Advances in Applied Sociology
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 53-58
Published Online March 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/aasoci) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aasoci.2012.21007
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 53
Is Street Art a Crime? An Attempt at Examining Street Art
Department of Sociology, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
Received February 1st, 2012; revised February 29th, 2012; accepted March 13th, 2012
A clear and basic definition is the fundamental element in understanding, thus explaining any social sci-
entific concept. Street art is a social phenomenon, characterized by its illegal nature, which social scien-
tists from several subjects have increasingly been examining, interpreting and discussing for the past 50
years. Even though the concept itself has been defined much more clearly over the years, its standing
concerning whether it is a crime or form of art is still a borderline issue. This paper attempts to first try to
define street art under a type of crime, then examine it using criminological perspective, with crimino-
logical and deviance theories in order to understand and explain it better using an example, the KÜF Pro-
ject from Ankara Turkey.
Keywords: Street Art; Definition; Criminology; Crime Theory; KÜF Project
Art, in the general sense, is the process and/or product of de-
liberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses
and/or emotions. Street Art is a form of subcultural activity that
is defined as unsanctioned visual art developed and/or practiced
in public spaces. This form of art has generally been seen as a
post graffiti writing movement and is often characterized by its
illegal nature (Hundertmark, 2003). Even though street art car-
ries a much different meaning from its predecessor traditional
graffiti artwork, it does include modern graffiti, art intervention,
flash mobbing, guerrilla art, sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker
art, street poster art and wheatpasting, street installations and
video projection. Typically, the term is used to distinguish con-
temporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, van-
dalism, and corporate art. John Fekner defines street art as “all
art on the street that’s not graffiti” (Lewisohn, 2008).
Street art is a powerful platform for reaching the public due
to its visual advantages. Its philosophy includes a strong sense
of activism and subversion. The universal theme in most, if not
all, is “reclaiming the city” and adapting visual artwork into a
format which utilizes public space, allowing its artist, who may
otherwise feel disenfranchised, to reach a much broader audi-
ence than traditional artwork and/or galleries would allow.
“For the street artists, the medium is all forms of public
expression and the message is resistance to the uniformity
of the city and all that it embodies. This idea of resistance
to the city is not only resistance to the visual landscape of
the urban environment, but also to the revision of what it
stands for and who stands for it.”
Justin ARMSTRONG (Armstrong, 2005)
When the need for artistic expression and free speech created
by oppression, regardless of why it is created, is not possible,
individuals who wish to communicate their emotions and ideas
seek alternative means of expression and street art acts as a
readily available vehicle for those who chose to benefit from
what it has to offer. The street artists, who use the technologies
of the modern time to claim space, communicate ideas, and
express social and/or political views, have motivations and
objectives as varied as the artists themselves. Yet there is a con-
stantly looming threat of facing consequences for displaying
their art. For this reason many of them choose to protect their
identities and reputation by remaining anonymous. With the
commercialization of street art, in most cases, even with legally
exhibited art, the artists tend to choose anonymity.
Street Art: Around the World and in Turkey
There are some key locations around the world that are con-
sidered as source and inspiration for street art culture in gen-
In East Europe, most post communist countries have a very
vibrant street art culture. In the North Norway, Stavanger is host
to the annual Nuart Festival; one of Europe’s leading events
dedicated to promoting street art. In the West England, London
is one of the most pro-graffiti cities in the world. Ironically, it is
also one of the cities where street art is officially condemned
and heavily punished by law. Mostly because of Banksy’s suc-
cess, Bristol is part of a vibrant street art scene too. On the
other side of the ocean, in North America USA, New York City
is considered the home of street art and in South America Bra-
zil, São Paulo is another city viewed as one of the capitals of
street art. While Australia is home to one of the worlds most
active and diverse street art cultures in Melbourne, Asia has yet
to catch up on the hype. As for the Middle East, street art is
slowly emerging; Iranian artist A1one’s has been interviewed
by Tokyo-based design magazine PingMag about his works on
Tehran walls (Uleshka, 2007); The Israeli West Bank barrier
has become a site for street art, reminiscent in this sense of the
Berlin Wall; Turkey has a growing number of local artists,
while many foreign artists also exhibit their works in İstanbul.
