A few years ago, I stumbled across the faith of graffiti in a used book store. Published in 1973, it includes documentary photographs by Mervyn Kurlansky and Jon Naar, with an essay by Norman Mailer. As A-1, Aesthetic Investigator, Mailer describes meeting up with CAY 161 and other young street artists in an apt. in Washington Heights. They talk about “the curiosity of past passions to write the name, as if, like the Twist, it was over.” That is, by the time Mailer wrote the story in the early ’70s, legal penalties against graffiti artists in NYC were getting serious and often involved police beatings and jail. In his interview, Mailer also sensed that something had happened to the process itself of tagging the urban environment. As they continue talking, Mailer asks the group “What is the meaning to you of the name?” From the essay:
“Cay speaks up on what it means to watch the name go by. ‘The name,’ says Cay, in a full voice, Delphic in its unexpected resonance — as if the idol of a temple has just chosen to break into sound — ‘The name,’ says Cay, ‘is the faith of graffiti.’ It is quite a remark. [Mailer] wonders if Cay knows what he said. ‘The name,’ repeats Cay, ‘is the faith.'”
Fantastic. the faith of graffiti has been re-released this year in an expanded edition with additional photos.