Infamy (2005)

13 Jul

When you hear the names Claw, Earsnot, Jase, NM, Saber and Toomer you probably won’t have a clue who they are. They could be cartoon or videogame characters. I hadn’t heard these names either, but they are all graffiti artists that talk about their art in this documentary about the culture.

The personalities of the various artists are interesting. Claw is one of the most notorious names in the west of the US as she tags everywhere and goes to places some guys don’t dare tag. She’s managed to start her own fashion brand and seems to be very succesful. Jase is obsessed with trains and has tagged so many trains during many years (he does at least 50 a night) that when a train passes by there usually are one or two parts of it that have his name. The great thing about the interviews is that everybody opens up about anything. Earsnot isn’t afraid to tell that he steals a lot (the camera even follows him when he steals some markers). I also liked the fact that some of their parents appear in front of the camera to talk about their feelings about their kids graffiti.

Of course not everybody appreciates graffiti and Joe Connoly (who calls himself The Graffiti Guerrila) is the voice of this movement. He has made graffiti removal his day job and drives around town with a trunk full of paint to remove any graffiti he sees. He’s a very knowledgable guy (although very obsessed) and explains that once small tags start appearing it won’t take long before more will appear, which of course will mean an environment in which people don’t want to live and where the price of houses will go down. It’s something I agree with.

Personally I can appreciate the beauty of a big piece (some amazing examples are shown), but usually not the places they appear. As for tags I think it’s pollution. After watching several documentaries about the subject you often hear the argument that billboards in the public space also make a place ugly. This may be so, but that at least is something which is accepted and it really doesn’t bother most people. Would you rather ride a subway which is full of graffiti or full of advertisements?

Whatever your own opinion about graffiti, documentary maker Doug Pray (Art & Copy) has managed to show what the life of these artists is like, why they do it. He shows that it’s possible to make beautiful and impressive art with a some spray paint in a can.

Score: 8

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