Roadworks retrospective

08kP1040346X-blog

Pothole marked for repair, Newtown, 2008. Photo by meganix.

 

Comedian Dave O’Neil has been to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition, From the sidewalk to the catwalk, at the National Gallery of Victoria. He liked it because he’s into seeing what one person can achieve in a lifetime. But as Dave says in his newspaper column:

“It’s kind of sad that it’s mostly famous people who get exhibitions and accolades.

“Gautier rightfully gets his time in the sun, but what about other people who have contributed to society in some of the less glamorous fields? Wouldn’t you love to see an exhibition tracking the life of a road worker?

“Someone who goes around fixing potholes and other structural problems in the roads.

“Imagine the before and after shots of carefully repaired roads, a map pinpointing all the achievements and major works over the years.

“I can see a Next Wave Festival highlight already. I’m putting in for funding as soon as I finish writing this column.”

Yes please, Dave.

Glebe (Sydney), 2004. Photo by meganix.

Glebe (Sydney), 2004. Photo by meganix.

Dave O’Neil, ‘Man about town: celebrities are not the only ones who deserve an exhibition about their life’, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 2015, The Shortlist, p.2.

 

Christian graffiti

13i-ncP1020357-PraiseGodBus

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.

13i-nc-P1020358-PraiseGodMa

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.

2231833-Christian_graffiti_

 

Hearts

I spotted this heart – or rather, cardioid shape – on a road in Glebe (Sydney) a week ago. As I drove towards it I thought it must be a very clever piece of hot rubber graffiti, but when I took a closer look I wasn’t too sure. It might be paint or some tarry substance.

Anyway because it’s Spring, the season for romance, I thought I’d go back through the archives and share a few more photographs of love-hearts tattooed on the pavement.

‘I (heart) U BEC’, near Temora in southern New South Wales (Australia).

‘SKR + BKR’, Stanmore (Sydney), 2008.

‘I (heart) you lots anb losts’, Enmore (Sydney), 2010.

A heart on the corner of one man’s Epicenter of Love in Fitzroy (Melbourne), 2011.

Sgraffito

(Pedant alert – Vocabulary lesson ahead)

I noticed an article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week where the word ‘sgraffito’ was used – correctly – to describe ornate plaster work that has been uncovered during the restoration of Glebe Town Hall in Sydney: Peeling back the layers to reveal Glebe’s true history. Sgraffito is a centuries-old decorative technique used on ceramics and plaster walls. Apparently when Glebe Town Hall was built 130 years ago, artisans used this technique to carve a pattern in still-wet white plaster to selectively reveal the pink plaster below.

 

City of Sydney’s architecture design manager, Chris McBride, with the examples of sgraffito discovered at Glebe Town Hall. Photo: Ben Rushton (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 July 2012).

The word sgraffito (plural sgraffiti) comes from the Italian word graffiare, meaning ‘to cut or scratch in stone’. It seems to have been used in the English language in the 18th century to describe incised pottery, but by the 19th century the word graffito (plural graffiti) was being used to mean the kind of casual wall writing that had survived at archaeological sites in Italy (including Pompeii), Egypt and Syria, for example, or on churches and other public buildings in Europe from the Middle Ages.

Graffito/graffiti was not used in the English language to refer to contemporary inscriptions until later in the 19th century, but even so, in this sense it remained an infrequently-used term until the mid-20th century. Scholarly interest in the writing on toilet walls seems to have popularised the term in the 1960s and 1970s.

For my own project I have been trawling the digitised newspapers on the marvellous website Trove, looking for early examples of pavement graffiti in Australia. I have found plenty, but not by searching with the term ‘graffiti’. I had to use search terms like ‘pavement writing’ or ‘footpath writing’. Until the 1960s the word ‘graffiti’ does not appear in Australian newspapers except in occasional news items about archaeological discoveries. One of the earliest references to modern graffiti that I found was in a travel article in the Australian Women’s Weekly (!). Journeying through Hungary in 1969 the writer notes that she saw ‘modern graffiti slogans about American aggressors in Vietnam’ on a wall in one village.

By the way, the story goes that when George Lucas made the coming-of-age movie American Graffiti (released in 1973, set in 1962), Universal Pictures objected to the film’s title, not knowing what ‘American graffiti’ meant. Lucas is said to have been dismayed when some executives assumed he was making an Italian movie about feet. Although over 60 alternative titles were suggested, Lucas prevailed with his original choice.

 

‘Scratch the surface’, King Street South, Newtown (Sydney), 2010.

 

References:

David, Bruno, and Meredith Wilson. 2002. Spaces of resistance: graffiti and Indigenous place markings in the early European contact period of northern Australia. In Inscribed Landscapes: Marking and Making Place, edited by B. David and M. Wilson. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Fleming, Juliet. 2001. Graffiti and the writing arts of early modern England. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press.

Reisner, Robert. 1971. Graffiti: two thousand years of wall writing. New York: Cowles Book Co., Inc.

‘American Graffiti’, Wikipedia, 23 July 2012.

The cycle of war

05e P1000543 PedOnly blogThere is an ongoing battle between cyclists and just about everyone else – motorists don’t want them on the roads, pedestrians (like me) don’t want them on the footpaths. The issue is a perennial filler for Sydney newspapers and has flared again this week in news stories, opinion pieces and letters to the editor.

In Australia, those who argue on the cyclists’ side point to the way in which cities in other developed countries have embraced the bicycle – but it’s not necessarily all plain cycling overseas. Apparently one of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists is the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.  Robert Sullivan, calling for an armistice, writes in the New York Times: “The stripe painted down the center of the elevated Brooklyn Bridge walkway, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, has become a line in the sand. We need to erase that line once and for all.” Here is an example where the record of a territorial struggle has been written on the pavement itself.

09a P1050485 BikeGive blogAlmost every sign, symbol, graphic and graffiti marked on the roads and sidewalks is a claim for territory. The two examples photographed for today’s blog record instances where pedestrians have had a victory over cyclists, officially at least, and probably only temporarily. The ineptly obliterated bicycle symbol overpainted with a ‘Pedestrian traffic only’ stencil was on the bridge at the corner of St Kilda Road and Flinders Street in Melbourne in 2005. The ‘Give way’ stencils appeared in parks in the City of Sydney towards the end of 2008 after many complaints from pedestrian park-users.

Translation required

09lSEP29-cP1070014 AntCrownI figured this sign was not meant for me. Some private joke or invitation, but still I was intrigued. Sat 1st? Yes, I got that – the previous Saturday was August 1st. Queen Street? King Street? Crown Street? No streets of that name anywhere near this spot, the corner of Ross and Hereford Streets, Forest Lodge (Glebe). And as for the upbeat insect?  No idea.

 

A month later I found an answer of sorts in Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, some three or four kilometres away. A notice chalked in the same hand for Surry Hills Markets, always held in Crown Street on the first Saturday of the month. So the notice in Glebe was meant for me … and everyone else. But I still don’t get the ant.

09lSEP29-cP1070113 CrownStMkt