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The Writing's On The Wall
The Irish graffiti scene is part of a vast international subculture with its own brotherhood and traditions. Monica Heck meets a couple of Irish practitioners, RASK and A.K.A.CRAP...
Monica Heck, 12 Sep 2012
The world of graffiti is made up of hierarchies. It’s also very macho, though there are a handful of girls on the scene. RASK is not especially keen on sharing traditions outside the circle, but he does offer a few pointers.
“Learn your culture, learn your roots,” he says. “It’s a very traditional art form. That’s weird for people to understand! You need to know your league position and who you’re connected to. I would never damage places of worship, I tend to steer away from private property. Historic monuments are kind of a no-no. Anything I’ve done, I feel I’ve added to the place not taken away from it. I’m enhancing, not damaging. The point is to make your own name as stylish and tricked-out and fancy as you can.”
He says this is one of the fundamental differences between graffiti and other forms of street expression. “Writers write for themselves and for each other,” he emphasises. “You’re not trying to impress street artists. You’re not in a war or a competition. We share the same canvas and yet we do it for ourselves. People don’t realise that we have culture and tradition. And ‘graffiti art’ – I don’t mean it disrespectfully – but it’s the name the media choose to give our work. We call ourselves ‘writers’. I know it’s splitting hairs. We say writers ‘cause we’re writing our names. I think ‘graffiti’ is a bad name actually.”
Having campaigned against ‘tagging’ earlier in his career, he has now reverted to seeing it as a positive.
“Tagging is part of what we do,” he observes. “It’s a crucial part of the overall package of being a graffiti writer. Tagging is entry-level writing. We all would have been taggers originally, until we graduate to do the bigger, fancier pieces.”
He’s very critical of those who clasify urban art into the ‘acceptable’ and the ‘unacceptable’. “My personal response is, ‘who made you the art critics’? You get people saying ‘I like the paste-ups, but the tagging that makes no sense’... well that’s fine because you’re not meant to understand it. What we do is our own sub-culture: it’s for us, by us. We’re not doing it for the public. And I didn’t ask to see a beer sponsorship down a building or a big McDonald’s sign in the urban space either.”