Hate me, but don’t ignore me

This 4 minute Cool Hunting video looks at Sao Paulo’s prolific graffiti artists:

A summary of filmmaker / journalist Jaoa Wainer’s points (with my comments in parenthesis) is:

  • tags made without the risk of climbing are not valued (this tribe demands commitment from its participants),
  • the tag is made up of a personal symbol, a gang symbol and the date (the artist is claiming current membership in their gang, and presumably ownership of a neighbourhood),
  • the artists are the invisible poor who say ‘I’d prefer you to hate me than ignore me’ (to me the most significant point here),
  • the tags are in a common style that dates back to the 1980s (the artists are aligning themselves with each other even over gang boundaries and the tags only understandable only by those in the culture),
  • the symbols are based on the logos of heavy metal bands (the artists belong to a wider tribe – youths around the world who have an affinity with heavy metal presumably because it expresses their feelings), and
  • the artists don’t know why they do it (self-awareness is a not a prerequisite to action against deeply held values).
For me it’s another reminder that nothing is as simple as it looks. Even cultures that most do not value contain the same degree of structure, purpose and value for its participants as esteemed cultures. And that unless the powers that be get inside the skin of these cultures as Wainer has here, they’ll never have an impact on curbing anti-social behaviour. Malcom Gladwell also speaks to this in The Tipping Point.
p.s. Thanks to Jonathan for pointing me to Matt Mason’s book The Pirate’s Dilemma. It discusses the links between graffiti, sub-cultures & advertising and is downloadable at the price of your choice. I also recommend Matt’s Pop!Tech talk on piracy.