Tackling writing on the wall: Helen Harvey looks at graffiti and its place in society

Graffiti is a form of communication and as such it sends a message. But it’s probably not the message the tagger intended.

When most people look at graffiti, they see vandalism and they see a complete disregard for other people’s property. Then they see red.

An Auckland man who had never been in trouble with the law before is now in jail for manslaughter after he knifed a young man who had been tagging his property.

Exactly why taggers do what they do and how to stop them is the subject of much debate, so the Ministry of Justice has commissioned researchers from the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University to do some research into graffiti.

The research is expected to be finished by the end of June; some initial analysis should be available later in the year.

Like the tagging, the problem isn’t black and white.

There are a number of different types of graffiti: Graffiti as urban art, tagging, stylised writing. In countries where people don’t have a voice, graffiti can be a form of political expression – or it can just be an act of vandalism.

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