On 42nd Street, near the New York Public Library, I spotted fresh chalk notices. Of course I had to photograph them even though I didn’t get a chance to read them properly because it was the evening rush hour and the sidewalks were crowded with people on their way home from work.
Then I noticed there were more police about than usual and suddenly I realised there was a protest march coming down the avenue, timed to disrupt the maximum number of people. Marchers were confined to the sidewalk and were accompanied by a phalanx of police motor cycles in the kerbside traffic lane. It was quite a sight.
The issue was the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ or, more properly, a Financial Speculation (or Transaction) Tax. Supporters of such a tax maintain it is a way to raise funds to meet human needs, like protecting public services, tackling poverty and dealing with climate change. The date was 17 September, the two-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.
It was good to see a strong showing from Occupy Wall Street. The previous weekend a small group claiming to be Occupy Wall Street was occupying space amongst all the weekend goings-on in Union Square. Their presence was not very impressive.
Tunnels are favourite locations for graffiti, not only tags and ‘writing’ but also creative — though unofficial — public artworks. The ephemeral nature of these makes them more interesting than the durable commissioned murals that are sometimes painted or tiled on tunnel walls. However charming or sophisticated the official works might be, they can become boring for people who pass that way day after day.
In Antwerp there is a pedestrian tunnel underneath the railway line between Centraal Station and Berchem. It has several artworks painted, pasted or projected on the walls, floor and even the ceiling.
Naturally I like the zebra crossing, given my interest in the symbolism of crosswalks. Perhaps, given the amount of bicycle and even motorcycle traffic in the tunnel, the artist had in mind that pedestrians needed assistance to cross safely from one side to the other, should they wish to do so. Or perhaps the artist wanted to encourage people to go against the flow, although going against the flow in this case would only bring you up against a brick wall.
My thanks to Duncan, a fellow participant at the Visual Methods Seminar at the University of Antwerp, for finding this pedestrian crossing for me. Thanks also to Alan for demonstrating the use of the crossing for the photo.
Apart from the Scallop Shell Trail for pilgrims I found another, less permanent trail on the footpaths of Antwerp. On Molenberg Straat these stencilled chickens and arrows led … where?
I think I might have found the answer on a sticker attached to a mooring bollard in another part of town. It is advertising ‘Ceci n.est past une galerie – a unique dinner concept’. Apparently this is a nomadic ‘restaurant’ where a small number of people share a table to eat, converse and view artworks in a private studio or house. The stencilled chickens I saw must have led to one of these locations. But was it the current one?
In some of the streets and squares of Antwerp I have spotted what I thought were brass cockle shells fixed to the cobbles.
A colleague explained what they meant and I have since found out more about them. The scallop shell is the emblem of Compostela pilgrims. Scallop shells on the ground guide them on the various routes that take them to the Way of St James, which leads to Compostela in Spain where the remains of apostle Saint James are supposedly buried.
Pilgrims whose route to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela takes them through Antwerp can visit the main sights in this city by following the Scallop Shell Trail, which runs from Saint Jacob’s Church to Saint Julian’s Inn (Sint-Julianusherberg) where they can find overnight accommodation.
Scallop shell on the footpath outside the entrance to St Jacob’s Church in Lange Nieuwstraat, Antwerp, Belgium.
The University of Antwerp, where I have been taking part in a summer school is scattered over a number of buildings, new and old, in the narrow cobbled streets near the centre of Antwerp. It just so happens that the building where most of the classes were held is directly opposite Saint Jacob’s Church.
The entrance to St Jacob’s Church in Sint Jacobs-straat, opposite Building M of the University of Antwerp. There are scallop shells decorating the cloak in the frieze above the door.
In my next blog post I will reveal another footpath trail in Antwerp.
I am writing this blog post from Antwerp in Belgium, where I am attending a Summer School in Visualising Urban Culture. Before I left Sydney I did a quick scout around some local streets, to catch up on any pavement graffiti I might have missed.
I found this body outline in a back street of Camperdown. A number of graffiti artists have utilized the walls of this closed-down factory building (now being renovated, presumably into desirable inner-city apartments). I don’t know why one of them turned their attention to the asphalt, but I like this chunky body on the road. It exemplifies my arrival in Antwerp. I hit the ground running and have been flat out ever since.
