Illustrated City Part 9
The graffiti pictured above is one of many made by a Montreal tagger. There really isn’t much to say about Neski other than that he doesn’t seem to have any ambition beyond tagging. He’s been active in the urban bombing environment since at least 2005, seems to mainly focus on tagging trains and although what he does is actually vandalism he does exhibit an impressive sense of colour, form and control in his line work. In recent years he has been threatened with harm for cross-tagging over graffiti produced by members of the tagging crew known as KP10. They may sound like veil juvenile threats that won’t amount to anything but they should be taken very seriously. Tagging seems to be practiced as an obsessive lifestyle by an unknown sum of graph-writers whose mental and moral faculties are severely askew. There are taggers who are willing to be jailed, fight, kill and die for their tags. Yes, it’s arrant stupidity but tagging-related violence is a very real worldwide concern.
On November 14 of 2009, a 19-year-old tagger named Brian Kachur, known on the streets as Razor, went out with three people to engage in his usual graph-writing activity. He didn’t make it back home. He was murdered in Wilcox Park of Montreal’s Verdun neighbourhood. Can’t be certain if he was done in by any of the three others he went out with but his killers were two other taggers aged 14 and 15. They killed Kachur solely for cross-tagging over their tags. They beat him with a brick and threw him in the St-Lawrence River.
The media says that the coroner’s report declared that the blows to Brian’s head were severe enough to have killed him but his actual cause of death was drowning after he was thrown in the icy river while likely unconscious. Three to five months later, the RCMP arrested the two murderers.
On March 7, 2011 the accused appeared before the court, now aged 16 and 17, for the last time in this trial. The 17-year-old who pled guilty to manslaughter received the maximum sentence, and his 16-year-old accomplice was sentenced to three years in youth detention (the Crown attorney was pushing to try both as adults).
This is by far the worst aspect of visual art and clearly worse than the worse tag.
After the sentencing, there were people; obviously graph-writers, who declared the murder as the ultimate reason why others ought to not cross-tag; not that no one should vandalize anyone’s property in the first place. That’s the illogic we’re dealing with but yes, we already know this.
Now, while Brian’s grieving mother Theresa Brochet and his sister Laurie-Ann have lost a son and brother, and two other sets of parents get to experience all of their hopes and dreams for their own sons lives be dashed away, this event will probably fade from our collective consciences as a minor footnote in history.
I suspect that there’s a psychology and sociology theory somewhere to say that people don’t rail against this sort of thing because taggers always keep themselves in the shadows. The taggers make it too easy to forget that there are human faces to this tragedy so we relegate it as not a high priority concern. We presume that graffiti-related murders are only isolated occurrences of someone else’s punk kid getting killed by as yet someone else’s punk kid, and winding up briefly mentioned a few times on the six o-clock news. I’m definitely in the same boat as everyone else on this one. I just don’t have a clue as to how to confront the issue.
Okay I get it, the two boys were angry that someone defaced their tag; not unlike how they deface others legally bought and paid for property, but why kill? If that’s appropriate conduct, then Mr. Jones has every right to come out with his shotgun and blow the head off of the kid who spray painted a tag on the man’s fence, right? Wrong. I don’t know why so many people think that killing is a panacea for all of their problems.
Even though I’m a dedicated visual artist willing to take some risks for producing work that I’m happy with, I’m certainly not willing to put my life and freedom or those of others in jeopardy for what I do. Art is so personal to me that I can’t do it without first stopping to consider that while I could produce something, should I produce that thing.
In both my adolescence and adulthood I have made paintings and drawings that have been vandalized by others. On some of those occasions, it was done right in front of my face. Oh yeah, it made me mad as hell but to respond with violent vengeance was unconscionable to me, even when I was a kid.
What is it that sets me apart from those taggers? Is it my upbringing? Do they not have elders that raised them to cherish life and respect other people’s property? Has a sense of conducting themselves in ways that do not bring shame to their family names not been instilled in them? Perhaps their parents truly have made every feasible effort to ensure that their children were properly adjusted but their children are just the types that are determined to behave like human garbage. What would their parents say?
How do you prevent this?
What about the taggers, seeing that their on the frontline of this? What do they suggest should be done about it?