Graffiti. Tough old conker to crack, that. The ethics and all that - Banksy may have made it painfully fashionable, but it's still not really socially acceptable. There's a very fine line between vandalism and art. Just this week a London judge was clearly troubled by the business of putting six 'talented' young Australian artists behind bars when they were caught with spray cans by Ilford police. Then of course a lot of graffiti artists would have it that when their stuff goes mainstream/legit it has lost all of its edge.
But maybe we're all missing the point. Which is that London is busting full of people with creative talent, and it is cursed with some seriously ugly wall space. Grot spots. Every street has one - a dank corner full of rubbish, a cracked wall doubling as a urinal, a dark alleyway littered with condoms. Blank Expression has good intentions - a system for marrying up available wall space with wannabe street artists - but as they didn't reply to our e-mails, we though we'd conduct a little experiment of our own.
Firstly we recruited a willing but very sad looking wall. It is currently used for all manner of anti-social acitivities, as it faces a DHSS building, and its potential for general foulness is greatly enhanced by the poor lighting at night and the fact that it is not overlooked. The wall's owner, utterly sick of the smell of stale pee on the warm summer breeze, was only too grateful to have it spruced up a little. And the local council seemed unconcerned about it: when approached, they informed us that as long as the wall was privately owned, and was to be adorned with matter which would not offend and did not comprise advertising of any sort, we could proceed. Oh, and they also said that if the graffiti was to be attached to the wall on a board rather than applied directly we would need planning permission. So full steam ahead.
All we then needed was a friendly artist. Enter Bobby Dowler, art squat pioneer and one of South East London's rising stars. The work is still in progress, but after a week the property owner has received praise (and perhaps more importantly, no complaints), and the river of urine has all but dried up. We will keep you informed.
Whaddya think? Maybe it'll catch on. The Pollyanna-isation of London. Why not press those unfortunate enough to get caught for graffiti into more creative projects like this? Does graffiti lose its allure if it is done with permission? We don't think so.