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International Graffiti

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Ian Martin explores the latest trends in commodified graffiti

MONDAY Design an ‘omniporous’ environment, meshing traditional techniques and clever new methodological pathways. Yeah, I’m blurring those oppressive spatial boundaries. Bringing the outside inside. Taking the inside outside.

TUESDAY In the morning, a serious rethink. I mean, look at ‘the outside’. You can see why we put it there in the first place. Insects and hailstones and bikes on the pavement. Not to mention some disgusting smells, eg Subway sandwich shops with their strange aroma of baked tragedy.

Also, I don’t want my personal space released into the outside world, thanks. As we’ve established, it’s balls. No, inside-outside’s completely mad. Architects are just taking the piss, again. You wouldn’t put a sofa on a roundabout. You wouldn’t have dinner on the Northern Line. You wouldn’t shout intimate thoughts to your lover on a bus. OK, I realise that if you’re some laddish undergraduate clown you WOULD actually do all that, but I’m talking about proper people.

So, in the afternoon, I go full reactionary. Design a post-omniporous environment. Solid walls. Doors that lock. A little back garden. Sorted.

In the evening, I share my thoughts on the social media and get warmly misunderstood by random nationalists with sinister profile images: crusader knights, Staffordshire terriers, those Guy Fawkes masks that apparently confer oppositional dash. They seem to dislike ‘the outside’ as much as I do and are very much in favour of ‘proper people’. 

A retweet by some fat git in military clothing is enough to get me demonised by some close friends in the lefty liberal metropolitan elite within 10 minutes, and I have to issue an unconditional apology for everything. I conclude that porosity, like so much these days, is overrated.

WEDNESDAY Reset my spatial parameters by designing a neo-futuristic landscaped arts complex, making it smaller inside than it looks from the outside. Bosh. I have fashionably ‘pulled the boundaries’.

THURSDAY God, two months ago this Graffiti Futures conference sounded like a good idea.

I was in the pub with my fixer Rock Steady Eddie. ‘You want to go to this, son. Be full of them posh wankers in architect’s glasses and five hundred quid hoodies, talking bollocks about people half their age. Get in there, line up some contacts mate, you finishing that sausage roll?’

Commercially it makes sense to be here. Graffiti is now an official art form and may be added as ‘value’ to any suitable architectural host. As those slender young historians of BBC4 constantly remind us, graffiti became commodified around the turn of the century and could be traded on the alternative international culture markets. He wasn’t called Banksy for nothing. Him and his associates: Laughsy, Allsy, Waysy and Twosy. Graffiti artists realised they had not just a fanbase but a portfolio of potential clients.

People started developing those weird sanitised versions of gritty London environments in upscale areas of China. The ‘Clean London’ look became a global trend, most notably in London. Every serious international design team now has a consultant graffitist on board to add final sprinkles to the environmental cake.

The keynote conference address is from the industry’s most sought-after graffiteur, Confession Bear. He wears a Stella McCartney suit and a mask which is a pixellated version of his own face. He slideshows his latest gig – urban edging for a luxury residential fortress in Jakarta. Around the perimeter, slogans in elegant paintsprayed script: ‘I’m Rich, Eat Me’, ‘You Bum Your Mum’, ‘Ha Ha Ha Plonkers, I’m On A Grand An Hour’. The style of the graffiti is more important than any ‘sense’. They must look challenging without being too threatening or offensive.

Centrepiece of the gated faux-urban development is an elaborate fountain enclosed by a marble wall, on which Confession Bear has stencilled a huge bear in sunglasses and a bishop’s mitre. Underneath, the slogan ‘IF GRAFFITI CHANGED ANYTHING IT WOULD BE EXPENSIVE’, artfully tagged and annotated with crude sexual imagery. Underneath, ‘FUCK YOU’ spelled out in diamonds.

I leave at lunchtime. Too old for this. Resolve to get into litter-finishing. That’s bound to be the next thing.

FRIDAY Take one of those irresistible online quizzes: How Much Of A Fascist Are YOU? Disturbingly, I get ’Le Corbusier’.

SATURDAY Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. Tectonic Tactilism 3, Boombastic Hapticism 2.

SUNDAY Go all omniporous again by moving the recliner outside and getting rained on.

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