It was a bright day and I was bicycling along a footpath on top of a concrete dam. Next to it was a park or greenswarth that was partly submerged in water. Ancient and rusting iron railings ran along the top of the dam, to keep people from falling into the park. Far above the tops of some tall trees to my left stood a cluster of improbably towering walkways, huge and sweeping glass-bottomed ramps that twisted and looped through the sky. I recognized the structure from a previous dream and was briefly saddened, for I knew there was no graffiti there for me to photograph.
Up ahead, the crest of the dam curved sharply to the left and merged with an earthen abutment. At the merge was a swinging gate, which stood open to allow pedestrians and cyclists through. It was equipped with reflective panels so that, when shut, it would be visible to motorists at night. To the right of the gate was a single-storey, dilapidated brick structure with a tile roof. Having seen a lot of stickers plastered to the gate and railing at the point of the merge, I doubled back to photograph them, the bicycle beneath me responding nimbly.
As I was photographing stickers out by the gate, a man walked past me, whom I for the most part ignored. I had the feeling that I was being watched from the park’s thick foliage, which was now to my right (since I had turned around), which compelled me to bicycle into the brick structure. Its windows were missing, allowing isolated shafts of bright sunlight to stream into a dark, cool interior with a churned-up dirt floor. A pair of wooden pillars supported the roof overhead. The wall to my left featured one standard-sized door and three windows. At the far end of the structure was stood another set of open double doors. Near the double doors through which I’d entered were a number of interesting bits of street art, which I photographed. Feeling emboldened by being inside (and away, I figured, from prying eyes), I removed a sticker from my wallet and cast about for a good spot to stick it.
As I was searching for the best possible place for my sticker to live, I glanced down at it where it was poised in my right hand. As is customary, part of it had been torn off upon completion, the other part showing an intricate, black and white drawing of a mask that resembled that of a Mexican lucha libre wrestler.
americanifesto / JPR / whorphan / 場黑麥
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
on cinematic directives
After watching the movie ‘Exit Through The Giftshop’, I labored to become a real graffito. Stickers. Studying. Field excursions. Permanent markers. More stickers. Reconnaissance. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Now, after having watched the movie ‘The Trotsky’ (starring Jay Baruchel), I ask myself if I am going to become a real revolutionary - not just some bitchy, uppity sap who spews forth with a weak broth of political vituperation on blogs that few people read and websites that few people visit. (I shall let this last sentence as an example of the self-deprecating thought processes and the vigilant self-censorship that many economic Untermenschen in America have been trained to exhibit in order to keep themselves in a state of mental and emotional subjugation.) It matters little how many people read these writings, for it is not up to me to direct or hinder the attentions of my fellow man; such decisions are made by forces beyond our ken, and I ought be happy with whatever I receive. (Hence this ancient saying: The giver knows the fullness of life, the taker but at an empty hand.)
Now, I have the opportunity to study the relevant texts and expand upon the ideas that America’s Founders laid down for a (Marxist) communist utopia upon her shores; to emulate the thinking and draw from the rhetoric that led millions to rise up in rebellion against their czarist overlords a century ago this year; and to rouse the rabble in the defense and reclamation of the rights and privileges taken from us by elected officials who have forgotten that their mission is to work for the benefit of all Americans not to enrich their affluent friends by keeping America in a constant state of war. Should I choose to take this path, I endeavor to avoid reinventing the wheel by culling from the great political works of the past such notions and platforms as I feel will help me and those who might join this cause to create a Ynki nation where all things that government does ‘seem most likely to effect [our] Safety and Happiness‘ (Declaration of Independence). Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!
