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Wednesday, 2 July 2014


CIF Romania's Clean up our Community Campaign from Unilever got me thinking about graffiti this week. An app that can help scrub up the dirtiest and most offensive parts of your neighborhood? Amazing. A great example of a brand doing something socially responsible while they market their products. 
But what defines whether graffiti is considered street art to be cherished, or vandalism needing to be removed? 
Well, there's the obvious I suppose - swear words, racism, any hastily scribbled obscenities or bright spark sign alterations.
Anything that harms the community in which it's placed should be removed, surely. This is mainly the issue CIF is targeting. Their moving campaign film highlights the damage that these poisonous messages can inflict. Any city's morality could be taken into question when this is the output of its members. 

Our faith can be restored though when we are given something inspiring from this medium instead. Delicate shapes, dazzling colours, poignant statements left for locals and tourists to make their own sense of. In my mind, nothing separates this expression of creativity from something in a gallery on Sloane Square when it's done well. 
There is no shortage of artists doing their own social good using the same paint in a can as the abusers. Think of Banksy, or the stunningly realistic birds by Brazilian artist Luis Seven Martins (L7M). Gorgeous, and made more special still from the fact that they can't be bought or sold, but instead belong to the masses. Unless of course you steal the wall...
The CIF app and the people that participate during this campaign are performing an important service, but we must also be careful to preserve the graffiti that is not harmful or upsetting, but exquisite art to be recognised and treasured. 

Of course, at the end of the day the worth of a piece of graffiti art lies in the eye of the beholder. Art is subjective. Always has been, always will be. There is no end to the debates of what constitutes art and what constitutes rubbish. I love these birds, you might think it's still bad to paint on the exterior of a building that doesn't belong to you. 
What is surely not up for debate though is that communication of any sort (including art, graffiti, ads) can leave a deep and lasting imprint on people for better or for worse. I hope the CIF clean up squad are thinking about what they remove and what they leave. 

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