Coldplay is currently touring Europe playing songs from their latest album, Mylo Xyloto. (Coincidentally, they got to that name before an antacid company could snatch it up.) Before I begin attacking the band, let me say I like Coldplay, and I like this album. The songs are well produced, peppy, sometimes nuanced and even introspective. But the thing that interests me is the stage on which these songs are played during their Mylo Xyloto tour. It (the stage) is covered in graffiti. The band’s instruments are also spray-painted with words and images in luminescent neon colors, all in an attempt to celebrate what lead singer Chris Martin called, “Street art, you know, just people making art out of ugly things . . . the turning of something ugly into something beautiful” No doubt, when lead singer Christ Martin said, “something ugly,” he had in mind abandoned nineteenth century brick factories of England’s old industrial north or one of the grimy brick walls lining the train-tracks going in and out of London. At the surface, his vision seems benign and even noble—a generation re-beautifying their crumbling architecture.
This acceptance of graffiti as an art form follows a cultural trend developed in the last half-century to, as N.T. Wright put it, “Be as unlike Adolph Hitler as possible” Hitler, in 1937 commissioned an exhibit of entartete Kunst or degenerate art, highlighting the kinds of “Bolshevistic, Jewish” art unacceptable to the pure Germans. It condemned “degenerate” and “dangerous” pieces like Vincent Van Gough’s self-portrait and scoffed at modern, cubist and impressionist art forms. In good faith, the post World War II West rejected this narrow-minded approach as art-bigotry, for it was, but began to accept every stroke of the brush (and whatever Yoko Ono does) on any surface you like, as art. It is only natural that those who applaud every stroke of the brush (and whatever Yoko Ono does) should begin to applaud every spray of the can, and Coldplay agrees.
But a deeper question looms beneath this embrace of graffiti as valuable art: What happens when magnificent buildings are tagged? Would a large spray-paint smiley face improve the Washington Monument? Would a red moustache increase the artistic value of Mount Rushmore’s Jefferson? Would Michelangelo’s David benefit from some spray-clothes? (Don’t answer that.) These examples seem comic, but anyone who has visited Europe is only smiling half-heartedly. Graffiti covers thousands of buildings and many monuments of the ancient continent.
On a sunny spring morning I stood next to the statue of the esteemed World War I general, Foch in Brussels, and rather than being uplifted I was disgusted at the lewd and ridiculous French words sprayed on the statue’s pedestal. Is this what Martin meant when he said graffiti is, “turning something ugly into something beautiful?” Somehow I doubt graffitists have the self-discipline to limit themselves to ugly buildings. First, they would have to agree on the definition of “ugly.” In fairness to the trade, there are talented artists using the medium of spray-paint. But it is equally important to recognize that there are those who use spray paint and are merely trouble-making hoodlums.
In a larger sense, is this universal view of art—to use the vogue word—sustainable? If everything is art, the word “art” means literally everything, therefore nothing. Though “art” is an elusive word, it is not an absolutely relative word. There is a difference between vandalism and creative genius.
Though it is a nice sentiment from Coldplay’s album, every siren is not a symphony; likewise, every graffiti-sprayed monument is not a mural.
-R. Eric Tippin
In “The Study” on 8th Street
 Best Buy Exclusive Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k19F80JkOU
 Scripture and the Authority of God, Pg. 7