NAME-WRITING IN PUBLIC SPACE
Informal name-writing in public spaces is a time-honoured practice, probably as old as writing itself. From children and anonymous labourers to prominent authors, politicians or archaeologists, people of all kinds have felt the urge to symbolise their existence in a particular place and time by leaving a personal trace for other people to see.
This practice played a particularly visible role in different points in history, such as Ancient Rome and Romantic Europe. It has served as a cartographic tool and as a way to keep track of people in unexplored landscapes. It has been used as a symbolic weapon in wars. And, in the last century, it acquired unprecedented intensity and became the central feature of several fully fledged folk cultures throughout the globe.
The most sophisticated of these cultures is the graffiti tradition that developed in the subways of New York City during the 1970’s and has later become a part of the landscape of most cities worldwide. By influence of this tradition, name-writing is today generally referred to with the slang term “tagging”.
The Tag Conference aims to foster the discussion about tagging of all eras, about its nature, its meaning and its history, and about the diverse tagging traditions and cultures that exist and have existed. The conference is open to anthropologists, art historians, archaeologists, philosophers, geographers, urbanists, calligraphers, artists and other intellectuals or aficionados with an interest in the field.
The Tag Conference welcomes presentations about a range of topics including, but not limited to, the following.
Modern tagging cultures: Theoretical, aesthetic, historical or anthropological enquiries into tagging cultures, such as the following: The New York tagging culture and its reinterpretations throughout the world. North America’s “moniker” culture and its reinterpretations throughout the world. The “pixação” and “xarpi” cultures of Brazil. The “flechero” culture of Madrid. The “ganchos” culture of Monterrey. The “trepes” culture of Tijuana. The punk- originated tagging culture of Amsterdam. The “placasos” culture of LA street gangs and its reinterpretations in Central America.
Tagging as a calligraphic practice: The tools, materials, surfaces, methodologies and graphic references of different tagging cultures. How these elements give shape to each culture’s calligraphic styles. The design and building of customised and DIY writing tools and materials as ways to solve calligraphic problems related to surface, reach and permanence.
Tagging as a spatial and time-based practice: The series of tags as a network spread through space and time. The relation of tagging and architecture, Ferrel’s “spot theory”. Tagging as a way for the individual to relate to the built environment. Tagging as a tool for control of the territory for street gangs.
Tagging as cartographic tool and as a way to keep track of people across large expanses of territory: Daniel Boone and the tagging of North American pioneers. El Morro, Signature Rock and other traditional tagging sites in the North American colonial routes. Tagging by shepherds, early hobos, hitchhikers and other nomads.
Tagging as symbolic weapon in wars: Notorious cases such as the tomb of Tutankhamun or the Reichstag in Berlin. The case of “Kilroy was here”.
“I was here”, or tagging as a marking of a fleeting relation to a place: Tagging on mountaintops, caves or catacombs, on trees and rocks along routes and paths, on touristic spots, and on other symbolically charged places. Tagging on bus stops, surfaces next to queues in public services, in waiting rooms and public toilets, and other mundane places.
Tagging as a marking of a sustained relation to a place: Tagging in military bases and places of stationing. Tagging in prisons. Tagging in the workplace, on school desks, gym lockers and other related surfaces.
Tagging as a rite of passage: The tagging tradition of the Spanish “quintos”. The “vítores” tradition in Spanish universities. Other related traditions.
Tagging through history: Tagging in Classical times and the Middle Ages. Antonio Bosio and other Renaissance-era tagging on Roman archaeological findings, later equivalent examples. Tagging as a part of Romantic tourism.
Name-writing personalities: Enquiries into particular figures from established tagging cultures, and into outsider name-writing personalities such as Joseph Kyselak, Restif de la Bretonne, Arthur Stace “Eternity”, Tsang Tsou Choi, Peter-Ernst Eiffe, Profeta Gentileza, Pray, Al Jolson, Zhang Dali, Toniolo, Melina Riccio, Oz, @rtist and Alain Rault.
Slogan-based tagging of the 1970’s in Brazil: “Celacanto Provoca Maremoto”, “Gônha Mó Brêu”, “Hendrix Mandrake Mandrix” and related cases.
Collective tagging: Repeated writing of names of political parties and unions, political symbols and particular political slogans. Writing of names of rock bands in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Argentina, Uruguay and other places. Writing by football ultras in Italy, Germany, Poland and other places, and its confluence with graffiti in the New York tradition.
Representations of tagging: Tags as displayed in movies, record covers, comics, literature and popular culture in general, particularly before the 1970’s.
Tagging and technology: Research about tagging that uses computing technologies, databases or robotics.
The relation of tagging with other forms of public graphic identity: Tagging as a reflection of advertising and of other forms of official name-writing in public space. Baudrillard’s reading of tagging as semiological warfare. Tagging with images, from street art “bombing” (stencils, stickers, paste-ups) to the paint patches of “graffiti vigilantes”.