Graffiti that Annotates (Cat_piss.jpg)

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Graffiti that Annotates

"Where Do We Grow From Here?"

My favorite genre of graffiti is work that comments on its immediate surroundings. In east Austin, this type of graffiti tends to refer to the seemingly unending gentrification of neighborhoods further and further out. Remember the fancy convenience stores I mentioned last time? Ones where you can buy $6 ice cream sandwiches? The image above is a defunct gas station that appears to have been purchased recently, so I think we can all imagine what's coming next. This graffiti artistin their own, special, nostalgia-soaked waywants to encourage visitors to the area to be critical of this expansion. See also: the time Hillside Farmacy's sign was edited to read "Hipster Farmacy." 

Jeremiah the Innocent Icon

Image credit: Flickriver

Daniel Johnston’s “Jeremiah the Innocent,” also known as the “Hi, How Are You” frog, is arguably the single-most iconic piece of street art in Austin. Though many who pass it by everyday assume that it is graffiti which has been preserved, Austin news station KXAN reports that the “Hi, How Are you” frog is actually a commissioned mural for which Johnston was reportedly paid a sum of $100 by Sound Exchange, a popular music store. To the dismay of Austinites, Sound Exchange closed down in 2004 and was replaced by a Baja Fresh. At the time of Sound Exchange’s closing, customers rallied to protect the mural, and won. “Jeremiah the Innocent” was the cover of Daniel Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You: the unfinished album. Throughout the years, various vandals have tried to deface the mural, but time and again it has been salvaged by popular demand.  

Graffiti as Advertisement

Look for the Spear

Photo credit: Flickr user elizaO

It’s nice to think about graffiti as a free, democratic art form. Anyone can participateall you risk is a fine or possibly jail time! But in Austin, lately, graffiti has been taken over by the big green capitalist monster (a monster, some might say, who’s slowly but surely encroaching on the town with heinous condos and hip, remodeled convenience stores that stock only local beer and kombucha).

Graffiti? I'll Know It When I See It. Or Not.

graffiti etched into bus stop pole saying love thy neighbor

Image Credit: Personal Photograph 


When approaching a situation from a place of unfamiliarity or doubt, long-standing habit takes me to the Oxford English Dictionary. According to this semi-sacred text, graffiti (noun), means “words or images marked (illegally) in a public place, esp. using aerosol paint.” I etched this definition onto a spare wall in my brain and set out, quite purposefully, to find some street art. I knew from casual observation that some fences outside my apartment complex, the bus stations along my street, some building walls and even the backs of some signs sport small splashes of graffiti. All that remained was determining and documenting which offerings qualified as real graffiti (once again, “words or images marked (illegally) in a public place, esp. using aerosol paint”). Simple, right?


Oh, so wrong.

Interactive Google Map: Austin Graffiti

Find below our ongoing graffiti mapping project for the city of Austin.  Feel free ot contribute to this map--we ask that you take the following simple steps:

1) Place a marker as close as you can to where the graffiti currently exists or has existed.

2) Write a brief description of the graffiti.

3) Photograph the graffiti and upload it with your description.  You can do this in rich-text mode.

Enjoy this growing archive of Austin graffiti!

View Interactive Austin Graffiti Map in a larger map

What is graffiti and who does it belong to?

A photograph of Shepherd Fairey's inaugural designs on the HOPE Outdoor Gallery in Austin.

Image Credit: Geoff Hargadon

This week on viz. we'll be exploring graffiti culture in Austin and beyond, beginning with an interactive graffiti map that we'll use to begin archiving graffiti in and around the community in which we live.  Please visit and contribute!

In this post, I'd like to introduce some issues central to reading graffiti as both a performative and political act.  I take as my primary examples the HOPE Outdoor Gallery on 11th St. and Baylor in Austin's Clarksville neighborhood and graffiti from inside a now-demolished bicycle shop that once operated in West Campus.  Using these examples, I'd like to explore definitions of graffiti and raise questions of property and ownership in public spaces.  Join our interactive mapping project and follow our posts this week as we take a closer look at Austin graffiti.

The Impermanent Art of Graffiti

Banksy - Lascaux cave art

Graffiti by Banksy, Image via Holy Taco

As many of Banksy's works show, graffiti can convey social commentary. For example, the painting above, which shows a city worker sandblasting the famous Lascaux cave paintings just as he would modern day graffiti, wittily laments the blindness of local governments to public art.

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