Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Taipei's graffiti artists try to say it with paint

LET US SPRAY While many view it as an eyesore, the youths who spraypaint walls believe graffiti can be a means of self-expression, rather than an act of vandalism

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A man looks at a graffiti exhibition yesterday after the Taiwan Youth Rights Alliance initiated a campaign calling for the establishment of a dedicated graffiti and cultural space for young people. The alliance said that graffiti was an innovative cultural asset rather than vandalism.

PHOTO: CNA

For some, the sight of graffiti on city streets may cause them to crinkle up their noses in disgust, immediately associating the sprayed words and images with gangs or simply regarding it as a denigration of the urban landscape.

But for young, inspired graffiti artists, graffiti is a means of self-expression and a piece of artwork for the world to see.

In the midst of recent crackdowns in Taipei on graffiti art, artists are now worried that they will no longer have the space for creativity and expression.

On Wednesday, the Taipei City Government's Bureau of Environmental Protection announced that in an effort to clean up the city, graffiti artists will now face fines of between NT$1,200 (US$37.50) to NT$6,000.

The bureau has also established an around-the-clock environmental protection hotline for the public to report graffiti vandalism with cash rewards on offer.

The government plans to crack down on graffiti artists who have spraypainted bridges, ventilation units and riverbank walls.

Lee Chung-dian (李宗典), an official from the bureau, said that graffiti was extremely hard to remove and posed problems for environmental agencies as well as the owners of the property or wall that the graffiti is on.

Graffiti violates Article 27 of the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), which prohibits the polluting of the ground, pools of water, drainage gutters, walls, beams or pillars, utility poles, trees, roadways, bridges and other structures.

The bureau also asked the owners or managers of property to take care of for the cleanup and removal of graffiti.

During a graffiti exhibition held yesterday by the Taiwan Youth Rights and Welfare Advocacy Alliance, graffiti artist, "Bounce" (artists refrain from using their real names to avoid trouble with the police), said that graffiti was art that can be seen by the whole city.

"It is an expression of what artists feel about life itself, about what's happening in society," Bounce said.

Art shows are expensive to hold, while graffiti is free for the world to see and for an artist's name to become known, he said.

Bounce, a senior art major in college, has been spraying graffiti for three years and has been caught three times by the police.

"My art is not spray-painting crude words on walls, it has a meaning," Bounce said. "I have no intention of polluting the city's environment."

However, the recent crackdowns on graffiti have made Bounce anxious. Before, the police only urged them not to spray graffiti but fines were not enforced, he said.

Bounce said that he has been forced to refrain from spraying further graffiti for fear of being caught.

Hung Hsiao-ping (洪曉萍), a social worker who was in charge of the alliance's graffiti art training program for youths, said that the organization had spent over two months applying for the right to use a piece of wall situated by the Chingmei River with the city's Maintenance Office of the Public Works Department.

The department finally agreed after the alliance promised to take environmental responsibility for the area, Hung said.

The riverside wall has been the alliance's only successful application so far.

There is a lack of space in the city for young graffiti artists to legally express their creativity, Hung said.

Huang Pi-hsia (黃碧霞), director of the Child Welfare Bureau under the Ministry of the Interior, said that such creativity should be encouraged and that local governments should set aside space to allow such artwork.

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