“The street art works that are seen especially in İstanbul,
increase day by day. Due to the fact that having many tou-
ristic features, it is possible to see the pieces of many Tur-
kish and foreign artists around Taksim and its environs.”
Tunc Dindas (Dindas, 2009)
If Street Art Is a Crime … Which Type of
Crime Is It?
Modern graffiti is essentially illegal, because it has not been
accepted by society (Phillips, 1999). Some researchers sugges-
ted that authorities have criminalized street art by manipulating
public opinions through the media (Ferrell, 1996). Joe Austin
argues that the Mass Transit Authorities use their actions against
street artists to divert public attention away from problems hap-
pening in the cities instead of legalizing it and repurposing the
use of tax money somewhere else (Austin, 2001). Street artists,
who mostly are taxpayers themselves, argue that they too have
ownership over public spaces that have been unfairly taken
over by advertisers (Times, 1971). Ironically, street art, which
is considered illegal, gains permission to be displayed when
endorsed by corporations (Niccolai, 2001). This reveals a dou-
ble standard and indicates that certain groups in society enjoy
privileges when deciding what is art or crime (Dickson, 2008).
Judgments such as “consensus”, “harm”, “injury”, “offender”,
and “victim” do not have clear, unequivocal definitions and are
always informed by contestable, epistemological, moral, and
political assumptions (De Haan, 1990). But for the sake of ar-
gument, presuming that street art is actually a form of crime,
which can cause “harm”, and the street artist is a criminal, an
“offender” that offends “victim”s, it should be possible to de-
fine it under one of the predefined and widely accepted crime
types such as: Organized, Corporate, State, State-Corporate, White-
Collar, Blue-Collar, Political, Public-Order Crimes or Juvenile
Street Art … An Org an ized Crime?
Organized crime or criminal organizations are national, local
and/or transnational groupings of highly centralized enterprises,
run by criminals engaging in illegal activity mostly for the
purpose of monetary profit. Street artists may work on their
own or they may work in groups. Those who chose to act as a
whole or as a group instead of acting as individuals may even
be disciplined enough to be considered organized. Yet since the
basic, primary motivation is neither financial gain, nor is it caus-
ing damage in a destructive or ill intentioned manner, as terror-
ist organizations, can street art still be considered a kind of
Street Art … A Corporate Crime?
Corporate crime refers to crimes committed either by a cor-
poration, by individuals acting on behalf of a corporation or
other business entities. Just by this general description, it is safe
to say that it has nothing to do with street art.
Street Art … A State Crim e?
State crime is activity or failures to act that break the state’s
own criminal law or public international law. This said, the
only way street art could be categorized as a state crime would
be if in fact the State itself were to use street art as a mean to
break its own criminal law or public international law. Unless
this is the situation, it could be argued that some of the actions
of the State such as banning street art or punishing street artists
could be considered a violation or oppression of personal free-
dom, freedom of thought and thus could be, in a way, a state
Street Art … A State-Corporate Crime?
State-corporate crime refers to crimes that result from pub-
lic-private partnership and inherent distorted relations of the
state and the policies and practices of commercial corporations
surfacing as budget-bonus crime. Again, it is safe to say this
topic has nothing to do with street art.
Street Art … A Whit e- Col la r Cri me ?
White-collar crime is a financially motivated, economic, non-
violent crime committed for illegal monetary gain. Sutherland
(1939) defines white-collar crime as a crime committed by a
person of respectability and high social status in the course of
his occupation (HG Legal Directories, 2012). Street art is non-
violent, but at this point it is safe to say that even though there
has been examples of street artists who have made financial
profit by doing commercial work or exhibitions in galleries,
street art’s basic motivation is not an economic one and as such
it would not count as a white-collar crime.
Street Art … A Blue-Collar Crime?
Blue-collar crime is any crime committed by an individual
from a lower social class as opposed to white-collar crime whi-
ch is associated with crime committed by individuals of a hig-
her social class and blue-collar crimes are crimes that happen
on the streets everyday that can include, but are not limited to:
Kidnapping, Rape, Shoplifting or Vandalism.
