Sunday, January 21, 2007

gray box

The wheat paste gums his fingers as he fumbles with the small poster. It is dark, but the vague light of the tower still makes him nervous. He must be quick. The gray metal box in front of him has been used before. Pieces of other advertisements and statements encrust it, clinging to the thin residue of glue still remaining. They tell of events past and sentiments forgotten and of the many others who have furtively made their posts in the night. Clumsily scrawled tags of permanent marker cover the box, only to be endlessly written over and washed away by the rain. Their authors do not realize that the only ones who recognize these territorial claims are those who would replace the most recent name with their own. It is an old game, played in many cites and on many surfaces. The cycles of creation and destruction, of overwriting and whitewash form an endless loop. The layers of poster and glue and ink grow like mold on these surfaces, with the organic binders shrinking and the pigments fading in time. Though shop owners and weather occasionally erase this build up, it soon begins again, at night, as if alive. His contribution is political. The photocopied cartoon depicts politicians, oil, money, and blood, a story no doubt already familiar to those who pass the box. Still, he thinks, it needs to be done. With the coffee shop next door he anticipates his sign might get good exposure. Done at last, he thinks. He checks down the sidewalk to see if anyone has spotted him. Confident, he walks away, fantasizing about those he might anger and those who might agree.

The city worker arrives at dawn. He opens the gray box and checks the readings, marking them on his clipboard. Behind him, the first customers of the coffee shop begin to arrive, paying him no attention. He packs his things into the truck, preparing to leave. He closes the door to the box and, as is his custom, removes the week’s worth of graffiti accumulated since his last visit. He laughs at the crude political cartoon. Today he is lucky, the glue is still wet. It comes off in one sheet.

5 comments:

everett said...

I didn't consider how people could be so obviously connected by something seperated only by time. Good point.

eray said...

You make tagging out to be a futile effort when in reality I think graffiti affects us city dwellers immensely whether we realize it or not. We may not pay attention to many of the misguided political quips scribbled onto every newspaper stand, but as a whole I think the public is immensely aware that they are surrounded -- nay consumed -- by the sea of spray paint that envelops their beloved strip malls. After all, what is a city without graffiti? I find it to be a fascinating subculture. Like Ely said, she likes to live in big cities because of the chance that a large group of people will come together for an event or coagulate in honor of a public exhibition. Like both you and Everett have shown, many people are connected to the graffiti subculture albeit separated by a lapse in time. And although there aren't big gatherings to commemorate a tagging exhibition you know that every city dweller would be shocked if one morning every tag were erased from the city landscape. Graffiti is like curdled milk. It's pretty foul, but without it we wouldn't have cheese. Or the beauty of an ugly city.


And you know this is not to say I didn't like your narrative Spencer, just another point of view.

Spencer Cook said...

I agree with you. I was not attempting to show a lack of interaction but rather a miscommunication. What one sees as a claim or as art most others disregard as scribbles. Like you say, graffiti affects everyone a great deal, though most people see it as a fuzz, an indistinct grime on the city. To these people, the destroyed pieces and their residue have much the same effect as those intact. I, as many can attest, like graffiti, even the bad stuff. Its a shame that most pay it no attention.

eray said...

Spoken like a true badass. Spencer you rock

natalia said...

good points. what if you could compare people's reactions to authenitic graffiti and people's reactions to sponsored graffiti, such as the piece on the back of the new coop parking garage. i'm not sure what the outcome would be, or if people would even care to tell the difference. but i would. it's not just about what is physically there. i find the beauty of graffiti is in the mystery of intent, and how it impacts its viewers.