JPR / whorphan / americanifesto / 場黑麥
If not down an alley then stuck up a pole is where most graffiti will badger and troll unwary onlookers who can’t help but glance at something toward which they’ll then take a stance. Oh gourd! they cry loudly when they spy a sticker or a sprayed-on piece and then proceed to bicker about if it is or it is not true art (this has been discussed since mankind got its start). One faction will argue to tear the piece down the other will say that such acts are unfounded - that stifling expression harms all of our race just like a swift kick to a suckerpunched face. Images and words are offensive to some as are crude depictions of women or guns; some others however find fault with a lot and refuse to give modern things a fair shot; some others meanwhile give just zero fucks about ‘sacrilegious’ or similar truck - they do as they please knowing that neighbors tend to choose what’s OK and what ought to offend. Onward then, graffitos - city-walls await! There’s no telling what could tonight be your fate! Make pretty the surfaces others ignore - your fanbase is massive and yearning for more.
© JPR / whorphan / americanifesto / 場黑麥
In the wake of apparently deliberate acts of art desecration, the city of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, lies stripped of much of its artistic and cultural heritage. Irreparably damaged are thousands of unique works posted at significant personal risk by scores of talented individuals; gone are untold treasures, wiped from the face of the Earth by the censor’s brush and scraper. Once a place which people visited to marvel at the ingenuity of the human imagination, Boston has joined the ranks of many other American cities that view street art as entirely devoid of intrinsic worth, something to be rooted out, painted over, and destroyed. As someone who travels to cities around the world in order to curate their graffiti, I weep at the destruction wrought by the city of Boston upon its open-air art galleries. Light poles once adorned with riots of colorful stickers now stand bare; walls once covered by compellingly crafted murals now display nothing more than a coating of drab paint.
Does Boston at least photograph these works of art before forcibly removing them from view? Would it allow an art-loving citizen such as me to precede its roving Art Desecration Squads so that I can at least photograph each piece before it is scraped off or painted over? Likely, it would not, as such a concession might lend credibility to the artistic endeavors of rogue but creative individuals who spend their time and money on trying to make the world a more colorful and exciting place. In our American police state, it appears, the only works of art that have the right to exist in public are politically correct advertisements selling us drugs and clothes, snacks and cellphones.
To be fair, there are some street artists whose primary aim appears to be the destruction of property. The majority of these elusive and cunning individuals, however, seem to be acting out of a desire to challenge the sterilization of our communal spaces, to bring color and design to areas devoid of both. Mankind’s oldest form of artistic expression, the application of graffiti spans millennia, continents, and cultures. From the Egyptian pyramids to the caves at Lascaux, from America’s oldest structures to ancient Southeast Asian cities, graffiti - more than perhaps any other form of artistic expression - unites mankind. To the graffiti lovers of the world: avoid Boston! Little remains here of our unique and exuberant cultural heritage.
© JPR / whorphan / americanifesto / 場黑麥
Cities go to great lengths to try and thwart the application of street art. They send out minions to paint over graffiti and scrape it away, apply materials that keep stickers from sticking, raise street signs and utility boxes higher to make them harder to reach, and cake on a cottage-cheese-like layer that diminishes a pole's available surface area. Not one of these measures keeps the graffito from pursuing his trade; rather, they force the SDUBS (self directed urban beautification specialist) to seek out new surfaces upon which to make his art, higher and less accessible areas to cover with paper or paint, new and craftier ways to make a name for himself in the riotous and anarchic meritocracy that is graffiti. We hope that someday the leadership councils of these cities will choose to promote and support the dazzling and intricate arrays of free artwork that the graffito spends his time and money creating and risks his life and liberty applying rather than them wasting limited resources on destroying beauty and making the asphalt landscape visually uniform. A barren phaltscape compels people to go home, draw a picture on a piece of paper, and tape or glue their creation to a neighborhood tree, pole, post, box, booth, or sign. Graffiti is among the oldest forms of human artistic expression we know of; for tens of thousands of years, mankind has been free to alter his surroundings, and there is indication he will be stopping anytime soon. Street art is here to stay and it will not be forced away so gather pen and pad and brush and get you outside – hurry, rush!
mentiri factorem fecit – 場黑麥
blog updated Fridays, usually
I bicycle, write, surf, and strive.