Vandalism is generally defined as ruthless destruction or
spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable (Oxford English Dic-
tionary, 2008). It covers criminal damage towards any property
without permission of the owner. The definitions of vandalism
leave loop holes for what street art can be considered. For ex-
ample, an esthetically pleasing design done on a blank or bor-
ing surface would not be the destruction or spoiling of anything
beautiful or venerable. Neither would street art done on a prop-
erty which did not belong to one individual, but considered
public space. On the contrary, it could improve the urban space.
It is accepted that private citizens commit vandalism when
they willfully damage or deface the property of others or the
commons. Yet again, the matter comes down to one crucial
point: the definition of damaging. If it is done in an artistic
nature, even though carried out illegally or without the property
owner’s permission, can it not be that the final product is actu-
ally improving instead of damaging? And if so, would it still be
Some people become cops because they want to make the
world a better place. Some people become vandals be-
cause they want to make the world a better looking place
Bansky (Bansky, 2005)
Street Art … A Juv enil e De li nqu enc y?
Juvenile delinquency, also known as youth crime, is partici-
pation in illegal behavior by minors who fall under a statutory
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
age limit (Siegel & Welsh, 2011) For many reasons, and with
many examples, it is possible to categorize street art under this
heading, yet there is one crucial point that again makes this
effort fruitless: the fact that even though there are many under
aged street artists, most of them are of age. In Australia many
state governments have banned the sale or possession of spray
paint to those under the age of 18 (age of majority). In New
Zealand, a new legislation adopted in 2008 included a ban on
the sale of paint spray cans to persons under 18.
Street Art … A Politica l Crime?
States define any behavior perceived as a threat, real or
imagined, to the state’s survival including violent and/or non-
violent oppositional crimes, as political crimes. As a result
there is a possibility that a conduct, which would normally not
be considered a crime, to be criminalized at the convenience of
the group holding power. The morality of a law, which simply
criminalizes ordinary political dissent, is questionable. In some
situations art does present dissent with current regimes, and/or
political situations, and this may be deemed threatening by the
group holding power. In other situations the mere presence of
street art may be considered a threat due to the understanding
that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a wel-
lordered condition, meaning free of street art, may stop further
street art or as the Broken Window Theory (Wilson & Kelling,
1984) put’s it—vandalism, as well as an escalation into more
serious crime. Yet, all this raises another important question: Is
it not possible to think that all art with political dissent and all
artists who create them could be offensive to the State at one
point or the other, regardless of whether or not they actually do
pose a threat? Would this necessarily mean that the artist is a
criminal and that what they have created is a crime?
Street Art … A Public-Order Crime
Public-Order Crime is defined by as crime which involves
acts that interfere with the operations of society and the ability
of people to function efficiently (Siegel, 2006), simply meaning
it is behavior that has been labeled criminal because it is con-
trary to shared norms, social values, and customs. This type of
crime includes consensual crime, victimless vice, and victim-
less crime. It asserts the need to use the law to maintain order
both in the legal and moral sense. Yet, in the modern society
the moral standards, have a tendency to change over time with
every new revelation whether in the area of science, technique
or even fashion—modern society’s moral standards evolve very
fast. So is it not true to think that what may now be seen as one
thing may very well be perceived very differently in the near
future? Downloading free music from the internet was not al-
ways considered a crime; it is still not a defined crime with
consequences in some countries—yet, there are measures that
are being taken in order to make it illegal, on the grounds that it
is in fact a kind of theft. In 1916 Margaret Sanger, who founded
the first birth control clinic in New York City US, was accused
of distributing obscene material and violating public morals –
yet now, since the information about birth control is no longer
considered obscene in the US, if one were to open such a clinic
there, they would not be considered violating any public morals.
On the contrary, they would be considered doing a positive ser-
vice to young women who are not mentally, emotionally and/or
financially ready to have a baby. Even if one were not to be-
lieve in the theory of evolution, they could appreciate the fact
that change is a natural part of existence and moral values are
subject to change just as much as anything and everything else.
Then, is it wrong to presume that, just as there is difference
between what was considered a crime in the past and what is
considered a crime now, there will be a difference between
what is considered a crime now and what will be considered a
crime in the future?
Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art.
