Graffiti taggers wearing masks, lurking in the shadows, watched by security cameras, and running from the police inevitably suggest a different kind of resistance fighter against globalism. And their signature phrase, “Bomb it!” (i.e., paint it, tag it, hit it, put a spray can to it), places graffitists uncomfortably close to jihadists. Certainly, Jon Reiss’s briskly edited and energetic documentary captures a lot of anger. From the Bronx in the ’70s to the border walls in Palestine to the banlieues outside Paris, we hear the same basic “Fuck it!” from young people and outcasts who insist that since society won’t invest in them (often true), they’re entitled to strike back. Some taggers vow never to deface a person’s home; others maintain a more anarchist credo, attacking “whatever is paid for by taxes.” Bomb It‘s uncritical survey of world graffiti culture nods to history and cave art, then basically repeats itself (in Tokyo, São Paulo, Barcelona, etc.), making no distinction between gangbangers, pissed-off teens, and artists. Though street satirists like Robbie Conal and Blek le Rat appear briefly to argue their case, along with guerrilla designers Marc Ecko and Shepard Fairey, Bomb It doesn’t have the patience or the smarts for real analysis. Those who despise graffiti are made to look like old fools; those who tag are inarticulate but undeluded that their work, or names, will outlive them.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2008