I started filming graffiti around Downtown Kitchener on a near daily basis in April. By early May I had covered most of the territory and saw little in the way of new graffiti. This was a good time to stop and reflect.
From the outset, I had ambivalent feelings about graffiti. I adopted the position nicely summarized by McAuliffe and Iveson (2011):
"To this end, we have chosen a series of interrogations of common dialectical positions in talk of graffiti: is it art or crime; is it public or private expression; is it necessarily ephemeral, or does it seek permanence; is it a purely cultural practice, or is it economic? Our list is by no means exhaustive, but it does go some way to uncovering the complexity of graffiti’s dynamic and contested geographies."
Asking these questions over this period led me to appreciate the variation in markings I had collectively called graffiti. There is clearly a difference in style and motivation between the recognizable and recurrent 'tags' on posts and walls throughout DTK, and the scribbled writing and defacing paint in prominent locations. Furthermore, there is a substantial presence of 'street art' in the DTK, much of which complements the many authorized murals in humanizing the downtown. For the most part, however, these paintings are less often on the street, and more often on the channel walls of Schneider Creek, or old foundation walls in less travelled areas. I believe there may be good intention as well as practical considerations on the part of the City in removing defacing graffiti as soon as possible, while allowing street art to flourish.
McAuliffe, C. and K. Iveson (2011) Art and Crime (and Other Things Besides...): Conceptualising Graffiti in the City. Geography Compass 5/3 (2011): 128–143, 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2011.00414.x