Although you might have to creep about at night and lie to
your mom it’s actually one of the more honest art forms
available. There’s no elitism or hype, it exhibits on the
best walls a town has to offer and nobody is put off the
price of admission. A wall has always been the best place
to publish your work. The people who run our cities don’t
understand it (street art) because they think nothing has
the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes
their opinion worthless.
Bansky (Bansky, 2005)
Explaining Street Art Using Criminological
Even though street art may not fit into any one crime defini-
tion, it may be possible to examine it from a criminological
point of view using the predefined and widely accepted Crimi-
nological and Deviance Theories such as: Differential Associa-
tion, Labeling, Neutralization, Rational Choice, Social Control,
Social Disorganization, Social Learning, Strain, Subcultural
and Criminal Triad Theory.
Street Art vs. Differential Association
Differential Association Theory (Sutherland, 1974) is a the-
ory proposing that through interaction with others, individuals
learn the attitudes, techniques, motives and values for criminal
behavior. It focuses on the how’s, but does not concern itself
with the reasons behind the why’s. Through interaction with
other street artists or street art enthusiasts, individuals learn the
attitudes, techniques, motives and values for street art too. Yet
in order to understand and examine street art and its artist better,
understanding the answer to the why’s would be essentially
more important than understanding the answers to the how’s.
Street Art vs. Labeling Theory
French sociologist Durkheim states that crime is not so much
a violation of a penal code as it is an act that outrages society
and he was the first to suggest that deviant labeling satisfies
that function and satisfies society’s need to control the behavior.
Labeling Theory holds hypothesizes that the labels applied to
individuals influence their behavior, particularly the application
of negative or stigmatizing labels promote deviant behavior, be-
coming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most street artists tend to
choose anonymity and use names other than their own real na-
mes. Consequently the label does not have as much gravity as it
would and the gravity it does have may not be perceived as
expected, at least not by the artists themselves. “Vandal” may
be a negative label, but since most street artists take pride in be-
ing seen as deviant from norms—as artists, the label’s deterrent
quality may turn into a motivational one. Just as they do not
want to live in urban spaces full of the same and boring struc-
tures, neither do they want to be another brick in the wall—sa-
me as everyone else.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 55
Street Art vs. Neutralization Theory
The Neutralization Theory explains how deviants justify their
deviant behaviors by providing alternative definitions of their
actions and by providing explanations, to themselves and others,
for the lack of guilt for actions in particular situations. Amongst
the 5 types of neutralization, Denial of Responsibility (the de-
viant believes s/he was helplessly propelled into the deviance,
and that under the same circumstances, any other person would
resort to similar actions) could be the only type that does not
seem fitting to street artists. Street artist may be in Denial of
Injury (the deviant believes that the action caused no harm to
other individuals or to the society, and thus the deviance is not
morally wrong.), Denial of The Victim (the deviant believes
that individuals on the receiving end of the deviance were de-
serving of the results due to the victim’s lack of virtue or mor-
als), Condemnation of The Condemners (the deviant believes
enforcement figures or victims have the tendency to be equally
deviant or otherwise corrupt, and as a result, are hypocrites to
stand against) or Appeal to Higher Loyalties (the deviant be-
lieves that there are loyalties and values that go beyond the con-
fines of the law; morality, friendships, income, or traditions may
be more important to the deviant than legal boundaries). Whe-
ther or not they are right about these arguments are some of the
core reasons behind street arts legality polemic.
Street Art vs. Rational Choice Theory
The Rational Choice Theory adopts an idea that man is a rea-
soning actor who weighs means and ends, costs and benefits,
and makes a rational choice. The street artist does weight the
means and ends, they pay for it financially, physically and emo-
tionally, expecting little if any benefits (due to choosing anony-
mity) and make a rational choice to proceed. Routine Activity
Theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979) is a sub-field of rational choice
theory in criminology and proposes that crime does not need
hardened offenders, super-predators, convicted felons or wicked
people, it is normal and depends on the opportunities available.
Simply put, if there is an available and suitable target, moti-
vated offender and no authority figure to prevent the crime
from happening—it will happen. Consequently, the three ele-
ments required for creating street art are the same.
Street Art vs. Social Control Theory
Social Control Theory proposes that exploiting the process of
socialization and social learning builds self-control and reduces
the inclination to indulge in behavior recognized as antisocial.
