Tom's Graffiti Catalog


Source: Kostka, Robert. "Aspects of Graffiti". Visible Language Autumn 1974, v.8 p.369-376.

Tom's Graffiti Catalog is an ongoing and growing archives of various marks made in public spaces. These marks include graffiti, writing, tags, etchings, scrathes, stickers, signs, posters, ads, stencils, and other forms of public writing. They are made by numerous actors: individuals, organizations, street artists, vandals, and authorities. This catalog was borne out of two factors: first, I was enrolled, in winter of 2004, in a fascinating class entitled the History of Recorded Information taught by Prof. David M. Levy at the UW. As a result, my mind was swimming with ideas of the various forms of information/communication that have been produced, that have evolved, and that continue to be produced. Secondly, I was walking along the BNSF tracks in Ballard ( link )when I came upon a somewhat hidden wall full of colorful drawings, intriguing letterforms, and various artistic styles.

This catalog, then, of preliminary investigations is a rudimentary representation of my personal, scholarly attempt to understand graffiti, its various writers, and the larger social contexts which cause its appearance. I do not romanticize it; I know it many cases it causes expensive property damage. At the same time, however, I feel that it is indicative of important public conversation; it is more than just "disrespectful vandals causing trouble". Graffiti is not a monolith. In my personal definition of it, I believe that all of us -- young, old, illicit, legal, official authority, or private citizen -- practice some form of graffiti... some method of annotating the landscape to suit our purposes. Whether or not it is visually pleasing, or even legal, is often a subjective judgement.

-- Tom Dobrowolsky, May 2005

Table of Contents