There was yet another case of this art/not art argument lately here in Ottawa, at Hot Peppers Restaurant, a Thai place on Somerset. Ottawa Bylaws decided something painted on a side wall was graffiti, removed it, and sent the owner a bill. The CBC news site has this article on it.
According to the Ottawa Graffiti Management Bylaw 2008-01,
“graffiti" means one or more letters, symbols, etchings, figures, inscriptions, stains howsoever made or otherwise affixed to a property or other markings that disfigure or deface a property
So the decision the Bylaw Inspector is making is not whether it is art or not, but whether it disfigures or defaces the property.
What if the artist had done a blend of graffiti bubble letters and cartoon characters? What if it was just little cartoon food characters, in keeping with the restaurant theme? What if the wall was already disfigured and defaced with peeling paint, mismatched bricks, sloppy patches, pigeon droppings - whatever? And the "markings" the artists had added, even if "just" letterings, actually made the wall look better?
At what point is it decided by the bylaw officer these markings do NOT disfigure or deface? What if another officer has a different opinion, do they stand there and do "paper, rock, scissors" to decide who is right?