Graffiti and the Fartinator

February 22, 2009

Graffiti fascinates me. It’s hard to miss in Portland, especially east of the Willamette River where I live. Some is artistic. Most is illegible, as if space aliens scrawl communiques at night, unaware that their writings generally make no sense to Earthlings. And defacing property, no matter the creativity involved, is a crime costing major money to clean up.

Why then would a retail store inside a mall festoon its facade with unreadable graffiti? Even the font in the store name resembles taggers’ bold lettering.

Obviously I’m not hip to the underlying marketing message that Spencer’s at the Lloyd Center Mall is conveying to sell gifts, many of them gags or sexually suggestive. Does the faux graffiti on the faux brick wall around the store entrance entice urban renegades to buy the Fartinator or Pecker Crown?

Instead of celebrating vandalism, Spencer’s could be subtly undermining tagging by making it mainstream, part of the capitalist establishment. If taggers see it that way, they might retaliate: sneak into the mall after hours and defiantly repaint Spencer’s storefront in one uniform bland color.