Tag! You're it! Can I get to know my local Taggers?
June 22, 2016 12:48 PM   Subscribe

I've always enjoyed seeing graffiti tags... I know they're considered "bad" but I feel like I know some of my local taggers: dead fish, stelr, lady ace, etc. They're like familiar friends. But how do I get to KNOW this network?

Have you ever been a graffiti tagger? Can you tell me about this culture? Everything I look up seems super vague. There are some "rules" about tagging, but I'm more interested in the following:

1. why? why stake territory in this way?

2. has tagging changed since the 90s? How so? Has it changed since social media?

3. Is there a way to get to know my local taggers?

4. Do taggers know one another by face? How?

5. What are some of the lesser-known purposes for tagging certain public spaces?

6. Is there a directory of taggers by geographic location online? I haven't seen anything like this.

7. Are there any tagging community websites/blogs that are worth reading?

8. Is there a comprehensive history of tagging?

Thanks in advance, guys!
posted by Dressed to Kill to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of the tagging that I see here in Seattle, and I'm using a loose definition including other types of street art, are also active local artists in the DIY/punk/hip-hop scene. So you'll see the dude that pastes burrito-unicorns at little diy art shows or flea markets with a booth selling sticker and bags etc. Not art gallery type of things but here in Seattle I'm thinking of Punk Rock Flea Market, different street fairs, record and craft shows.

Thats for the more DIY/punk side of things but I'm sure there are similar events more focused on hip-hop/five elements that you could look into and see the taggers selling merch or making art while there's music and stuff going on. Hope that helps.
posted by kittensofthenight at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was a writer (what graf artists call themselves) and a tagger in my youth.

1. What else have I got? Nobody knows me and I don't matter, but the other people who do this respect me, and I respect them. It's a subculture that is about art and competition, like most of the other arts that people associate with hip-hop. You have to get your name out. You have to be known all over town. You have to be seen. The worst thing is not getting seen.

2. The internet changed a lot--it made it possible to share flicks with other people, trade caps and tips, and to be envious of places with legal walls. It also made the most basic-ass shit obviously basic. You weren't allowed to suck as much anymore. But it also made the local parts a little less special.

3. Be a tagger, or a cop who chases them.

4. See 3--sometimes you would run into people at the local spots, or sometimes just your name would get around. Folks meet on social media now, I guess.

5. People do it as a form of protest, as brand enhancement for other ventures, as territory marking for black or grey market business.

6. I know there used to be some sites that did this--I have a guidebook to Berlin graf artists and their work, like an atlas.

7. Been too long.

8. Start with the book Subway Art, and then watch Style Wars--it's important to understand graf as the mother culture to the tagging subculture.
posted by turntraitor at 1:10 PM on June 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

Style Wars (1983) is a classic and documents the early New York scene. It may answer some or all of your questions.

Exit Through The Giftshop (2010) takes you on a journey with Banksy and then the story educates the viewer on why street art is not blue chips art.

There are a lot of feature length films on the subject.
posted by slobebop at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've put some art in public spaces but not "tags" or signatures of any sort.
I did so because I thought it was fun to make/share stenciled art.
And because I thought more people should be aware of visual proofs of the Pythagorean theorem.

Yeah, "be a tagger" to get to know them is both great and terrible advice. I mean I only knew my friends who I convinced to try it with me, but it's not like we met through tagging.

I'd imaging some people are comfortable hanging around e.g. bridges and railways late at night hoping to meet other people engaged in technically illegal activities, not sure if that describes you or not ;)
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:05 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you checked Instagram/Twitter/Facebook? Several of the graffiti folks I appreciate are on there, albeit in semi-anonymized form. But one time I started chatting one of them up and, later that evening, they came over and stenciled a piece on my patio concrete for $100. Now that I know what they look like, I see them all the damn time, hiding in plain sight!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:09 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Late Afternoon, how did you find them on FB and Twitter and Insta?? When I hashtag with the "tag" I never get the "real" tagger I don't think...??? It's so mysterious!!

SaltySalticid, I totally fantasize about hanging around a particular overpass at night to spot taggers: I drive up it every day to work - and they're in constant war with the city trying to paint over them... but then they pop up again and secretly in my mind I go "yeah! Go #Deadfish!!" But WHO AM I ROOTING FOR? It's killing me....... hence the question.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2016

Mural Conservancy of Los AngelesThis website has an "Indian Alley" tour that features some underground artists, and has some books on different styles of graffitti. I would imagine they would be able to give you some direction on the history of the genre and locating practicing taggers.
posted by effluvia at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

The 1xRun shop and Inner State Gallery feature a lot of street art. They're based in Detroit, but cover artists from other locales. First Amendment Gallery in SF is another. Some of the artists have Instagram accounts and post a lot. There's a lot of folks posting flicks. Start digging through the 1xRun twitter feed and you'll find many threads you can follow. Start looking through feeds, and you'll probably find the feed of one of your locals.

Or check the #urbanart or #streetart tags on twitter, which will lead you to a bunch more feeds.
posted by DaveP at 4:48 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some time ago I was curious about the tags I saw regularly here in London. The most widespread by far was FUME (others were COZA and ZONK). Here are two pages I bookmarked back in 2004 with a lot of information and further links (I'm surprised both are still online):

Searching for "FUME"

BATTLE OF THE ART OUTLAWS - A front page feature of the Big Issue written by Max Daly, August 25 - 31 1997
posted by snarfois at 5:49 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

This may also give you another way of tracking street art:

Flickr Streetart Directory "a list of all street art related groups across Flickr" -- it includes a regional/geographic directory.

(Man, it's sad to see the gradual abandonment of Flickr)
posted by snarfois at 6:00 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

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