Where has the real graffiti gone?



It instantly caught my eye as I turned the corner. That’s what good art does. It can stop you in your tracks. One moment I was struggling along on a jog (within five kilometres of my house, for both legal and fitness reasons); the next I had stopped, enraptured and embarrassi­ngly puffed.

I believe that a simple truth, once realised and expressed, carries with it the power to change civilisati­ons. Revolution­s are born, societies crumble, lives are forever altered because of the perfect expression of the right idea at the right time. It can also show us we’re not alone in this world. And isn’t that the goal of all art?

Anyway, I was by the storm drain underneath the highway overpass when I saw that someone had spray-painted “I want to fuck my bong” on a concrete pylon. I have to admit, “I want to fuck my bong” is somewhat of a comedic ‘cellar door’ to me – a beautiful, perfect turn of phrase. F. Scott Fitzgerald would struggle to so poignantly depict such intangible longing, loyalty and love. More than anything, it was human. It wasn’t calculated. It wasn’t branded. Someone had a single, powerful thought – which, admittedly, was about wanting to have sex with their weed-smoking device – and they pulled out a spray can and shared that thought with the world.

I miss this kind of graffiti. The kind that was scrawled on the walls of Pompeii, provided Pompeii had bongs, which is something I will not google, but it would explain the whole ‘living near a volcano’ thing since they’re essentiall­y nature’s lava lamps. Maybe I’m an old man now and moments away from telling you to get off my lawn (by the by, you absolutely should not be on my lawn), but graffiti just ain’t what it used to be.

You know what I’m talking about. These days, it’s curated for an online audience. Weak satire with questionab­le politics. The Kmart “live, laugh, love” throw pillow of rebellious expression. The intended audience isn’t a member of the community where it features, but someone on the other side of the world scrolling through their Instagram feed. It’s the realm of the Not-banksy, slowly moving towards uniformity based on what the metrics say goes off.

Look, I’m not telling anyone how to make their art, and I love a mural as much as the next person. (I also love having to clarify that I’m not anti-mural as part of any argument.) This is more of a longing for something I fear may be lost in the shuffle. It’s a cry for more of the pure, personal and unusual work. It’s a plea for a world where someone can decide they want to fuck their bong and have that statement echo into eternity.

Although, haphazard graffiti can still be deeply up its own arse. Just this morning, I jogged past a wall where someone had scrawled “the time is now” – it was either a useless clock or the kind of faux-inspiratio­n that may as well be in pink neon lights at the back of a franchise bar. But at least it was drawn by an authentic wanker. At least it was a genuine pretentiou­s and performati­ve thought that someone had had. I can respect that. Everyone has to listen to The Whitlams’ Torch the Moon for the first time at some point.

All I’m looking for is a little more humanity and fewer Instagram handles. When it comes to graffiti, I want to hear from the down-anddirty neighbourh­ood philosophe­rs, not poignant satirists attempting to speak truth to power through a work that, if you squint, looks a little like Donald Trump tongue-kissing a dog, which I suppose is a metaphor for something. I want the streets to speak to the people who walk on them. And yes, I want to fuck my bong.

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