When I blogged about a chiselled, painted and Post-it noted survey mark recently, I invited Scott Taylor to comment and tell us more about survey marks. Scott is a surveyor who hosts the website Global Surveyors. This is what he had to say:
The red and white Post-it is actually called a Red and White!!! We aim our surveying instrument at the centre or join between the two colours, which we have positioned centrally over the survey mark.
There are many marks surveyors use, some placed in kerbs, rocks, trees, or buried under ground (hidden), and all on public record noted on a Deposited Plan.
Here are a couple of survey marks I happened to have on my phone. They are called Drill Hole and Wings. Like the blue mark in your photo, they are used for boundaries and are noted on a plan as being at a corner, or being a certain bearing and distance from a corner. They assist the surveyor to re-establish a boundary corner when that corner has disappeared or been destroyed.
- Photos: Scott Taylor
We paint almost every mark we place. Surveyors have no particular colour. I use whatever is available and feel as though I’m a graffiti artist most of the time.
Here is a rock mark from the 1800s, before and after it’s been painted. It’s referred to as a Broad Arrow. For those interested in survey marks there is a great publication called Marking the landscape: a short history of survey marks in New South Wales.
Photos: Scott Taylor
Will Coles (aka Numb) is a guerrilla street artist who knows a thing or two about aphorisms. His casts of consumerism’s cast-offs often bear one-word invitations to think deeply about the shallowness of present-day culture. So perhaps it was inevitable that he would eventually appropriate Arthur Stace’s single-word sermon, ‘Eternity’.
Thanks to my loyal band of spotters, I was able to find and photograph several of Will’s ‘Eternity’ drink cans this weekend. They were stuck to the stanchions of Sydney’s now defunct monorail, a train that went from nowhere to nowhere and connected to nothing. The monorail closed down at the end of June after uglifying the streets of Sydney for 25 years. Most people would say good riddance but Will had apparently found it a great space for his mini-installations. As a farewell gesture he hit it hard with his works last week, and by the time I got down to Pitt Street many of them had been souvenired while others had been damaged, presumably in an attempt to remove them.
Will Coles is an artist who straddles both the gallery and the street scene. A more dignified example of his work is currently on show at the high end of town, in a window of the Optiver Building in Hunter Street.
(My earlier blog posts about ‘Eternity’ can be found here and here, and Will Coles’s work pops up here, here and here)
Some time in the past this arrow-shaped survey mark has been chiselled into the concrete kerb of Regent Street, Redfern (Sydney). It will last as long as the kerb does. But to make it more visible it has been painted blue. Eventually the paint will be weathered away. Last week there was a man surveying the boundaries of a property that adjoins the pedestrian laneway off Regent Street. So that he could see where the survey mark was through his theodolite, he had stuck a red and white post-it note next to it. The post-it note was probably gone by the next day, blown away by the wind.
I have only presumed that’s what the post-it note was for. I don’t really understand survey marks. I wish I had thought to ask the surveyor about this one. But anyway, I have contacted Scott Taylor at the Global Surveyors website and invited him to comment on this Pavement Graffiti post. According to a blog post by Scott about ‘Interesting survey marks’, surveyors like him are magnetically attracted to survey marks in kerbs, roads and bridges, and drive their friends crazy saying, “Look, there’s a level datum”. Here at Pavement Graffiti we understand this level of fanaticism.
Following on from my earlier post about Eternity, I’ve noticed that someone regularly chalks Praise God! on kerbs in Glebe Point Road (Sydney), often at bus stops. It’s not the only piece of Christian graffiti I’ve come across on the ground, although I have more frequently found graffiti that mocks religion. Photos of these jokes and snide remarks are posted in my Pavement Appreciation gallery.
People have used the pavement for affirmation of their Christianity from very early times, as evidenced at the remains of the formerly important Roman city of Ephesus, located in the east of what is now Turkey. Ephesus is mentioned in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Among the archaeological finds are symbols carved into the paving stones of the Arcadian Way. These symbols are made up of a set of Greek letters that have been interpreted by classics scholars as standing for ‘Jesus Christ Saviour Son of God’.
The following photograph was posted by aaron60 in his Ephesus Travel Page on the Virtual Tourist website. At least two of these segmented circular Christian symbols can be seen.
A story told in strange footprints on Lawson Street near Abercrombie Street, Darlington (Sydney).