WEB – MODE2 words

Through the TCA facebook group I was linked to an old post from Terror161 on 12oz. I put here below the intersting Mode2 answer/explanation, he write in Sept. 2012 about some common words like ”hip-hop”, ”graffiti”and “street art”.

“Our” culture (as I consider myself to be an extension of what pioneers like yourself had been doing over so many years in NYC) really needs that writers such as yourself set your side of the story down somewhere, even if only on-line; as we are otherwise drowned out by what the journalists and book authors wrote. We were very lucky to get this whole package handed to us on a silver platter, in the early eighties, and we did what we could with it, though of course my efforts cannot be in any way compared with the years of bombing and innovating of style that your generation set down; as well as those who came before and after you.

With regards to “Street Art” though, my point is as follows;

The term “graffiti” was what a journalist used to define writing to the wider public, even though this word doesn’t begin to describe the whole spectrum of imaginative expression and quasi-scientific research applied to perfecting letter dynamics, which is more the direction and the vast horizon that writing was about. It made the public look in a very narrow-minded and pre-formatted way at something which was way richer than what that journalist had tried to describe, in his own subjective and reductive approach.
Still; “graffiti” is the term that stuck, and as such probably influenced indirectly how things evolved from that point on. Of course I try as much as I can to avoid using that term, and I put it inside quotation marks and so on; mindful of what Phase 2 had repeatedly explained to me about this term.

The term “Hip Hop” is also a label that another journalist (doing an interview of Bambaata, if I remember rightly) used as a blanket category to pigeon-hole the different disciplines of expression which co-existed for many years, and, for some heads who were into that, were interdependent; meaning that whether it was B-boying or MC-ing, rocking the turntables or rocking with marker and spraycan, you would be inspired and influenced by one or the other, or you would actively participate in more than one of them.
This of course did not apply to many writers, as the writing culture itself was around before what a journalist called Hip Hop, and those writers were influenced and would get off on different music
altogether.The term “Street Art” is again something “invented” by journalists or book authors from outside of the culture, needing to find an umbrella term for what is done in the streets, but has nothing mush to do with the science of letters per say.
I’m not taking anything away from Banksy, or Shepard Fairey, or Invader, Zeus etc… I was already exposed to what Invader and Zeus were doing in Paris, from the mid to late nineties, when I was still living there. I also remember seeing work from Banksy in Bristol before he switched to exploiting the usefulness of the stencil as a propaganda tool.
As with writing itself, especially in a “post-NYC” context, where biting is the norm, and props and dues are not given to the innovators and originators of style; it seems that the likes of Banksy set free a whole bunch of heads who were either too lazy or too wack at lettering, and didn’t wish to strive to make their originality stand out, in what had become a very crowded and competitive arena.
So a LOT of people thought, “Oh that’s easy! I’ll do just like him!”, which is what set off this whole wave of pseudo-Banksys, pseudo Invaders, Zeus and Os Gemeos (even though the twins have MAD tag-skills) across the planet.
The same audience who had assimilated the “graffiti” term, and could not see the richness in the diversity of letter styles, or even understand the difference between a good or bad tag, throw-up, piece and so on; this same audience automatically referred the culture of writing as being a bit “passé” and “done” and they welcomed “Street Art” like it was the new gospel or something.
Speaking with many a few older writer friends that I know across Europe, it seems as if “Street Art” is seen as the “intelligent” cousin of writing or “graffiti”, as it is seen from their narrow-minded perspective. For me, if there’s ONE culture that brought art out ONTO the street, it HAS to be WRITING; whereby ANYBODY could rack a marker or can (if they couldn’t afford to buy), and go out there and record their OWN PERSONAL and INDIVIDUAL identity, by making letters link one into another. If they’re good, and if they get up a lot, they WILL get noticed.
Obviously someone doesn’t HAVE to do letters specifically, and can instead draw a character real quick or some kind of stylised logo or whatever, but this would mean that this is somebody who already has figurative or graphic drawing skills. The writing culture, on the other hand, is a form of expression which gave ANY individual with a grasp of A-B-C-D the chance to explore shape and style and rhythm; which is what made the culture more “democratic” and accessible to youngsters from ANY background; REGARDLESS of whether or not they could draw anything looking remotely like a character.
Through this, certain of these individuals became incredibly gifted writers, while others who could draw characters couldn’t get anywhere NEAR them. THAT, in my eyes, is what is specific to writing and the incredible reach that it had to youngsters across the planet eventually…

I guess that wraps up the point I was trying to make, as a complement to what you have stated in your post. I actually came across this particular post while doing a Google (who else?) image search on “phase 2 graffiti”; what an irony that I have to use that term to trawl through Google. I’m having to write a really brief overview of the culture for youngsters who participated in a writing workshop I did in Northern Ireland towards the end of August; in the small village of Ederny, County Fermanagh. Yes, it is indeed incredible where something that you guys were building so many years ago has now gone THIS far…
On a completely different but all too important note, I would also like to mention that I still have some photos of tags you left in London, around Charing Cross Station, on a blue flower seller’s stall, as well as on a yellow newspaper seller’s stall; along with a tag which looks like “SPACE” and also “SIN DB”.
These tags were an inspiration to our generation, in ‘84-‘85, when we were first exposed to them; hence the importance and relevance of style and rhythm in writing, and why it sets “our” culture apart from “Street Art”.

Thank you for your time, dedication, and the inspiration that you have been…
Mode 2

Mode2 picture by Joel Fox

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