Joseph Kyselak / The Father of Graffiti


–I found the Kyselak story HERE
*Thank you Nicholas!

Have you ever heard of Joseph Kyselak? No?
That is not too surprising. Even though the Austria-born magistrate is perceived nowadays as the ancestor of modern day graffiti. Kyselak was born in Vienna on December 23rd, 1799. His perspectives weren’t too bad for a man of his time. His Family was fairly rich and he was able to go to University. Anyway Kyselak obviously was far from too much career-orientated.
Sometime in the early 1820s, Kyselak made a bet with a couple of friends in Vienna. He bet that his name would be known all over the Austria-Hungarian Empire within 3 years (a vast piece of land at that time) without inventing a new kind of suicide (in fact, the people from Vienna were obviously well known for commiting suicide in very unorthodox ways). What he invented instead was nothing less than modern-day “tagging”. Kyselak travelled all over Central Europe in 1825 leaving his name in bright red and black at each and every exposed place he could find. The tag “Kyselak” could soon be found everywhere. He painted it on churches and castles, rocks and trees, bridges and obelisks. And in fact, within a year even his betting partners had to admit that Kyselak had indeed become very well known all over Austria and that he has won the bet.
But Kyselak could not stop. He started tagging buildings as soon as they were opened to the public. He was even asked by the police not to paint his name to a new Bridge over the Danube until the public opening ceremony was over. Kyselak agreed and waited one more week until his well known signature could be found painted on the bridge. Kyselak can be seen as the father of modern-day tagging since he did not do anything but paint his name on a wall. He did not create pictures or symbols, his nickname was enough. As in modern-day graffiti viewers don’t necessarily know what a tag means. It is just a name without an additional information. And that, indeed, makes Kyselak an ancestor to nowaday’s street culture. To make a long story short: Kyselak only became 31 years old. He obviously became fed up with this life and when the Cholera broke out in Vienna in 1831, Kyselak refused to leave the City. As it is a good way to get infected with Cholera bacteria he decided to eat loads and loads of unwashed plums and finally died of Cholera on September 17th, 1831. Eventually he did not only invent tagging, but also a weird new way to commit suicide.

Juan Carlos Noria

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