Vandals and the City



Graffiti writers, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.

TEXT BY DR. OLIVER ZANETTI
By and for whom are cities made? In London, the answer is made visible by an urban horizon clustered with skyscrapers. The city is a servant to neoliberalism, where the financial sector and an exploding residential property market dominate the landscape. The vandals documented here undertake an alternative making of urban space, leaving their mark on the bare walls found in the city’s interstices.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.
As a subject matter they’re far from uncontroversial. For many, the writing of graffiti is regarded as an antisocial act of defacement, contravening both legal and moral spatial codes. This is reflected in the collection’s title and the work itself, where contrast and framing conceal the location and the identities of the writers documented. But through their recalcitrance, the writers invite us to rethink the nature of the urban order.


Graffiti writers, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.
Contemporary staples like pop ups or the sharing economy were once envisaged as routes to the democratisation of urban space, widening possibilities for public participation. Yet, in fact, such moves have served to further entrench existing urban and economic disempowerment. Habituated to seeing the effects of their work, a glimpse of writers at work is far less common.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.
In witnessing their resolve in the practice of their craft, we are invited to consider the various radical ways we might all intervene to create inclusive and genuinely participatory urban public spaces.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writers, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writers, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writers, London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.


London, 2016. © Marc Vallée.


Graffiti writer, London, 2015. © Marc Vallée.

Oliver Zanetti is an human geographer whose research examines the interface of materiality and urban space. Oliver is currently a Research Associate in the Department of Geography at the Open University.


All images © Marc Vallée. All rights reserved. Enquiries: studio@marcvallee.co.uk