In the city, life is complicated and boundaries are indistinct. Because peopleâ€™s lives butt up against each other, behaviour is bound by rules of social etiquette. Feelings of loss and frustration are exacerbated when others overstep boundaries and fail to observe â€˜the rulesâ€™. When this happens, people look for ways to re-establish their individuality.
The lowly pavement â€“ that shared space that belongs to everyone and no one â€“ is sometimes co-opted by people attempting to assert themselves. The anonymous airing of petty grievances on and about the pavement is a satisfying way of alleviating feelings of powerlessness.
People paint â€˜Bread is making birds sickâ€™ on areas where other people feed pigeons; they chalk circles around dog droppings and write â€˜Filthy dog ownerâ€™.
Their notices are rather like the notes that are left in the kitchens and bathrooms of workplaces and share houses to â€˜Wash up after yourselfâ€™ and â€˜Use the toilet brushâ€™. Someone who â€˜breaks the rulesâ€™ is rebuked, without the need for face-to-face confrontation. Pavement remonstrations are delivered and received with eyes lowered, and in this way public decorum is maintained.
For more about this kind of graffiti see:
Hicks, Megan, 2011, â€˜Surface reflections: Personal graffiti on the pavementâ€™, Australasian Journal of Popular Culture 1(3): 365 – 382.