Excerpted from "Bracket: Takes Action." Issue 4. Actar Publishers, Barcelona-New York. 2014 (Forthcoming)

“The distinction between the private and public realms, seen from the viewpoint of privacy rather than of the body politic, equals the distinction between things that should be shown and things that should be hidden.”

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1)


There is a boundary dispute along the walls of San Francisco. A contest between two acts of preservation. The first is an act of self-preservation, or Arendtian self-actualization: the graffiti signature, or “tag,” is a declaration of the presence of the artist. The second act is one of masking, washing, obscuring the first - “buffing,” as it is known. This is building preservation. Neither act is frequently witnessed, but their resultant compositions - action and reaction - are a constant presence throughout much of the city. Our attempt to maintain a graffiti-free cityscape is highly deliberate and comes at great public expense: San Francisco spends in excess of twenty million dollars annually on graffiti clean-up. (2) Reliefs of layered paint, mismatched color, strange collages of shapes that abstract the writing beneath: each marks an event in an ongoing exchange between the individual (the artist) and the collective (the city).

1.  Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 72.

2. Ibid, 18