San Paulo is also home to the graffiti biennial which highlights graffiti in a museum setting as products of fine art. The event draws in about 50 or more reputed artist from 13 countries – and growing – in order to share their art in a space that recognizes it as a form of art. The event promotes conversation as well as conversations about graffiti outside the vandalism and law-breaking models, and puts the different nations together to share their art and build a community that goes beyond ones hood or nationality. There is a point to be made about decontextualizing graffiti by celebrating it and taking the street out of it, but these are moot to the awareness the event brings and the tide changing nature of looking at graffiti in a new light.
A local graffiti artist in San Paulo is pioneering a technique that’s being referred to as “reverse-graffiti” in order to raise awareness to a pollution problem as well as prod the city to do something about it. By leaving skull tags through the cleaning of dirty or stained surfaces he is making a social statement about the level of filth in public spaces as well as encouraging cleaning through the cities removal effort – effectively cleaning the surface of all grime and denying him a canvas. Since he isn’t effacing property it’s impossible to pin him down for vandalism and his actions are making the city clean spaces they otherwise would have left filthy – think reverse psychology. He’s also embodying the ideals of hip hop and graffiti’s roots through reclaiming space that’s been dismissed and showing that it means something; so much that he gets the city to clean the space and make it as beautiful as it should be.
Although graffiti is often associated with several negative stereotypes, it is capable of conveying positive and uplifting messages to a large audience. Seeing hopeful words on a bad day can be more beneficial to an individual than one might think. It is also easier to see graffiti as more than just pointless ‘vandalism’ when considering these examples.
Graffiti can act as a creative outlet for people who struggle to express their emotions verbally. There was a news article by David Vognar published in the Huffington Post called ‘Prison Art Is Taking Off’. The article explains how art therapy has been helpful to prison inmates. Some benefits, according to the article, of art therapy in prisons are its cost-effectiveness, decrease in depression among inmates, and decrease in behavioral issues associated with mental illness. Although the particular art created by these prisoners is not graffiti specifically, if we define graffiti as another art form, we can argue for its emotional benefits to people in the prison population.