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Invisible Graffiti Manifesto


Criminals are those who get caught

The city maps an architecture of defense designed to guard against demonstrations, riots and insurrections. City streets are made narrow to limit traffic and minimize the potential impact of protests while public spaces are opened wider to make areas visible for police surveillance. Urban planning has divided the natural dynamic of communal living into specialized zones of activity and behavior. Collectively and as individuals, we have lost the public grounds of mobilization.

Charged spaces of struggle and a history of social failures have been paved over and effaced to suggest an indifferent, neutral space of progress. All in the name of beautification and urban renewal. Graffiti is a rupture in this landscape of spatial neutrality and evidence of antagonism adamant against its erasure. Refusing the lie of neutral space, graffiti fights a constant battle against restrictions of access and the privatization of space. The tag is a name. As a name whose referent remains unknown, the tag is all name and no identity. Divested from a need to articulate a politics, and from all aesthetic requirements, the tag marks only the movement of a name through, and over, the built space of the city. Tagging is a game of chase between writers and the authorities. With the rising prosecution of graffiti as an illegal act, its authors constantly invent leaner, quicker and uglier tags. The false assumption is that the authors are violent threats and the law is not.

As defense architecture evolves, so do tactics of resistance. The next stage of evolution is invisibility. Inspired by the Situationist International, which advocated total participation, creative autonomy, and the lived moment, Invisible Graffiti is a turf war, recovering hidden areas and temporal spaces. Unlike conventional graffiti, which aims for a degree of permanency and thus lasting monuments of victory, Invisible Graffiti sheds the name and the game in favor of secrecy and survival.

Invisible Graffiti is anti-social and ‘obscene.’ At the same time it is outside. It sees the realm of the private not as an individual right but as public alienation and deprivation. Invisible Graffiti brings the private out into the public. The conventions of social spaces recommend passive actions and unobtrusive personal expressions. To avoid such norms, Invisible Graffiti happens on the fringe, in places where subjectivity can exist undefined and anonymous. The “scene” is a bound space where specified activities occur and the “obscene” is the place where disavowed behavior is ostracized. Through invasion and occupation, Invisible Graffiti inscribes deviance against the functional specificity of space.