In the first semester of the current academic year, in Design Studies, I have looked at a subject that I felt was of importance to me, a design student, but also to the general public. I studied the ways in which graffiti affects the behavioural patterns of certain groups in the society and I repeatedly asked: “is it art or is it just a form vandalism?”. The books, videos and websites I found highlighted the cultural importance of graffiti and enabled me to understand the history of it more deeply. In conclusion to my secondary research I have not stated any correct answers, the question remains open for a full and thorough discussion. My intention is to demonstrate the sea of opportunities in relation to primary research of this subject. I am going to present many possible ways of finding out the true opinions about street art and the global attitude forwards this discipline.
In the secondary research I managed to gather some crucial information about the origins and meaning of street art. I have looked at many books and photo albums that illustrated the subject. Furthermore, I have discovered many interesting websites for and against graffiti, from artist’s portfolios and blogs to government directed campaigns to fight it. I looked at different graffiti movements and at the ways they were formed. Also I tried to tackle the issue of political street art, it’s consequences and the thinking behind it. I discovered the key personas in street art such as Os Gemeos and Nunca and I have refreshed my knowledge of the legends we all know like Banksy and Blek Le Rat. All of those sources provided me with valuable academic knowledge however, apart from websites with comments on them I did not come across too many personal opinions of what people generally think of the practice of graffiti and what are the key ideas associated with it.
As an Art School student, I realise that my opinions quite often differ from the unspoken rules and regulations that we are all almost forced to obey to fit into the society. This mostly affects my perception of street art which means so much more to me then just a form vandalism. It is one of the purest forms of art and it ties in closely with the ideas of mysticism and shamanism. To explain that, I must refer to the earliest examples of drawings in the caves of Lascaux in 1500-1000 BC. Somehow, I can feel a connection between those two and this makes me respect that form of expressing one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions greatly. However, as far as parts of my secondary research proved not everyone thinks in that way. Commonly graffiti is hated and exterminated and it’s authors alienated from the public discussions and called criminals. To find out what specific groups of our society really think of graffiti I would have to conduct a series of experiments. Hopefully, after studying the results my understanding of this form of art would improve.
The first method I would employ is interviews. I would make sure I ask the same set of questions on the subject of street art to people of all ages to check if the perception of graffiti changes accordingly. The groups would divide as follow 5-15, 15- 25, 25-35, 35-45, 45-55, 55-65, 65>. Next, I would compare my results, find out what group is the most open, positive and informed on the subject and which one is the least interested, most negative and stereotypical. Then, I would go on to the second stage of the experiment and make up a serious of photographs and images into a slide show and project it to both groups. I would record their reactions, thoughts and feelings via a more in depth and specific discussion. I would question their first ever experiences with graffiti, ask them how they felt about it back then and compare it with their current opinion. I would contrast those opinions with one’s of the other group and try to engage the two to start a debate. The whole session would be filmed so that I could easily go back to it and study it further. Certainly, by this stage my knowledge would be big enough to enable me to notice the smallest changes of attitude forwards the subject and I could see it either to the two groups was influenced by the other one. Finally, I would repeat the initial interview to examine if the answers remained the same.
The second method I could potentially use is observation. Just observing people looking at a graffiti mural would hardly give me enough information to conclude on their true attitude towards it. I would have to go a step further and provide the public with a more interesting and slightly controversial showcase. How about filming or recording the on lookers reactions to someone actually performing the art of graffiti, out in the open, on the streets, illegally. It is fascinating to me to imagine what kind of actions would be observed then. Would anyone try to stop the artist? Would the police be called immediately? Or maybe some people would actually enjoy the spectacle and want to take pictures and meet the artist? Finally, would anyone dare to join the artist and physically participate in the performance? The questions above seem to be eager to be answered and I wish to think that one day I will see the answers with my own eyes. Those answers would enable me to address the issue of treating street art as a crime and would help to change the face of graffiti, in defeating the stereotype. With the knowledge gathered in primary research a group of designers could come up with a program to educate the least informed groups of the society about the deeper meaning and purpose of street art. Though that graffiti would be seen on a whole new level and would not be dismissed completely or simply categorised as a crime. In addition, possibly more legal opportunities of taking part in this form of art would be created by the government so that there would be no need in performing graffiti illegally in the first place.
In my conclusion, I would like to highlight the importance of primary research. Furthermore, I need to stress that it is the primary research that is highly enjoyable to me as it allows interaction with the public or the client. It is a very active form to gathering information and it could be used in many different ways. To myself as a designer in progress primary research is priceless. Believing that our role as designers is to improve the human condition it is the staring point on the journey to the future.