On a wintry day in Orange (mid-western New South Wales) my graffiti-sensing camera picked up the ghost of a boastful hoon, faintly discernable through the sheen on the wet asphalt in the council car park. Street dawg 94 seems to be making a reappearance after being painted over years ago. Â
The dawgâ€™s inscription is autobiographical. He has written himself into the landscape of Orange. I wonder if he revisits the site to remind himself of what he used to be?
Bulli Pass, NSW
Pavement graffiti is not confined to the city. A drive further afield always turns up something good. I was heading to Sandon Point, north of Wollongong, to look for protest graffiti on the ground associated with localsâ€™ action to prevent development of the site. But on the way, at the top of Bulli Pass right where cars veer off the main highway at 100 kph to take the twisting descent down the pass, I found declarations of love: DALE 4 SHELL and UM 4 JODEE.
Only fleetingly readable, surely these messages written at such a dangerous spot
are evidence of great gallantry.
Here is a photograph from the archives. I took it in October 1999, before I owned a digital camera and when sometimes I took only one shot of each pavement embellishment I spotted. How I regret that!
This solitary metal plaque is just a few centimetres long (compare its size with the blobs of chewing gum on the asphalt). Itâ€™s on the footpath outside a shop in King Street, Newtown, south of the railway station and opposite the high school. At least it used to be there, but it disappeared when the pavement was upgraded some years ago. A number of people have mentioned it to me when they hear I take photos of pavement inscriptions and most know that it commemorated a girl (or woman) who was killed by a car that mounted the footpath.
Recently I tried to find out a bit more of this story. In the Glebe and Inner City News of 19 June and 26 June 1996 I read that Newtown woman Alison Gooch was killed when hit by a car as she walked along the footpath at about 3 am on Sunday 16 June. The car then hit a power pole before plunging through the front of the Direct Image store at 361 King Street. A 25-year-old Bondi man was subsequently charged with dangerous driving causing death and driving under the influence.
In the register of funerals at St Stephens Church, Newtown, it is recorded that a service was held for Alison Joy Gooch of Station Street, Newtown, on 21 June 1996. Alison was 29 years old.
I donâ€™t know who fixed the memorial plaque to the footpath.
Rest in Peace Ruben Hoddy
Itâ€™s a big old house divided into a warren of flatettes, in an increasingly desirable inner-westÂ neighbourhood. The last low-rent place in a street where the house next door was the first to hit the one million dollar mark ten years ago. It has its share of excitement â€“ the police, fire brigade or ambulance visit at least once a month, sirens screaming. Thereâ€™s often shouting â€“ in the house or on the street. There always seems to be rubbish piled out the front. Other people in the street mutter about how they wish â€˜those peopleâ€™ would go. But someone died there last month and someone cared enough to memorialise him on the footpath.
Camperdown Park, in inner western Sydney, is famous for the graffiti on the sandstone walls separating it from the St Stephens Church Cemetery. I have a book published in 1975 (Ellis & Turner, Australian Graffiti) with a black and white photo of graffiti messages in large lettering on this wall like â€˜Love is a many gendered thingâ€™ and â€˜Is there life after marriage?â€™
These days the political and often witty statements have been joined by more up-to-date styles of graffiti like â€˜balloonâ€™ lettering and stencils. The graffiti has also crept onto the paths in the park. It soon gets obliterated by pedestrians and cyclists, but three years ago I happened to capture the faint remnants ofÂ this one, which seems to have been written by aÂ person who was either very happy, or needed to make a statement, or both.
Every now and then a memorial for someone who has died appears on the pavement. Usually there is a very good reason why the memorial has been written at that time on that particular spot on the ground.
Teenager Alex Wildman died in July 2008, his suicide and the inquest that followed attracting much media attention because of allegations of bullying at his high school near Lismore in northern NSW. Epitaphs for Alex appeared in â€˜unofficialâ€™ media, such as videos on YouTube and graffiti on footpaths. The graffiti was written around the Campbelltown area in south-western Sydney by Alexâ€™s friends at Ingleburn High School, where he had been a pupil until his family moved to Lismore.
The painted RIP in the photograph appeared some months after much smaller messages for Alex were written in black texta along the edges of the same footpath on the western side of Macarthur Railway Station.
I have written about memorialization of the dead on the pavement in City of Epitaphs, an article recently published in the on-line journal Culture Unbound.
Hicks, M. 2009. City of epitaphs. Culture Unbound 1 (Article 26):453-467.
If you are like me, and enjoy discovering obituaries and other unexpected messages on the pavement, then I wish you a pleasurably doleful New Year.
Every so often a large romantic message turns up on the pavement â€“ sometimes on a country road, sometimes on a city street â€“ turning private feelings into blaring headlines. Obviously premeditated and deliberately located so they will be seen by the object of affection (or disappointment), these messages canâ€™t be compared with the miniature declarations of love made by wet cement opportunists. I believe they are generally written by males. Am I right?
Shane loves Bonnie was written in Wilson Street, Newtown, in 2008. I photographed Please come home I love you in Surry Hills in 2005 when it had been there for a long time.
Iâ€™ve written about public-personal notices in an article in the journal antiTHESIS.
Hicks, M. Hard feelings.Â antiTHESISÂ 19 Exhibitionism:Â 229-233.
I wonder how many people know the story behind the coloured flowers on the traffic island at Newtown Bridge? They were originally painted during a day-long Reclaim the Streets party in November 1999, but if that were the whole story they would have worn off long ago. In fact, these flowers were deliberately preserved by friends of Kathy Jones.
Kathy was an artist who worked with advocacy groups for disadvantaged people in the Newtown area. On the day of the Reclaim the Streets demo it was Kathy who organised the decoration of roadways, kerbs and traffic islands at the intersection of King Street and Enmore Road. Â Just a few months later Kathy died. Her friends tied notices to the light poles to let local people know she had gone and coated this particular set of painted flowers with marine varnish. My photograph was taken in 2005 when regular applications of varnish had kept the bouquet fresh for six years. In 2009 the flowers, while still visible, are gradually fading away.