Stefano Bloch is a cultural geographer, autoethnographer, and (semi-retired) graffiti writer from Los Angeles. He has a BA in literature from UC Santa Cruz (2001), an MA in urban planning from UCLA (2005), a Ph.D in geography from the University of Minnesota (2013), and was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow with the Cogut Center for the Humanities (2015) and a Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow in the Urban Studies Program at Brown University (2017).
He is an assistant professor in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona.
“We could have been called a lot of things: brazen vandals, scared kids, threats to social order, self-obsessed egomaniacs, marginalized youth, outsider artists, trend setters, and thrill seekers. But, to me, we were just regular kids growing up hard in America and making the city our own. Being ‘writers’ gave us something to live for and ‘going all city’ gave us something to strive for; and for some of my friends it was something to die for.”
In the age of Banksy, hipster street art, and commissioned wall murals, it’s easy to forget graffiti’s complicated and often violent past in the United States. Though graffiti has become one of the most influential art forms of the twenty-first century, cities across the United States waged a war against it from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, complete with brutal police task forces. Who were the much-maligned taggers they targeted? Teenagers, usually, from low-income neighborhoods with little to their names except a few spray cans and a desperate need to be seen—to mark their presence on city walls and buildings even as their cities turned a blind eye to them.
Going All City is the mesmerizing and painful story of these young graffiti writers, told by one of their own. Prolific LA writer Stefano Bloch came of age in the late 1990s amid constant violence, poverty, and vulnerability. He recounts vicious interactions with police; debating whether to take undocumented friends with gunshot wounds to the hospital; coping with his mother’s heroin addiction; instability and homelessness; and his dread that his stepfather would get out of jail and tip his unstable life into full-blown chaos. But he also recalls moments of peace and exhilaration: marking a fresh tag; the thrill of running with his crew at night; exploring the secret landscape of LA; the dream and success of going all city.
Bloch holds nothing back in this fierce, poignant memoir and ethnography. Going All City is an unflinching portrait of a deeply maligned subculture and an unforgettable account of what writing on city walls means to the most vulnerable people living within them.
“THIS VIVID AUTOETHNOGRAPHY PROVIDES A SHATTERING ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN LA 'GANG HOODS' - AND THE WARMTH AND COMPANIONSHIP THAT SOMEHOW SURVIVE THE HORRORS. A REMARKABLE PICTURE, PRESENTED WITH INSIGHT AND SYMPATHETIC UNDERSTANDING"
- Noam Chomsky
"[BLOCH] IS THE ULTIMATE INSIDER IN AN OUTSIDER SUBCULTURE, A LEGEND FOR HIS PRODUCTIVITY AND TIRELESSNESS; AND HIS INSIGHT INTO THIS WORLD IS FRANK, COMPELLING, AND ENLIGHTENING ALL AT ONCE....FEW WORKS EXPLORE L.A. WITH THE DEPTH THAT GOING ALL CITY ACCOMPLISHES"
- Los Angeles Review of Books
“BLOCH BLENDS RESONANT MEMOIR, ACADEMIC SCHOLARSHIP, AND STREETWISE STORYTELLING IN A TRULY UNIQUE URBAN STUDY "
"GOING ALL CITY IS THAT RAREST TEXT, BOTH A GRIPPING MEMOIR OF LIFE ON THE STREET, AS WELL AS AN ACADEMIC TREATISE....BLOCH'S STORY IS PERSONAL, BUT ALSO A PRIMER ON GRAFFITI'S HISTORY AND TECHNIQUE, AS WELL AS ITS ARTISTIC AND SOCIAL IMPORT"
Going All City is an amazing read that is impossible to put down. A cutting-edge geographical exploration of under-examined Los Angeles landscapes, this poignant, insightful book is unique within graffiti scholarship and expansive in our understanding of the city. Depicting the pain of a childhood spent in poverty, the ambiguity of race, and the subjective experience of policing and gangs, this is the remarkable story of just one of thousands of young people who have found power in the clandestine practice of graffiti.”
— Susan A. Phillips, author of The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti.
“Bloch unflinchingly peels back all the layers of artifice, hype, and sensationalism to reveal a stark portrait of struggling to survive and make meaning in a landscape
of disorder and deprivation.”
—Alex S. Vitale, author of The End of Policing.
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