Okay, this has been a heckuva interesting ride the last week or so and handful of articles – and very timely too, as I’ve been making similar observations of late. It seems like there’s a lively debate on where political and art-inspired graffiti fits into the general urban landscape.
Some interesting points have been made on both the ‘graffiti is an art form,’ and ‘all tagging is tasteless vandalism,’ sides of the coin. Every time I try to plan out a coherent response it seems like I hit refresh and someone’s posted a new angle to think about, which is why until now I’ve stayed silent on something I’ve got a lot to say about. But I think we all agree at this point that the crap on the cliffs captured on some of the other posts related to the subject qualifies neither as an art form nor coherent counterculture statement.
At this juncture I see three divergent potential courses of action:
1. Keep bitching about it amongst ourselves. This is the easiest and most obvious thing to do, and as I’ve said the ongoing dialogue continues to bring new and worthy viewpoints to light. But ultimately we’ve got to come to grips with the fact that the warm fuzzy feeling we all get is just the heat of soiling our pants when confronted with the need for real action.
2. Bitch about it to the cops/city council/someone else. I don’t much care for this course of action either, and I’d like to suggest that some of this increase in vandalism is due to the recently-passed beach alcohol ban, please hear me out on this tangent for a minute…
With booze banned along the infamous “the Wall,” and on the shores around the pier, have the ne’er do-wells simply stopped drinking? Disappeared? Nay, friends – most have relocated their haunts about a quarter mile south along the cliffs, where the pork rarely roams and where they’re now, free from supervision, welcome to relieve themselves in public (the public bathroom is now too far away), litter even more than before (no trash cans nearby = an excuse for some to drop crap wherever it’s convenient), partake in a lot more than just swigging forties (that acidic, slightly sweet, decidedly non-herbal smell coming from their pipes is tweek), and tag up anything that doesn’t move.
I came to town about a year before the beach ban took effect, left for a while, and came back a few months before voters made it permanent. As walking the cliffs used to be my preferred walking route from my old apartment on Abbott to a friend’s that I spent a lot of time with off Coronado, and as I spend a lot of time down there with my stepdaughter now living off Coronado, I’ve seen the deterioration of the situation of the area, and it seems to somewhat coincide with the ban’s enactment.
So why don’t I think more policing is the answer? First off, I believe in the freedom of people to pretty much do whatever as long as they’re not harming others, and police presence always tends to limit freedom.
I have a right to swing my fists around, but that right ends at the tip of your nose, so to speak. Maybe I flaunt the ban by pouring a little something extra in my water bottle that accompanies me to a day at the Santa Cruz cove with my family, maybe I like to stop off for a toke on the way to or from the Newport bars, maybe I’ve been entertained by the various drum circles, fire dancers, or other weirdos that take up temporary residence along the cliffs but who would probably catch more than a sidewise glance from Johnny Law. Which leaves one obvious solution…
3. Get out and do something. I’m totally down to join in with anyone willing to put together some kind of paint-out party along the seawall on the cliffs, whether or not mimosas or herbal supplements are involved (I’d prefer both).
I wonder if we’d need some kind of city permit to do it, as I’d hate to end up cuffed and kissing the sidewalk for trying to do a good deed – has anyone looked into this? I put in both phone and internet inquiries to the city about two weeks ago and haven’t heard anything back.
A couple ideas – one, could we get some local merchant to provide some signage to post on the walls describing the detrimental effect of carving in the sandstone? I doubt this would deter many of the swastika carvers, but maybe at least a handful of the ‘Billy Bob loves Darlene’ types might be dissuaded from busting out a chisel.
Second, and this one has been suggested, what would it take to get some actual graffiti artists out to put together some kind of mural along the seawall once it was cleaned up? I’m in agreement with those that have said we really don’t need any kind of paint out there as Mother Nature has provided us with the most artistic landscape any of us could imagine already, but it seems one of the only things taggers respect is better tagging, so hopefully some kind of art would be less susecptible to getting f’d up than a new blank canvas.
Those that have suggested a course of action – please, share it with everyone here a few weeks in advance. I know I’m not the only bandwagon-jumper willing to get involved!