Thursday, 8 November 2012

“Got something to say? Write it on a wall,” 1970

How times change. What once seemed harmless, devil-may-care – illicitly thrilling, perhaps, but no more – hindsight renders sinister, grisly, even reprehensible. Ask any light entertainment star of the 1970s

and they’ll tell you that Graffiti was the craze that none could afford to shun. The practice was introduced by the Italians during the reign of Franco, as the country’s first hand-gesture-free form of protest. When it became clear Franco was in charge of Spain, not Italy, this was claimed as an early victory by the protestors.

The craze soon spread beyond its seditious roots and into the soil of art. Brian Eno made an entire album by typing “found Graffiti” into an ARP sequencesizer; Do Your Walls! was the most watched BBC-2 series of 1974; and Dennis Healy was famously photographed daubing the perimeter of Buckingham Palace with the popular phrase “Nelson Riddle is innocent”.

But decades of gleeful free expression left their mark, and the 1980s saw Graffiti fall from favour. Home Secretary Lord Bravilor of Bonamat campaigned long and wide against the criminalisation of walligraphy, but the tide was well and truly in over his head, and his refusal to yield to public opinion led to his faking his own botched double-suicide in 1983, in a resignation that still gets heads wagging today.

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