by Erika Tapalla
Art that is familiar yet overlooked; generated not for purchase, trade, or retail but shared in every city anyhow. It’s called graffiti, street art, writings on the wall, or even vandalism. But whatever term it masquerades behind, it remains catchy and a powerful way for nonconformists to get noticed. But is there really all there is to this risky endeavor? Does it deserve a second glance?
Using a spray paint as the primary tool for executing a piece, graffiti is illegal when it defaces public or private property. Nothing new there. But when the sun has gone to bed, artists scurry about to the thrill of creating a new piece to mark their existence in their time and context. Their work is lyrical and political. Their work is a response to the world they are moving in.
23-year-old “Bonz” believes in expressing his art in the street to add color and meaning to our familiar surroundings. Together with his crew from SBA or Samahang Batang Aerosol, they release stress and emotion and spray the walls with the colors of the rainbow. “Some of our works are preserved in playgrounds, basketball courts 'cause it’s a production. The talent of a writer really comes out in the details of the piece,” says Bonz.
Bonz’s creations are inclined and centrifugal to the Filipino culture. Characters have Filipino attributes, or recreations of favorite cartoon characters that play a large role in a lot of Filipino children’s childhood.
Although the graffiti movement has long been present in the global culture, Bonz believes it has yet to really cultivate in the country. It is only during election period when graffiti is actually noticed – when obvious contempt for a candidate is depicted by adding horns to his head, blood dripping from its mouth, or simply spraying the entire face until it can no longer be noticed. Just for kicks? Maybe not.
June 12 2007, TIME Magazine’s Stephanie Kirchner released an article entitled Remembering the Wall showcasing the 1.3 km East Side Gallery decorated with colorful murals illustrating Berlin’s history, culture and politics. October 2005, a photo essay entitled Art of the Street, street artists and their provocative works were featured to show more depth to a mere drawing. Even years ago, artist Shepard Fairey conceptualized the Obey Giant graffiti campaign aiming to “reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment; stimulate curiosity; and bring people to question both the campaign and their relationship with their surroundings,” and succeeding to revitalize one’s attention to detail.
Reawaken. Stimulate. Question -- this is what united people of different races to commune with each other through intense visuals. Graffiti was used to tell their story that surprisingly indirectly affects different people; and trigger action. Quite subdued and recognized for mere aesthetic purposes, graffiti offers a dose of hope and a gulp of freedom to many.
Look long. Look hard.