Even though this theory may be very much true for the majority,
an artist is not quite part of the majority. If anything, an artist is
someone who has a slightly different and/or more accurate per-
ception of the world surrounding us, their feelings and/or ideas,
and who is not afraid to share this perception with the rest of
humanity. This could explain why street artists consistently car-
ry on indulging in behavior recognized as antisocial.
Street Art vs. Social Disorganization Theory
The Social Disorganization Theory links high crime rates to
neighborhood ecological characteristics and this, in the sense
that it would link high street art rates to neighborhood ecologi-
cal characteristics, would make sense in understanding street art
better. It would be much more probable for youths from certain
neighborhoods to be participants in a subculture in which street
art was, even if not approved per say still, acceptable and that
understanding was acquired in a social and cultural setting
through a process of interaction.
Street Art vs. Social Learning Theory
Social Learning Theory explains deviancy by combining va-
riables which encouraged delinquency with variables that dis-
couraged delinquency (Burgess & Akers, 1966). Simply put,
according to this theory two qualities shape behavior: punish-
ment and reinforcement. Since social learning theory is a re-
vised version of Sutherland’s social disorganization theory, by
including the idea of reinforcement and applying the principles
of operant psychology (Pfohl, 1994), it is natural to find that it
could help in understanding street art better just as well.
Street Art vs. Strain Theory
Strain Theory states that social structures within society may
encourage citizens to commit crime. The gap between expecta-
tions and actual achievements come from personal goals and
some of those goals will never be realized because of unavoid-
able circumstances including both inherent weaknesses and op-
portunities blocked by others. The difference between the view
of what a person believes the outcome should be and what ac-
tually results increases personal disappointment and frustration.
Taking this into consideration, it may be thought; social struc-
tures within society may encourage citizens to take part in street
art, obviously not for material acquisition, but maybe for social
satisfaction. For example: An educated and socially aware per-
son may have an opinion they strongly believe in and they may
want to share it, yet not have the necessary tools to do so due to
circumstances outside of themselves. The disappointment and
frustration created by this may be the most logical explanation
to the existence and necessity of street art in today’s modern
societies. In a way, alternative to the belief that street art is
provocative, it may even be the relief valve.
Street Art vs. Su bcu lt ur al Theory
The Subcultural Theory is a set of theories arguing that cer-
tain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes
that are conducive to crime and violence. While street artist
could very well be a certain group or subculture in society with
values and attitudes that are different than the widely accepted
social norms, this would not mean that their values and attitu-
des are conducive to crime and violence. If anything, they cho-
se to be non-violent and express their ideas and feelings using
creative and artistic outlets. This theory may stay on the how
side more than the why side concerning street art and artists.
Street Art vs. Criminal Triad Theory
Criminal Triad Theory (Harmening, 2010) is a relatively new
theory of criminality that looks at the interplay of three psy-
chosocial developmental processes (attachment, moral devel-
opment, and identity-formation) in the development of a per-
son’s internal deterrence system during adolescence. Taking into
account that street artists are as varied as their motivations and
objectives, it would be a premature attempt to try and examine
street art from this point of view without a generalized street
artist psyche model—which may be impossible to achieve at
this point in time.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
KÜF Project: An Example from Turkey
Sarcastic and ironical humor, as way of light hearted criti-
cism of social and/or political issues, is a very deep rooted part
of Turkish culture. These roots rest on a long tradition of “Orta
Oyunu”, the shadow play also known as “Karagoz & Hacivat”,
and the caricature culture which have all been part of the soci-
ety for a long time. It may be argued that street art is now on its
way to gradually become accepted as one of them, but with a
A group from Ankara (Turkey) KÜF Project1, which first got
public recondition for changing the road sign leading to G. O.
