Ben Eine ‘Graffiti Sessions’ presentation.

By - Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Ben Eine gave a keynote presentation at the opening of the ‘Graffiti Sessions’ lecture series in London the event took place on the 3rd, 4th & 5th of December, 2014, and was “was set up to identify new horizons for future city strategies on graffiti and street arts and opportunities and challenges for evolving creative practice, towards places that are both safe and sociable.”

In his presentation, artist Ben Eine takes us through the history of his craft, from his early progression as a Graffiti artist painting trains, to the state of disillusionment that led him to developing the style he is most famously known for now. He then goes on to provide some of his insights into the nature of graffiti and urban art, describing how he feels that the general public no longer see graffiti as a threat but as just another facet in the background of every day urban life.

Eines story is certainly impressive. He’s an intelligent artist who came to his profession by following the purest of DIY instincts. He jokes about having tea with UK Prime Minister, and still seeming surprised that a piece of his work was gifted to Barack Obama.

Some of his arguments are convincing, and I would fully agree with his sentiment that if the buff was stopped, the standard of Graffiti in a given area would increase over a period of time as writers realize they can create more complex work. But on the reverse of this, I find a problem with the idea that there can be an ‘ugly’ mode of self-expression (as distinct from vandalism), and if anything, the argument seems to miss beauty in the act of graffiti completely. One of the great appeals of graffiti is the release. From Buford Youthward:

“The medium may very well be the message but the message is always about the process”

and surely Eine would agree that a large part of what we do is planning, the images we put up are perhaps the last line in the process. But, if we match this against Tom Fullers later presentation ‘The Real Cost of Damage’ (see below) in which he details the actual cost to the transport department of removing graffiti from trains, do Eines comment then have some merit? Or, do they continue to add to a narrative that, whilst disguising itself in the seemingly common sense idea that art existing in the public realm should be ‘beautiful’, actually promotes exclusion and does nothing to acknowledge the context with enables such ‘ugly’ expression. Let us know you thoughts in the comment section below.


You can find the other videos and accompanying documents online at Presentations include: Noir, Martha Cooper, Colin Saysell, J.Son & other distinct cultural luminaries.

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