How do you untangle the issues at the heart of art in contested spaces? One approach may be to stimulate a debate about the assumptions and interpretations all of us bring to the messages we encounter as we move through a cityscape. The categories of public art, advertising, graffiti, gang tagging, and defacement are a moving target; one person’s mural is another person’s vandalism, advertising can masquerade as graffiti, museums sanction graffiti as art with blockbuster exhibits, while the police define most text-rich graffiti as gang code.
Tag This Tag is a concept for a mobile application which would explore the issues of lack of access to information on the part of the public and the police, the social implications of appropriating and monetizing gang communication and symbols, and the shifting battle lines where public and private space, art and criminal activity collide.
Users would be able to:
- Label graffiti and other public messaging via augmented reality with one or more of the following categories: gang tag, vandalism, public art, or advertising.
- See how others have labeled photos similar to their image.
- Take a photo
- Map their photo
- Upload photos to a site where other users can comment on the photo, and dispute the label.
- Upload photos to social media.
- Access further information about the history, philosophy and methods of interpreting messages in each category
For instance, if the majority of users identify a photo as a gang tag, the user would access information about decoding gang tags, as well as an identification of the likely gang affiliated with that tag.
Tag this Tag does not have to be just a mobile application. It could be adapted and extended by a newspaper or other media outlet in the form of an online game: users would pick an uploaded photo, or choose an archived one, label it by category based on comparison to photo archives, access information about gangs affiliated with the image and information about decoding graffiti, and receive feedback on what percentage of users agree with their categorization of the tag. All with the intent of stimulating an ongoing dialogue about the subjectivity of our judgements about public art, public messaging, and the use of public space.