On Permanence, and Other Silly Notions.

March 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Humans are a curious species. Imagine if ants had a little insect counterpart to David Attenborough that narrated our interactions in articulate reverence. If they did watch us, observing our behaviours with no native context, can you imagine how they might interpret something like graffiti?
On a broader plane, graffiti is, not always, but often, an artless testament to the human ego and an attempt at being unforgettable, eternal. Some of the above words, chiselled into the cliffside of the Cow and Calf boulders of the Yorkshire Dales, had been etched and dated over a hundred years ago. And how much more British can you get than carefully engraving ‘Marshall Bramley’ in a classic sans-serif font?

Wikipedia claims he is actually Lewis Marshall (pictured below), of the Bramley rugby team circa 1922. Was it Lewis, a fan, or a scholar, decades later, who took the time to scratch out his mark? Well, jokes on me. He held out long enough to make it to the internet, so has more or less made it into eternity. You win this round, Marshall.

Then there is another incarnation, the reluctantly popular Banksy. The anonymous, technically skilled and politically inflammatory graffiti artist who seems to satirise everyone in existence, especially his crowds of supporters. But I mostly wonder at so many people who seem to be enamoured with the idea of permanence, or even omniscience. New York based graffiti ‘artist’ BNE has streamlined his visual plague, printing stickers rather than going to the trouble of actually tagging something, and smearing them over Tokyo, Amsterdam and Melbourne, among many others (this is just where I’ve seen them, and initially I was perplexed at why Brisbane airport would turn to such a low-brow viral marketing scheme).
Much of the time graffiti is not even particularly creative, as I noted in Amsterdam from the viewing balcony of the Westerkerk Tower. Something like the scribble of our friend Vandaal below just makes you wonder why they bothered. Anne Frank made history next door in her annexe and years later some ratbag is compelled to make their fruitless mark on it. I’m not outraged (can’t be bothered to be outraged), I’m just miffed.

Get a job, son.


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