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Weekly Alibi The Writing's on the Wall

Graffiti on the WWW.

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 9, 1998:  When you think about it, creating pages on the Internet isn't all that different than scrawling on an alley wall. Most folks' home pages are little more than high-tech graffiti. For every educational university Web site or useful search engine, there are a hundred sites that say little more than, "Hi. My name is Bob. My hobbies are watching 'Star Trek' and surfing the Web." When you think about it, graffiti has been with us forever. Were Paleolithic cave paintings anything more than the idle scratchings of a bored hunter-gatherer? Perhaps we should be looking at graffiti in a more ... I don't know, "artistic" manner. Somebody out there is.

It's All in the Head (home.earthlink.net/~thehead/)--This rather attractively designed site is dedicated entirely to bathroom graffiti (hence, the clever title). Bathroom graffiti is, of course, the lowest on the public art totem pole--concentrating more on text than image, more on scatological joke than on clever metaphor. Still, the creator of this site has managed to dig up some rather artistic (and nicely photographed) poolside doodlings. The purpose, as this site's manifesto/rant states, is "to dispel the myth of meaningless graffiti and validate this subtext of human experience." The so-called "cerebral petroglyphs" highlighted here are mostly from the SoCal area--from Beverly Hills ("No Orthodox Jews!") to UC Berkley ("Everything you know is wrong--I think."). The thumbnails are impossible to read, but click on 'em for a larger image and a brief poetic analysis.

Museum of Ephemeral Cultural Artifacts (www.edgechaos.com/MECA/MECA.html)--This online museum concentrates on the less tangible, more fringe elements of the popular arts. Their three current exhibits include pinball machines, robots and wall art. Peruse all three sections for some cool pop-art images (MECA is a little light on text and documentation unfortunately). The wall-art exhibit (the one we're interested in) is divided into three different sections. The "Permanent" section deals with advertising art, murals and other lasting exterior colorations. The "New Pieces" section deals with assorted stencils and other high-art installations in the open air market--all clearly the work of professional guerrilla artists. The "Aerosol Art" section, meanwhile, traffics in the most graffiti-like work, focusing on the swirling imaginations of a half-dozen anonymous street artists. Several are well known in the graffiti scene, though, and can be reached at their home pages. MECA's brick wallpaper background is a nice touch and looks rather appropriate behind these colorful spray-can paintings.

Murals Yokohama (www.bekkoame.or.jp/~fuwa/index.html)--Although confined largely to gang tags and other unattractive public defacements in the United States, graffiti has reached epic style and popularity overseas. Northern Europe (Finland, Denmark, Holland) seems to be the major center of graffiti art. Japan, though, is another burgeoning canvas for up-and-coming spray-can commandos. This page shows about a score of wall murals from the Yokohama area. "Here is a page of street arts!" proclaims the opening page. Browsers can check it out in Japanese or in English (although there's little text in either version). Like most Japanese sites, there are some fancy frames and other extraneous computer programming gewgaws that just seem to get in the way. Still, the art is worth it. Most Japanese murals seem to feature a dense mix of text and picture (probably in an attempt to compete with Japan's pervasive and dizzying array of public advertising). The colorful, neon-hued characters (ninjas, scantily clad women) depicted therein are heavily influenced by the nation's long-standing tradition of cartoon art (known as manga).

Art Crimes: The Writing on the Wall (www.graffiti.org)--This huge site features tons of categories (City Walls, Trains, Outlines and Styles, Shows and Events, Interviews) to pick through. If you really want to get an in-depth handle on the world's graffiti scene, this is the place to go. The folks at Art Crimes do a phenomenal job of not just flashing the pretty pictures but in documenting graffiti as a legitimate art movement. Interviews with the folks behind the walls (sporting such colorful tags as Tilt 206, Kasino and Swatch1) give a fine glimpse into the minds of those who are compelled to create such ephemeral art. Photos from all over the world express the limitless myriad styles of graffiti (from simple name dropping on stop signs to complex tableaus of word and image covering entire city blocks). Astounding that a subway train in Rome can be slathered with near identical graffiti as its cousin in Brooklyn. A list of links must connect to a hundred other sites around the world. Most are home pages put up by individual artists and will provide browsers with an full afternoon of surfing and staring.


devin@alibi.com


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