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READING PASSAGE 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

GRAFFITI

A

The word ‘graffiti’ derives from the Greek word graphein, meaning to write. This evolved into the Latin word graffito. Graffiti is the plural form of graffito. Simply put, graffiti is a drawing, scribbling or writing on a flat surface. Today, we equate graffiti with the ‘New York’ or ‘Hip Hop’ style which emerged from New York City in the 1970s. Hip Hop was originally an inner-city concept. It evolved from the rap music made in Brooklyn and Harlem in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Donald Clarke, a music historian, has written that rap music was a reaction to the disco music of the period. Disco was centred in the rich, elitist clubs of Manhattan and rap emerged on street corners as an alternative. Using lyrical rhythms and ‘beat boxing’, the music was a way to express feelings about inner-city life. Hip Hop emerged as turntables began to be used to form part of the rhythm by ‘scratching’ (the sound created by running the stylus over the grooves of an LP). As Hip Hop music emerged so did a new outlet for artistic visibility. Keith Haring began using posters to place his uniquely drawn figures and characters in public places. Soon he began to draw directly on subway walls and transit posters. The uniqueness of his drawings eventually led to their being shown in galleries and published in books and his art became ‘legitimate’.

B

At about the same time as Keith Haring, a delivery messenger began writing ‘Taki 183’ whenever he delivered documents. Soon his name was all over the city. Newspapers and magazines wrote articles about him and Keith Haring, and soon both became celebrities. This claim to fame attracted many young people, especially those involved with rapping, and they began to imitate ‘Taki 183’, as a means to indicate the writer’s presence, i.e. the age old statement of I was here.Graffiti was soon incorporated into the Hip Hop culture and became a sort of triad with rapping and breakdancing. Breakdancing has since lost much of its initial popularity, while rapping has emerged as a major style in American music. New York City was inundated with graffiti during the late seventies and early eighties, but as media coverage faded so did the graffiti. Then, in the mid-eighties a national TV programme did a graffiti story and set off a graffiti wildfire which has since gone global.

C

In the past, graffiti artists usually worked alone, but the size and complexity of pieces as well as safety concerns motivated artists to work together in crews, which are groups of graffitists that vary in membership from 3 to 10 or more persons. A member of a crew can be ‘down with’ (affiliated with) more than one crew. To join a crew, one must have produced stylish pieces and show potential for developing one’s own, unique style. A crew is headed by a king or queen who is usually that person recognised as having the best artistic ability among the members of the crew. One early crew wrote TAG as their crew name, an acronym for Tuff Artists Group. Tag has since come to mean both graffiti writing, ‘tagging’ and graffiti, a ‘tag’. Crews often tag together, writing both the crew tag and their own personal tags. Graffiti has its own language with terms such as: piece, toy, wild-style, and racking.

D

At first pens and markers were used, but these were limited as to what types of surfaces they worked on, so very quickly everyone started using spray paint. Spray paint could mark all types of surfaces and was quick and easy to use. However, the spray nozzles on the spray cans proved inadequate to create the more colourful pieces. Caps from deodorant, insecticide, and other aerosol cans were substituted to allow for a finer or thicker stream of paint. As municipalities began passing graffiti ordinances outlawing graffiti implements, clever ways of disguising paint implements were devised. Shoe polish, deodorant roll-ons and other seemingly innocent containers were emptied and filled with paint. Markers, art pens and grease pens obtained from art supply stores were also used. In fact, nearly any object which can leave a mark on most surfaces is used by taggers, though the spray can is the medium of choice for most taggers.

E

As graffiti has grown, so too has its character. What began as an urban lower-income protest, graffiti now spans all racial and economic groups. While many inner-city kids are still heavily involved in the graffiti culture, taggers range from the ultra-rich to the ultra-poor. There is no general classification of graffitists. They range in age from 12-30 years old, and there are male and female artists. One tagger recently caught in Philadelphia was a 27-year-old stockbroker who drove to tagging sites in his BMW. Styles have dramatically evolved from the simple cursory style, which is still the most prevalent, to intricate interlocking letter graphic designs with multiple colours called ‘pieces’ (from masterpieces). Gang markings of territory also fit the definition of graffiti, and they mainly consist of tags and messages that provide ‘news’ of happenings in the neighbourhood.

F

Graffiti shops, both retail and on-line, sell a wide variety of items to taggers. Caps, markers, magazines, T-shirts, backpacks, shorts with hidden pockets, even drawing books with templates of different railroad cars can be purchased. Over 25,000 graffiti sites exist on the world wide web; the majority of these are pro-graffiti. Graffiti vandalism is a problem in nearly every urban area in the world. Prograffiti web sites post photos of graffiti from Europe, South America, the Philippines, Australia, South Africa, China and Japan. Billions of dollars worldwide are spent each year in an effort to curb graffiti.

G

While most taggers are simply interested in seeing their name in as many places as possible and as visibly as possible, some taggers are more content to find secluded warehouse walls where they can practise their pieces. Some of these taggers are able to sell twelve-foot canvases of their work for upwards of $10 - $12,000. As graffiti was introduced to the art world, two trends happened. One, the art world of collectors, dealers, curators, artists and the like helped graffitists evolve in style, presumably by sharing their artistic knowledge with the newcomers. Two, the exposure helped to expand graffiti into all parts of the world. Furthermore, more progressive cities have recognised the talent of graffitists by providing a means for them to do legal graffiti art, which has helped to foster the art form and lessen the amount of graffiti art that appears in the city as vandalism. Likewise, organisations who support graffiti artists seek out places to do legal graffiti such as abandoned buildings, businesses, or community walls in parks. What this shows is that some graffiti, particularly in the form of spraycan art, is recognised as art by the conventional art world.

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