Me. Sad. Ded. Enmore Park, Enmore (Sydney), 2012.
Here is a graphic story published just recently in chalk on asphalt. I came across it one evening this week in Enmore Park outside the aquatic centre there.
The story is intense and personal. But who could have drawn it, and why here? At my place, our interpretation of the story has evolved the more we examine and discuss the words and pictures. I wonder what blog readers make of it.
Enmore Park, between the aquatic centre and the children’s playground, Enmore (Sydney), 2012.
Piss Alley, Enmore/Newtown (Sydney), 2010
There is light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve rounded the turn, I’m on the final leg, the end is in sight, I’ve entered the home straight. I’ve also just about reached the end of my tether. But huzzah! There is a definite possibility that I will finish this PhD project. I just have to polish the Pavement Appreciation website for you to have a look at, re-write a few chapters of the thesis, knock the bibliography into shape … well, it might take a couple more months yet, but I’m nearly there.
To celebrate this moment of optimism I am posting some of my pictures of graffiti on the floor of tunnels. I also have a few photos of wonderfully inventive graffiti on tunnel walls, made without the benefit of spray-can or paintbrush, but maybe I’ll save them for another time.
Graffiti Tunnel, Waterloo Station, London, 2010
Pedestrian underpass at Petersham Station (Sydney), 2009
Times change. Demographics alter. Districts evolve. And always there are people who would prefer things to stay as they are.
It doesn’t seem that long since the Newtown shopping strips of King Street and Enmore Road had stores that catered for all sorts of everyday needs – fruit and vegies, butchers, delicatessens, a Coles variety store, a department store with everything from gentlemen’s underwear to lengths of ribbon, a jewellers with wedding and engagement rings, tobacconists, electrical goods, and an army disposals store.
But the Greek bakery and the fish shop and a whole lot of other shops closed down and became cafés. And people complained in writing.
'Cafe quota filled', Enmore Road, 1999
The old-style shopping centre has continued its transformation into something that suits whatever the current population of residents and tourists happens to be. Just recently the ‘fish shop’ café and some other coffee shops have closed down. And people are writing to complain about that.
'Can we have another cafe here please. Can't handle another clothes shop', King Street, February 2012
Some things written in drying concrete probably don’t deserve to be preserved – trivial thoughts impetuously scribbled. But other inscriptions are sincere and loaded with meaning. When someone declares their love in the concrete, what are they thinking? Do they mean that their love will go on forever? Or do they simply want create a permanent memento of this romantic moment in their lives? Or are they casting a spell in the hope that the object of their love will reciprocate?
Observant pavement-watchers can sometimes follow the progress of a love story over a period of time.
This wet concrete inscription was photographed on the night it was made in June 2008.
'I heart Mouse', Liberty Street, Enmore, June 2008
This stencil appeared not so far away three years later.
'Marry me Mouse', Enmore Road, Enmore, August 2011
I wonder if they are related?
I am still thinking about why it is that some graffitists choose to write on the ground rather than on a wall or some other vertical surface. And that means I’m still thinking about graffiti that is site specific – where the message is relevant to that particular piece of pavement.
Here is a sad little piece of correction fluid graffiti. Gigantic Hills Fig trees are progressively being removed from this street in Enmore. Their roots break up the paving and are apparently playing havoc with people’s walls and sewer pipes. Perhaps they were an inappropriate choice for a street tree. But the street is looking bare without them and some of the residents – as well as all sorts of birds – are going to miss them. The loss of one of the trees is recorded in this tiny, signed epitaph: Tree replaced by cement! T.T. 10
There is more discussion and photographs of this tree and other trees in the same street on the Saving Our Trees website.
Evidently someone did not care for the message written on this concrete island in Enmore. As my previous blog noted, it read Bread is making birds sick. But now it has been haphazardly obliterated.
Walls and other vertical surfaces are the usual choice of background for graffiti writers. So why do some people choose to write on the pavement? Maybe because it’s easy – no need to scale walls or climb ladders. Maybe because the pavement is relatively bare – there’s more asphalt and concrete available than empty walls. Maybe because property owners don’t dob you in if you write on the ground.
All that is probably part of it, but there are other reasons as well. Many pavement inscriptions are site specific. Is this spot in Enmore a place where someone leaves bread for pigeons? If so, there’s not much point in leaving a polite little cardboard notice for them. Perhaps the glaring message Bread is making birds sick will have some effect in deterring them from polluting the street, attracting rats … and giving birds vitamin deficiency diseases.
That party in Enmore. It’s still going. Only at some stage it turned into a Bon Voyage Party. Having wished ‘Neill Bourke’ Happy Birthday the appendage-challenged gnome is now waving farewell. ‘Bye Bourkes XOX’, he’s saying.
The remote is by Numb (that’s Will Coles). The gnome is by Hazzy Bee. Thanks to Godot, the cabbie and graffiti blogger for this information. Here’s Godot’s Wallup blog, and here’s his Zombie film of Sydney Street Art.
In the month since I took the photograph of the mauve decorations I’m afraid they have faded considerably. But the party on the corner of this lane in Enmore is still happening. The disabled gnome has now become the bearer of birthday greetings for Mr Neill Bourke.
OK, the gnome and his party speech balloon are not on the pavement. I have allowed my eyes to stray vertically. But Numb’s cement confections certainly are pavement graffiti. Here’s a photo of another one just round the corner.
Now here’s a colourfully interesting grouping of pavement and close-to-pavement graffiti in Enmore. A gnomish amputee in paper, a soda siphon stencil, a cement cast – presumably by guerrilla artist Numb – and mauve crowns and circles. Mauve is an unusual colour for pavement graffiti and not particularly distinct on the mottled concrete. Did Numb add these embellishments to his own work or was the violet (not violent) spray-painter an admirer who came along afterwards?