From Illegal Graffiti to Legal Mural: a Bias in Today’s Cultural Jamming

Nowadays, the concept of cultural jamming is often criticised because it has been losing its original spirit: “to challenge the status quo and to foster the ideals of the Englightment” (Cammaerts, 2007, p. 88). According to Cammaerts (ibid), today’s cultural jamming is nothing more than just an entertainment as well as political or marketing strategy. O’Shaughnessy & Stadler (2005, p. 203) support this argument by saying that cultural jamming has become “something so common and commercially available (which) no longer signifies anything … rebellious”. Therefore, cultural jamming is now become an activism, which is bias, and not independent anymore. This essay argues how graffiti and mural, which has been legalised by government, may leads to a bias cultural jamming.

Basically, cultural jamming is an activity that try to resist the currently exist power as Klein (cited in O’Shaughnessy & Stadler (2005, p. 188) states, “Culture jamming is understood as a mode of resistance to the norms of conventions of mass culture.” Indeed, the original purpose of the graffiti, as one form of cultural jamming, was aimed to be a communication method rather than a profit making (Werwath, 2006). However, now the graffiti has been lifted out of its original context. Thus, the resistance message is not emphasized as much (ibid). It is only become a personal achievement as well as tools of the government.

In Western Australia, for example, mural has become the solution to stop young graffiti artist using the public space to jamming the idea since the graffiti is often linked to vandalism which damage public property (Prior, 2009). According to Hurben (cited in Prior, 2009), the graffiti is “attacking the system because it’s attacking them.” Thus, the bombers (graffiti artist) have given with the space and the materials that they need to produce a legitimate art from instead of illegal graffiti. As a consequence, what they produced was just an entertainment with nothing rebel in it.

In addition, in Jogjakarta Indonesia, there is a forum of mural artist who cooperates with the local government in producing their murals. This forum is known as Jogja Mural Forum (JMF) and its members range from mural critics, artist, to common people who are interest in mural. It was established in the beginning of the 2006 in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. One of the aims of JMF is to make an attractive visual message related to the social wisdom and social problems that need to be addressed (Jogja, 2006). Besides, it also aims to be a part of art education for ordinary people.

JMF spreads the message which criticizing the government about current issues such as corruption or disasters. One of the messages is “Message from the Government: Corruption can cause an insomnia, obesity, fat belly, dizziness, stress, polygamy and go to hell” which is actually a parody of the message from cigarette advertisement in Indonesia. Unfortunately, if we look at this message closely, this message is not quite neutral since there is a sentence, which indicates the source of the message: the government. It rise a question about how can this message resist the dominant power if it comes from the dominant power itself? This is to say that this kind of message, even though it comes from a cultural jamming activity, is full of bias.

In my opinion, to be able to challenge the status quo or simply to criticize the dominant power, independence and freedom are the main key points. If not, cultural jamming will be only full of bias and becomes “another ‘noise’ amongst other noises” (Cammaerts, 2007, p. 88) which will be barely heard.


Cammearts, B. (2007). Jamming the political: Beyond counter-hegemonic practices.

Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 21(1), 71-90.

Jogja Mural Forum. (2006). Available from

O’Shaughnessy, M., & Stadler, J. (2005). Media and society: The introduction. Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. Prior, F. (2009, July 27).

Urban artist go wild in carpark. The West Australian, p. 9. Werwath, T. 2006. The culture and politics of graffiti art. Retrieved from


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