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Scratching the Surface

Published: Thursday, 28 February 2013
By: Vincent O'Brien

The tools of the trade!

Graffiti artists at Eurocultured 2007 in Manchester talk about the origins, inspirations and motivations for their work.

First shown at the International Visual Sociology Association Conference, New York University, July 2007.

Scratching the Surface: A Rapid Research Appraisal of Graffiti in Manchester

Okay so people have been writing on walls for thousands of years, drawing in caves, carving their names on school desks, leaving their mark on trains, bridges and run down shop fronts. For some its urban art for others just the arrogant scribble of vandals with huge ego's. Graffiti is controversial. There's a whole industry dedicated to covering it up, catching and punishing the perpetrators. It's a running battle, a competition between the graffiti writers and those who spend their days painting it out. If you want to leave your mark you've got to be quick. So maybe if you want to know what lies behind the graffiti you'd better be quick too.

Digital video and photography is fast. You capture things you didn't see when you looked through the viewfinder, you hear voices you never heard at the time. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you get a glimpse of what's not been said, what isn't shown. You get a chance to feel what's going on. This is a film about graffiti in Manchester. It's a rapid research project, an attempt to keep up, to capture the motives, meanings and perceptions of graffiti writers in the city. Mirroring the temporal constraints of graffiti, making use of digital video and photography, some conversation and one hour of raw video footage I aim to capture what informs, inspires and motivates graffiti artists/writers as they practice their art during a bank holiday graffiti event on the streets of Manchester. My objective is to make use of the speed of digital visual media and keeping within the time constraints of a one day graffiti art event, capture, explore and analyse the personal, social, cultural and political significance of graffiti.

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