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The Press -News column Jan 14

Clear line between tagging and art.

The Rise exhibition at Canterbury Museum and the complementary street art around the city centre have injected a welcome dollop of urban verve and colour into the Christchurch summer. They have been deservedly embraced by many residents, with the museum’s exhibition proving a runaway success.  But let’s not blur the lines between street mural art and unblinking vandalism. It’s disappointing to read in The Press yesterday, exhibition co-owner, George Shaw,  belittling the clean-up efforts of residents who paint over unauthorised tags, time and time again. Does Shaw seriously believe we should abandon the battle of attrition, and let vandals hurl their projectile vomit over the city, unchecked? In the city council’s last quality of life survey, 82% of residents ranked tagging as Christchurch’s No.1 problem. It was also revealed last year, that only the five most prolific taggers, per month, identified in the council’s tagging database, are reported to the police. How half-assed is that! The council, police and courts must hammer home society’s revulsion at vandalism. Take a drive around Christchurch at the moment, and you’ll struggle to find one suburban throughfare that hasn’t been defaced by these ersatz gangsters and losers. Every summer, the mass-tagging of Christchurch by our crews of swamp vermin, spirals like toxic algal bloom. Taggers top by Singaporean wish-list. They deserve to be flogged. Repeatedly. But of course,  there’s no shortage of bleeding-hearts who condone their mindless vandalism, by claiming their tags are simply creative etchings seeking an authorised canvas. So that is why a window of the Transitional Cathedral has just been etched? What bollocks. Even Christchurch street artist, Wongi, who has done some superb murals, believes we need to provide taggers with somewhere to practice their street art. Oh please – why should the ratepayer have to fire-hose every social urge? If I was a wannabe “street artist” , happy to buy my own spray paint,  what’s stopping me also buying my own canvas and assembling it in my backyard? And If I’m an exhibitionist, what’s stopping me displaying my work on social media?  Similarly, what’s stopping a crew of like-minded street artists, pooling their resources to self-fund a collective canvas?  It is lazy, lame and fatuous to demand the ratepayer coughs up the dosh and resources to scratch every itch. The truth ,of course, is that most feckless taggers who terrorise our fences and walls  have no desire to  express themselves in a sanctioned setting. The boy racer scene is powered by precisely the same dynamic.  Unlike ”genuine car enthusiasts” who will join a club,  the hard-core road louts only get their rocks off by recklessly breaking the law.

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column in The Press. First published on Jan 14.

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