Tagging In Madison Is Vandalism
I can not be the only citizen of Madison perplexed as to why Isthmus writer Dylan Brogan thought it a great idea to follow a tagger in a nighttime journey to see a train car defaced. Should I assume the local pusher was not able to take the reporter out for a look at how deals are made. Perhaps the local bank robber just thought better of including the press in his holdup.
The bottom line is there is no glory in tagging and certainly no reason to (excuse my bad pun) paint this element for anything other than what they are. Criminals. And to suggest in any way taggers are artists is akin to claiming a slicer on the golf course would be a great hire at a deli.
Nonetheless Brogan writes with a certain joy about the escapade which resulted in a train car being painted.
I am meeting veteran Madison graffiti artist ATER to shadow him on a night job. A towering streetlight hums as I step out of the car to greet him.
I had been instructed to wear dark clothes and shoes that won’t fail in a sprint or on rough terrain. In the event I was arrested, ATER’s identity was not to be disclosed. “Because if you did give me up,” ATER casually warns, “I’d have to whup your ass.”
He cracks a playful smile, but it’s clearly not an empty threat. With my ass literally on the line, I decide not to ask ATER’s legal name.
ATER grew up in Madison and started tagging with his friends regularly in high school in the late ’90s. “Telephone poles, bus stops, utility boxes,” he says. “We’d bomb whole blocks back then.”
While society may view his scrawl as vandalism, he sees it as beautification. “In terms of aesthetics, I always thought of my [tags] as improvements,” ATER says. “I never saw it as destruction.”
What Brogan might do next is follow a hard-working taxpayer around as the attempt to pay for home, car, college tuition for the kids along with city taxes makes for some long days. After all, that painted trash on bus stops, park shelters and other places needs to removed and restored. That takes city workers and city funds.