Pasa (a high class district in Ankara, capital of Turkey) into
“Tosun Pasa”2 (a Turkish comedy movie title and it’s lead
male’s name) about two years ago, used street art in a humor-
ous way. Soon after, they transformed Cinnah Caddesi (the
main avenue of the capital) into a globally popular Pac-Man
themed creation3. Just as they were about to “strike” again, the
“Mavi Marmara” incident took place and both political and
social tensions ran high both in the country and the region4. The
group canceled their ready plans and spontaneously came up
with another, one they deemed more appropriate to how they
felt and thought the people would need. In a limited amount of
time, they transformed road signs into Peace Signs using stick-
ers5. After this incident, they continued the light hearted humor
about everything and anything they saw fit including the news
of the National football team not qualifying into the World
Cup6. As their fame grew so did there sphere of influence and
“Sigara!”7 was their next work. In February 2011, they became
famous throughout the country overnight with “BUYUKSEHIR
KUCUK 1 TL”8. They had installed a urinal at the entrance of a
major underpass of Ankara, over what they saw as the ugly tiles
that turned the countries capital into a giant bathroom. At this
point, they had tapped into something much more than just light
hearted sarcasm, irony and humor—they had arrived at the true
essence of street art:
“While the idea of carrying art to the streets has been a
breakthrough and been accepted by the societies all over
the world, this has not been the case in Turkey. What
people see when they go out where we live is just build-
ings, pavements, signposts, roads and street lights. Not
only does this grayness move people away from visual
intelligence, it also creates a monotonous perspective in
human mind. Within this pattern, people who use the
streets to commute only look at their steps. KÜF is to de-
stroy this monotony. It is to make people look around and
be aware. It is a riot. It is neither the representative of a
company, organization or political party, nor is apolitical.
It is a manifestation formed by the accumulation of the
ideas and skills of individuals. Its aim is not polluting the
streets, which is the setting for actions, but to color it by
revealing the dormant energy.
After “BUYUKSEHIR KUCUK 1 TL”, they started “Ben
Sosyal Alkoligim Sevim!!!” (a famous line from a once popular
TV series shown for over 10 years, translating to “I Am A So-
cial Alcoholic Sevim!!!”—Sevim refers to the name of the wife
of Cemil, the character who uses the line) and displayed their
works in both Ankara and Istanbul. The last project they have
done has been done about a month ago—in Konya, one of Tur-
key’s more conservative cities. The “I [HEART] KoNYa”10
stencil was done on a wall close to the Mevlana Museum, with
a Whirling Dervish holding a spray can of paint and seemingly
writing the slogan while whirling. While the stencil, as a whole,
has the air of Middle Eastern style, it was actually structured
over a very well known and popular western logo: the “I
[HEART] NY” logo.
After almost two years, the group members still prefer to re-
main anonymous for obvious reasons—Street art is illegal in
Turkey, and thus they are considered criminals.
Are They Really Criminals?
Even if one knew nothing of KÜF Project, just by reading
the Manifestation they would, could and should get a general
idea about the who, what, why, where, when and how’s behind
what they are trying to accomplish. Using this manifestation,
and the different criminological and deviance theories gone
over in the previous chapter:
From a neutralization theory point of view, one could state
that they are deviants who are justifying their behaviors by
providing alternative definitions of their actions and expla-
nations to themselves and others, for the lack of guilt for
actions in particular situations. Actually one could state that
just in this one paragraph they are exhibiting at least 2 out
of 5 neutralizations.
From a rational choice theory point of view, one could state
that they have weighted the means and ends, costs and
benefits, and made a rational choice to proceed. Similarly,
when reading with a routine activity theory point of view,
one could state that they are openly sharing that if and when
they find available and suitable targets they are motivated to
From a strain theory point of view, they are obviously dis-
appointed and frustrated by the urban space that surrounds
them and its conditions, and are announcing very clearly
their intentions of creating a change.
If it is possible to in fact speculate and/or understand KÜF
Project using some criminological and deviance theories as seen
in the example above, then maybe it is possible to place their
projects under crime types as well.
1http://www.behance.net/kufproject, http://be.net/kufproject (accessed Janu-
2Making of “Tosun Pasa”, shot and edited by Küf Project.
http://vimeo. com/10951255 (accessed January 2012).
3Making of “Pac-Man”, shot and edited by Küf Project.
http://vimeo.com/- 11195391 (accessed January 2012).
4MV Mavi Marmara. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Mavi_Marmara (ac-
cessed January 2012).
5Making of “Peace Sign”, shot and edited by Küf Project.
http://vimeo. com/12246016 (accessed January 2012).
