on the use of eyes in street art
Stroll through downtown Los Angeles, up New York's Broadway, or along the avenues of Philadelphia's Center City, and look in the forgotten, in the grimy, and in the underused places. With a keen glance and a bit of luck, you will witness the riotous beauty known as street art. Oh, what a profusion of style and color, of shape and size, of message and image, all blending into a whole that, if viewed from afar, resembles little more than visual clutter; but get in good and close, and follow the guidance of your peripheral vision, and your most tender of sphincters will drink invariably of the intoxicating power of street art.
But why do we look? Why are we powerless against the urge to sweep our gazes into worn and sticky places and up onto soot-covered utility poles? Eyes, my friends, we look at graffiti because it is full of eyes (and not just any type of eyes, but human eyes). Perhaps they stumbled upon the technique accidentally, perhaps they copied it from advertisers, or maybe they just plain Knew to tap into one of mankind's most primal and deep-seated fears, but, however it occurred, street artists employ one of the most basic methods for getting people to look at something – to give it eyes.
Since our time as forest-creeping, prairie-running, skull-bashing troglodytes, the species homo sapiens has developed the uncanny ability to recognize the shape of the eye even if it should be obscured by layers of seemingly random patterns. While experts may argue whether this ability is restricted merely to recognizing the human eye, or if it applies to the eyes of all of our former predators (think bear, cougar, coyote), few persons dispute the fact that our brains are really good at figuring out if someone, or something, is looking at us. Advertisers exploit this evolutionary adaptation to our status as Top Predator Of One Another by blanketing the phaltscape with pictures of pretty people who nearly all happened to have been staring directly at the camera's shutter when it opened. (Now, however, instead of our powers giving us the upper hand in a fight-or-flight situation, they allow us to be convinced that we need that new and re-formulated cucumber body scrub; woe be unto mankind.)
All quasi-scientific, pseudo-evolutionary nonsense aside (I am not a scientist, nor am I particularly intelligent or well-versed) – why do graffiti-writers use so many eyes in their designs? Why in the name of Beelzebub do they wish for people to look at their works of art, and to what purpose do they make use of our aforementioned ability to pick eyes out of the ether? As the SDUBS (self directed urban beautification specialist) is wily and suspicious by nature, and since she maintains a level of honor, decorum, and discipline so profound as to make inquiry into her personal matters a life-threatening endeavor, these questions shall likely go unanswered for many generations to come. For now, however, please enjoy the street-side galleries of free-to-the-consumer art wherever you may be, and rest easily in the knowledge that, by looking back at eyes that look at you, you are merely executing a deeply-ingrained survival reflex that is as natural to humans as is laughter. Never forget, however, to keep an eye out for your fellow man, he who has been hunting you for longer than you shall likely ever know.
americanifesto / JPR / whorphan / 場黑麥
dreamstate writing 2 February 2016
The entire dream is lost to me. I remember though, that at one point toward the end there was a very tall and lanky man chasing me through small and cramped hallways that were lit by an ethereal glow.
Only a few times in previous dreams have I turned around to see what menace was hot on my heels. Once, I slipped from the small and cramped hallways into a filthy room, where I found an enormously fat man-beast pleasuring itself in front of a computer. Upon my intrusion it had struggled out of its rolling office chair to chase me out again, a silent howl of rage spewing from its cracked and swollen lips.
While I was in the recent dream and turning to flee from the lanky man, I made eye contact with a handful of normal-sized humans who were standing about or rushing to get out of the way. One of them was a woman holding a small child. Most of the others were adolescents who appeared to be cowering in the shadows. Each of them, however, regardless of size, had eyes that were completely black, no whites showing. Their onyx pits flashed brightly at me as I picked up my feet and fled.
JPR / whorphan / americanifesto / 場黑
Over the weekend, I engaged with a staunchly vegan friend in heated debate about the taking of life. At root, my argument was that in order for us humans to stay alive, something else must die. Each living human sends tens of thousands of living bacteria to perish in a lake of his stomach acid every time he swallow. Each vegan takes the life of a broccoli plant when he lops its head off; he denies the soy plant the ability to live when he eats its beans instead of planting them; he kills countless bacteria every time he washes his hands with soap or spills a drop of vodka onto a wooden bar-top. Hence, the only thing a person can do to avoid killing other living things, every day, is to die.
In my experience, certain vegans rationalize their dietary and life choices according to the 'cute and cuddly' argument: since a cow can turn supposedly doleful eyes back at its butcher and certain emotions can be interpreted into its gaze, it should not be killed. Another is what I call the 'flight' argument: since a chicken can run away from a person trying to catch it (whereas an onion cannot), it wants to stay alive and must therefore not be killed. A third argument is 'it has eyes, and a mother, and should therefore not be killed.' My vegan friend made extensive use of the 'it has eyes' argument; indeed, it seemed to sit at the core of his very existence. That, and saying that since he can't see bacteria with his own eyes, I could not prove to him that they were alive, fled from danger, or even existed. Oh, and trying to shame me into admitting I would eat the liver of a human baby if one were served up to me mixed up in a bowl with the livers of other animals. (For myself, on the day-to-day, I choose to eat only plant products, but since I will eat whatever a host puts in front of me while a guest in his home, I without shame admitted that I would probably – but not willingly – eat a member of my own species...) When I made the point that potatoes have eyes, my counterpart argued that this was only a matter of definition, to which I countered with something like, “So, if we started calling the sight organs of animals something other than 'eyes,' would it be OK to eat them?” He responded by launching back into shaming mode and accusing me of wanting to eat babies. After nearly an hour of cyclical conversation and me admitting to being a monster and a (potential) cannibal, I brought things to a point, asking my vegan friend if he agreed that by eating a tomato, a soy bean, or an apple, he was a taker of life. A killer. He responded by saying that, according to what he referred to as the 'food chain,' it is natural for humans to eat not only plants but also the products of plants. That, for him, eating the seed of a plant is not killing. That, since plants cannot run away and he cannot hear their screams of agony (certain pine trees scream at frequencies inaudible to humans when they're dying of thirst), they're freely giving up their fruits, and their lives. At that point, we ended the conversation, agreeing to disagree.
In my opinion, since a chicken's egg can grow up to become a chicken, it contains life, or at least the potential for life. In my opinion, since a soy (or any other) bean can grow up to become a soy (or any other) plant, it contains life, or at least the potential for life. Therefore, for me, there's no difference between a chicken's egg and a soy bean. I am a vegetarian primarily because I like the way my body and mind feel when I'm vegetarian. Also, I do not wish to support an animal husbandry industry that causes undue suffering to the lives in its care, destroys Earth's environment, and massively overuses antibiotics. Plus, I find that eating a lot of meat causes my blood-chemistry to become unbalanced. Before each meal, whether it should contain meat or plant products, I try to take a moment to thank the food for sacrificing itself so that I might live. George Bernard Shaw once wrote: 'Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends.' Every time I hear Shaw's quote used by a vegan person to self-aggrandize his or her dietary and life decisions, however, I want to add this: 'But plants? Fuck plants – I'll kill and eat the shit out a fucking plant.' I will write more on this subject once my passions have subsided and my tone is more rational. Essentially, however, all life is precious, and we would do well to be thankful for everything that dies to keep us alive, no matter how stationary, unattractive, or small it may be. In this way, we can start to develop a deeper compassion for all things living, not just things with eyes we might want to cuddle.
© americanifesto / 場黑麥
blog updated Fridays, usually
I bicycle, write, surf, and strive.