, walls, planes, cars etc. The internet is also used to sell graffiti magazines, videos of people spraying graffiti, paints and clothes with graffiti designs.