6Making of “It’s The Football”, shot and edited by Küf Project.
http://vi- meo.com/13234739 (accessed January 2012).
7“Sigara!”, shot and edited by Küf Project. http://vimeo.com/17697765.
8Making of “BUYUKSEHIR KUCUK 1 TL”, shot and edited by Küf Pro-
ect. http://vimeo.com/20280613 (accessed January 2012).
It is safe to say, none of the street art KÜF has produced can
be categorized as Organized, Corporate, State, State-Corporate
or White-Collar Crime. Actually “Sigara!”, which was more of
a stop motion film made with cigarettes, does not even count as
crime. As for the rest of the produced street art:
9KÜF Project Manifestation. http://www.behance.net/kufproject (accessed
10Making of “I(HEART) KoNYa”, shot and edited by Küf Project.
http://vimeo.com/33651733 (accessed January 2012).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 57
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Even though none of them were “a ruthless destruction or
spoiling of anything beautiful or venerable”, due to the fact
that all of them (except for “Sigara!”) changed the urban
space without permission—thus illegally, they could all be
considered as vandalism, a blue-color crime.
Members of KÜF are not only anonymous; they are also
quite private about how many people they are, their ages,
sexes, educational and/or professional statuses etc, so it is
hard to say whether or not their projects can be classified as
juvenile delinquency—though taking into consideration
their interviews with news papers and project footages they
share over the internet, it does seem that even if not all of
them, at least most of them may be over the legal age of 18.
Except for “BUYUKSEHIR KUCUK 1 TL” none of the
produced street art can count as political crime. “BUYUK-
SEHIR KUCUK 1 TL”, which was an obvious and direct
political dissent, was politically-motivated, yet it was not a
threat to the State or political regime, it was a critique of the
metropolitan mayor and his urban design policies.
“Tosun Pasa” and “It’s The Football" both included minor
changes being made to traffic signs, which could, in a sense,
involve an act that interferes with the operations of society
and the ability of people to function efficiently, making
them public-order crimes. But in all honesty, unless the so-
ciety operating or the people functioning referred to were
strangers to this specific urban space (Ankara), it would be
very hard for them to lose efficiency due to these minor in-
Street art may not be legal, but it seems as though neither is
it illegal. If it is not illegal, than there is no crime, meaning
there is no criminal in this example.
Presuming that street art could be a form of crime which
could cause “harm”, while the street artist would be a type of
criminal, who would be an “offender” and there would be “vic-
tim”s to these offences, it should have been possible to define it
under a type of crime. It was obvious that street art could not be
categorized as Organized, Corporate, State, State-Corporate or
White-Collar Crimes, yet it was possible to squeeze it into fit-
ting Blue-Collar, Political, Public-Order Crimes and/or Juvenile
Delinquency. It seems as though there is just too much subject-
tivity concerning what Vandalism is and/or what it means;
where the line is drawn between what is ordinary political dis-
sent shared and what is a threat to the State and/or the current
regime; what interferes with the operations of society and the
ability of people to function efficiently; even the exact age of
most street artists.
After trying to establish which type of crime street art would
fit properly in and failing, an attempt was made in examining
street art using a criminological point of view, with crimino-
logical and deviance theories in order to understand and explain
it better. This resulted with noting that while some theories su-
ch as the labeling and social control theories assumptions and
the street art experience were not consistent (even opposite at
times), some theories assumptions and the street art experience
was consistent. Amongst those consistent, there were theories
that are better at gathering information on the how’s behind
what is happening and would not do much in helping under-
stand the reasons behind what is happening such as the differ-
ential association and subcultural theory; while there were theo-
ies that could in fact be very helpful in understanding the why’s
behind what is happening such as especially the strain and neu-
After going over an example, the KÜF Project from Ankara
Turkey with the deductions made in previous chapters, this
paper concludes that even though street art may be considered
illegal in almost everywhere in the world with only a few cir-
cumstantial exceptions, and street artists are viewed as crimi-
nals; the fact that street art cannot be classified properly in any
of the predefined crime categories raises the question whether it
actually is a real crime. Hence, this paper concludes that neither
street art is a crime, nor is the street artist a criminal—as is
stated in their names, while the former is a form of art, the latter
is an artist.
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