The streets of Montreal are filled with art and graffiti, the line between the two often being blurry at best and non-existent to many. Graffiti has been around for a long time, we can find examples of it in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The grandfather of modern graffiti was Kyselak, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 19th century. He made a bet with friends to have his name known through the Empire within 3 years without inventing a new form of suicide, which was apparently quite popular back in those days! So he started tagging his name all over the Empire and won his bet very quickly, some of his tags are still visible to this day! Modern graffiti mostly started in New York City and spread all over the world.
Last March, I had the chance to learn more about the graffiti culture in Montreal thanks to Patrick O’Connor’s documentary Making A Name, un art urbain premiering at FIFA. Graffiti and tags are all over Montreal, and there are many different versions and styles. O’Connor has been documenting the scene since 1995 and has much of the city’s graffiti history as well as great interviews with many of the cities most prominent Graffiti artists. He manages to show different people’s opinions on graffiti which aren’t always positive, such as his dad’s who really doesn’t understand why people would write such ugly stuff all over the walls of his neighbourhood! The atmosphere in the theatre at Place-des-Arts was quite amazing and unique as a lot of Montreal taggers were gathered together, a rare event which resulted in a lot of cheering and booing depending on who was being interviewed and what was being said. Street artists and cops were amongst the least popular! (Taggers and street artists don’t always get along.)
Growing up in NDG, I’ve been surrounded by tags left behind by Castro, Sake, the VC crew and many more. I never really paid any attention to them until I recently traveled to Melbourne, Australia. There I really fell in love with street art and learning to appreciate graffiti more. Since my return to Montreal in December, I’ve been taking a lot of photos of the streets and its writings. Take a look at an album I’ve compiled and see if you can figure out where the pics were taken <WWW.facebook.com/forgetthebox/photos to be created just link to our fb photo page and i’ll put the album there later>
I also learned that when Castro travelled to LA and saw highways signs tagged, he thought it was such a good idea he brought the technique back to Montreal!
Graffiti and street art are such ephemeral forms of art, you never know how long something you paint may last. Will someone else write over it or will the city cover it up?
You might pass in front of a piece several times before even noticing it.
Street Art versus Graffiti
The difference in many people’s minds between street art and graffiti is that street art has an aesthetic purpose while graffiti is considered to mainly consist of tags. The purpose of tags is mainly to satisfy the writer’s ego and spread his or her name throughout the community or a geographical area. This is the reason why you’ll find a lot of graffiti around highways, tunnels or on trains and trucks. All places where they will last for a while and that will be seen by many. Not everyone appreciates graffiti or even considers it a form of art. What you may not realize is that some taggers spend months perfecting their signature before bombing it all over the city. Also there is a code of ethics, you shouldn’t hit someone’s house or car, not that everyone respects these but they do exist.
Some taggers like to push the limits and climb high buildings to have their names reigning over the city for everyone to see; sometimes literally putting their life on the line. SAKE and CASTRO have created several great examples of these massive displays! I’m always so impressed when I see writings on top of high buildings and wonder how did they got up there Three Montreal taggers died a few years ago after getting hit by a train which reminds us of the dangers of graffiti writing.
Over the past few years graffiti art has begun finding a more mainstream appeal as some street artists have become household names (Banksy, Obey) and major companies have begun using street art to advertise their brands. A local company that is doing just that is called Eragraff, an urban skate and street wear company. Eragraff’s clever advertising campaign consists of people ordering free stickers by mail and then putting them up all over the city. They encourage you to then take a photo of your branding work and load it onto their website, it’s called Placardes ta ville! Got my stickers and started to work, get yours here www.eragraff.com/en/placardestaville_en.html