Sunday, March 10, 2013

Notes on Lachmann

This upcoming Tuesday, we will review Lachmann's text "Graffiti as Career and Ideology." Be sure to have read the entire twenty-one page article before our next class meeting. Pay attention to the following notes and questions as you read, for they will help inform your comprehension of the material. These bullet points do not need to be answered formally.  We will merely use them to guide our discussion of the text in class.

  • How can graffiti be considered a cultural artifact? How does labeling graffiti as such help us understand its historical and/or contemporary cultural meaning and value? 
  • Lachmann (1988) stated that his study was predominantly concerned with "understanding how the content of graffiti is formed and transformed by graffiti writers' social interactions with their audience" (p. 1). Why and how does audience factor so heavily into the overall acceptance, acknowledgement, and meaning of graffiti?
  • The fact that "graffiti writers are involved simultaneously in an art world and a deviant subculture" could relate to the concept of the double-consciousness as coined by W.E.B. DuBois (Lachmann, 1988, p. 203). DuBois described this as a "sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness." How might this concept apply to graffiti writers?
  • Closely read the passage on page 231 that begins with "By examining the content..." and that ends on page 232 with "...T-shirts, or coffee mugs" (Lachmann, 1988). Identify key terms and the passage's overall significance to the text's thesis, argument, and investigation of graffiti culture.
  • Examine the concept of hegemony as defined by Hall on page 231, then offer your own definition of this latent, yet powerful social and cultural and ideological force. Provide one example of hegemonic forces that you can identify from your own experiences.     
  • Why do gang's hire graffiti writers? What are the benefits and pitfalls writers experience as a result of their involvement with New York City gangs?
  • The education of novice graffiti writers is extremely vital to their eventual development into maturity. How does the mentor-apprentice relationship help create and reinforce social hierarchies within this subculture? How might an analysis of the internal hierarchy of graffiti reveal a mimesis of or resistance to the various hierarchies (e.g., economic class, ethnic group, gender roles and norms) of dominant culture?
  • Why do writers give up graffiti? When does this typically occur according to the text? What is the "dilemma of their [graffiti writers'] own making?" (Lachmann, 1988, p. 237f). Do you feel that this "drop-out" trend has changed since this article was published in 1988? Explain your position.
  • In what ways is graffiti linked to criminal activity? What are the misnomers regarding linkages between crime and graffiti, especially as revealed by a NYC district attorney (cf. p. 236).
  • How have police been successful in disrupting groups of graffiti writers? What is the greatest threat police pose to writers? 
  • Explain how a "tag" solidifies and strengthens self-identity.
  • Analyze the differences in geographic location between taggers vs. muralists. Consider, especially, the rise and fall of "writer's corners" and "crews" in NYC and the contributions of these "spaces" to the artistic world of graffiti. How did these corners protect the subculture? What happened when these corners were fragmented and eventually destroyed?  
  • Graffiti muralists experienced two waves of art gallery attention, in late 1972 and in 1980. Analyze how by "packaging" graffiti into gallery spaces, this art form was co-opted "into the dominant art world" and therefore rendered a commercial and social commodity (Lachmann, 1988, p. 246).

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