Tag—you’re it!

A [recent] letter warned that gangs will establish themselves in Asheville once tagging has gained a foothold in the area [“When They Start Ganging Up on You,” March 29]. The writer explained that the artists do not work, but make money through selling drugs.

I’ve known a couple of taggers. One was a well-paid graphic designer. He never touched drugs or alcohol as long as I knew him, yet left a huge imprint on the buildings of several cities.

Another, a local tagger, was actually habitually unemployed. He was an avid dumpster diver and a vocal and passionate anti-war, anti-government and anti-corporate activist. He was an underage drinker, but in this regard he wasn’t any different from others who went on to respectable positions in society. My friend was part of the Asheville type of gang: the young demonstrators.

I’ve done some legal murals: the dinosaur with an Afro at the Asheville Pizza and Brew, and the pool player at Ophelia’s. That’s my way of tagging. My complaint against the art form is that painters don’t usually put enough effort into their pieces. Usually, tagging is scribble-and-run art. People might like graffiti more if it was better done. Better-looking tags might even keep gangs out of the city.

— Alex Sacui
Asheville

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17 thoughts on “Tag—you’re it!

  1. travelah

    MAYBE .. the people who actually own the property don’t want their property defaced.

  2. Johnny Lemuria

    Maybe. But that is a separate issue. I actually think a decent case can be made against tagging on a purely private property rights basis, but Alex is correct in pointing out that “The Evil Gangs” are largely a fear-mongering smokescreen.

  3. travelah

    Gang graffiti should be pretty distinguishable from the “art” of the petty vandals. Actually an iron clad case of criminal conduct can be made for defacing private property whether it is caused by a “gang member” or a petty vandal who believes your property is his canvas.

  4. First off – we must all recognize the extreme difference between Gang Tags and Graffiti. The world-renown artist Banksy or more local artist Ishmael are examples of how Graffiti art can be used to spread ideas and bring inspiration art to the people. It’d be great if Asheville had a legal wall where people could practice their right to freedom of expression. I always considered Chicken Alley/Carolina Lane to be the downtown gallery for graffiti artists. I am an avid lover of the art and talent that is needed to make a good piece of graffiti. And to be fair it is one of the least damaging ways to spread art, because all it takes is a fresh coat of paint to destroy it.

    However – gang tags are used to mark territory, just like dog’s pissing on a fence. My studio over in the Wedge can easy see both a Crypt and a Blood tag on the side of the West Asheville River Link bridge. It marks power struggles between different gangs and potential hot spots. These tags are what needs to be cracked down upon – not art. One can easy spot these tags as there is no artistic creativity in it at all.

    According to a recent article in the Asheville Daily Planet – the APD’s gang-specialist Det. Louis Tomasetti blames hip-hop music for gangs in Asheville. While much of the Lil’ John and Snoop Dog type of hip-hop does talk a lot about drugs & ho’s, there is a LOT of insightful rap music out there that talks about intelligent issues. It is the media which insights the wrong type of rap music to the top 40 charts that needs to be help accountable as well. However, to blame gangs on music is lacking perspective and doesn’t tackle the problem in the least. What causes gangs? Gentrification, hopelessness, low-wages, lack of jobs, lack of an overall unified community (meaning black Asheville versus white Asheville), and stereotyping. Those are the issues that need to be addressed.

  5. Jason Bugg

    First of all, we should totally get black Asheville and white Asheville to play each other in a best of seven series.

    Also, you never see any Neil Diamond or John Denver fans tagging things. Just saying.

  6. Gang-specialist Det. Louis Tomasetti blames hip-hop music for gangs in Asheville. This is like blaming Shakespeare for young lovers or a thermometer for it being cold.

    Tomasetti, and people like him, have a job that can only exist if they convince the public of their necessity through fear mongering and intimidation. They love finding crappy gang tags, even if they are only the product of mimicking wannabees, because it justifies their rediculous job.

    If asheville has a gang ‘problem’, it is only because it is a small town turning into a small city, and with that comes money and drugs for those condo-owners and the like.

    If the APD wants to address gang issues, then why dont they de-construct the mystery of where the drugs come from and why a certain percentage of the population is able to employ themselves by being drug suppliers.

    Or are they only interesting in playing their ‘role’ in that ever-ongoing struggle of cops and gangsters in america?

  7. Det. Louis Tomasetti position is of value – however the narrow perspective of blaming a music culture for our city’s problems is not productive or valuable at all.

  8. Det. Louis Tomasetti is a Carpet-bagger who is employed to encourage disenfranchisement and miscommunication between communities.

    If the APD wanted to get rid of gangs, they would attempt to go to the root, instead of clipping at the leaves or blaming the wind.

  9. “First of all, we should totally get black Asheville and white Asheville to play each other in a best of seven series.

    Also, you never see any Neil Diamond or John Denver fans tagging things. Just saying. ”

    Bugg-“Only if the stakes are worth it. How about for the property rights to Montford? Basketball or slow-pitch softball?

    Also, Neil Diamond’s son is Mike D from the Beastie Boys, so one might be able to make the argument that he is at least partly responsible for some graffiti. And John Denver fans are well-known to sit around a campfire gettin rocky mountain hiiiighhhhh.

  10. Alan Ditmore

    Actually, the major threat is to both property owners and taggers due to threats to force property owners to remove graffitti promply at their own expense. Such proposals actually put taggers and property owners on the same side, against totalitarian regulation.

  11. travelah

    The one defacing the property is on the same side as the property owner? What an idiotic suggestion. That has to be the most absurd liberal argument I have heard in a long time. If the petty vandal knows it is going to cost the owner of the properety to clean up his mess, how in the world does the assinine liberal mindset determine the vandal is allied with the one he is screwing over??? … HA that is sick funny.

  12. dave

    well, trav,

    the thing is, property owners are most often required by the big bad government to clean the ‘offending’ tags off of their buildings. So maybe you should be on the taggers’ sides, since you are a conservative, yes? Plus, they are exercising their right to be individuals, another big conserv. talking point. So, i’m thinking tagging is good, but murals are better. BUT! Blank walls are a crime against nature. Taggers and other graffiti types take matters into their own hands, without any desire for government help, to beautify their neighborhoods. That is freaking fiscally responsible!! Now, if your argument is that they aren’t ‘beautiful’, that’s a whole ‘nother point. Mine is merely that any person willing to donate their own time and materials to decorate their neighborhood should be seen as the small-government pioneers of the new s\century. God Bless Amurka!!

  13. doughnut gangster

    John Denver and graffiti… ahhh couldn’t dream of anything better!
    John Denver and real hip hop… Rust In Peace.

  14. Alan Ditmore

    Many property owners don’t care what color their walls are and just leave the tags there. It is liberal, urban renewal type, do gooder governments that force property owners to pay money to remove grafitti. I saw conservative property owners vote with taggers at a city council meeting with my own two eyes!

  15. Grafitti does not always cost the property owner anything because the property owner does not have to do anything. In some cases the extra paint even helps protect the surface underneath from the elements. Only if the government forces the property owner to remove the grafitti does the government, and not the tagger, cost the property owner.

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