There is a movement to cherish and preserve urban graffiti going on right now, and they mean the spray-painted stuff, not the 'Kilroy woz here', post-war variety.
One graffiti artist who makes works to commission which are very figurative, says that he even loves the 'tags' which are scrawled on anything which stays motionless for long enough after dark.
Whenever I take the train into London (I try not to drive there anymore) I am forced to look at all the tags sprayed onto the blackened walls of the last few miles through the wilderness which sprawls Westwards from Paddington, and I find them really depressing. They are even sprayed onto stationary goods trucks. I have seen vans and cars which have been parked overnight in the wrong area, sprayed with crude tags, and I am reminded about how a dog will piss onto the wheels of a car, so that his scent will be noticed by many more than it would have been against a wall or lamp post.
The linear run-up to Paddington involves reading the same tags over and over again as you pass through the authors' little territories between one estate and another, and the train is moving at a walking pace by then, giving you plenty of time to admire them. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat... I am sorry, but works of art they are not.
And yet I just love it when I go into a church and see a name and date crudely carved into the medieval woodwork of an oak pew by a bored and extremely naughty, 17th century schoolboy.
They have preserved the obscene and offensive, 1940s graffiti scrawled onto the walls of the Berlin Reichstag by the liberating Russian soldiers, but I am guessing that these are in Russian, so not immediately offensive to the locals.
In my work, I have never wanted to leave my signature or any message that I have ever been anywhere near the item, but I think this is quite a rare thing - not to want to leave your mark. Samuel Pepys did not write those diaries thinking they would be a best seller for the next 400 years.
I built a huge stone fireplace in a new house in Florida once, and because this thing was made of stone - in Paris (Europe), about 200 years ago - a carpenter working on the same site thought he would immortalise himself by scribbling his own name and that day's date, in pencil, at eye-level. The owners came by the same day and were furious at the idiot's defacing, so he was forced to rub it out and he almost lost his job.
A friend of mine who works in marble, converted a huge Catholic alter table into a domestic surface for some rich clients. This old alter-piece had a little cavity in it for a holy relic, and the relic had been removed by the church before they sold it off.
Before he glued the marble lid back into place, he wrote "I, S**** P*****, restored this alter on the fifth day of the eighth month, in the year of our Lord, 1987" on a piece of paper (or parchment - I forget which), folded it up, then placed it into the relic cavity before fixing the lid. He imagined that - in around 300 years time - someone would discover his note and marvel at the skill of ancient craftsmen.
The owner removed the lid the next day, for some reason, found his note, read it whilst laughing, screwed it up and threw it away.
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