Department of Public Works defines what is and isn’t art

Art is a tricky thing to define. As we all know. Or maybe we don’t. I find it a lot easier to recognize what is art than what isn’t. Today I got into a debate with a Twitter account for DPW’s Zero Graffiti program. What strikes me the most about Zero Graffiti SF‘s argument here is the implication that acknowledging that something is art is to condone it or qualify it in a positive way. I understand that the city doesn’t want people tagging where they’re not supposed to (pretty much everywhere), but I wonder why they won’t call it art. Or rather, why they specifically decide to say that it’s not.

28 Responses to “Department of Public Works defines what is and isn’t art”

  1. Troll says:

    They’re right! Tagging sucks. They might want to figure out the difference, though.

  2. Troll too says:

    Their job is view graffiti as vandalism. Your job is to blog.
    You’re doing your job. Let them do theirs.
    Maybe there’s an art to graffiti removal.

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      I get that it’s their job to deal with tagging. I just don’t know why they have to proclaim what isn’t art. Speech and expression are restricted by different laws in different places, and that’s about law and rights, not about art. It seems to me like they could just say “Art, shmart, big fat fart, call it whatever you want but if we catch you you’re in trouble.”

      But, sure, buffing is an art too.

  3. Bob Dole says:

    DPW doesn’t do this for fun. I mean really they get enough calls for shit in trash on Stevenson alley enough as it is.

    People complain about it. They have to respond. This is how they respond.

  4. LBD is real says:

    Ariel, it sounds like you would love KKKatie to come make some art on your house…

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      No it doesn’t, there are plenty of places that people could put their art that I wouldn’t appreciate. And plenty of art that I wouldn’t want, but I wouldn’t define art by what I want.

  5. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    I thought we had established years ago: What is art and what is not art is entirely determined by me.

  6. MrEricSir says:

    I’m sure the Department of Public Works is staffed entirely by art experts.

  7. Folsom St Blues says:

    Of course they say it’s not art, they’re trying to get rid of tagging. In the future don’t bother to share anything so pointless.

  8. Joe Shlabotnik says:

    Public murals commissioned with community input = good
    Spraying your initials on side of somebody’s house = not good

  9. ALWAYS HIGH says:


  10. Ian MacKaye says:

    I love tags and taggers. It reminds me the the entire society has not yet been sanitized by the 1%

    • goodjobguys says:


    • truth says:

      Yeah, because most taggers are privileged white kids…childeren of the 1%.

      Almost all of BKF went to expensive private schools. Tagging meant something in the 70′s & 80′s in NYC. Now it takes no risk, and is done by a bunch of jackasses. Yes you ORFN.

      Tagging = dog pissing on tree.

      If they wanna bust taggers – look on flickr – they advertise there shitty work.

    • Valenchia says:

      I love people who think they are so special and insightful. Sorry but you and taggers are just tedious.

  11. Ed Lee says:

    Let your belt loose a notch, loose it. Not art? What? How can everyone be so concerned with everything being so clean?! This is San Francisco. C’mon down to City Hall, make your mark. Bernal Heights most desired place to live? Eh uh, take a can and change it….The world of art can and will change everything…Tagging is an art, it gets more of a reaction, reflection, then any MOMA piece. It controls the elements of the urban landscape, real estate prices(the most desired market in SF).It says what is rich and what is poor, what is liked, disliked, and by whom. It says hello, it says risk, it says fear and I fear none. It is full on spontaneous expression…So cmon SF, hit it up…and if you dont like it…too bad, it is never going to stop….and it’s because it is illegal. VOTE ED LEE FOR THIRD TERM!

  12. Little Eva Destruction says:

    The word “art” sounds more important than it actually is; there’s good art and there’s bad art, just like there’s good food and bad food. If the health department cites a restaurant, or a critic writes a strongly critical review of it, you don’t get upset because they use the word “food” in detailing what was wrong with the restaurant.

    • Valenchia says:

      but if you served shit on a plate would that be “food” and how is that any different than most graffiti vandalism?

  13. seth says:

    well OP i get your point, but its kind of random trolling, and DPW does a ton of good for our city and busts their asses cleaning up.