I found this graffiti in Berlin, sprayed around the city, in front of offices, or shop doorways. In this, the second of a series of Graffiti Stories, i wanted to reflect on the story that is being told, and what it means in the broader context of cultural graffiti, a story shared in an edge-land space.
The graffiti i shared yesterday told a story in images, whilst this one is in words. Yesterday, we saw a mural, whilst this is a statement, or an incitement. Arguably, yesterday was a story that we need to deconstruct, to analyse, whilst this gains it’s power through the direct meaning, or invocation.
The mural, as art, is location based, created as a one off, whilst this type of graffiti is really just an extended tag: not only can it be repeated at speed, through a stencil, but it can also spread through a storytelling network: anyone can make their own stencil. The meaning is not held in the form, but rather in the message. This gives the story a new ability: that of jumping between spaces, transmitted as an idea. This is an idea found in more classical art: Lawrence Weiner’s ‘A wall pitted by a single air rifle shot’ from the sixties is ‘transmitted’ as words, and instructions for installation. You can shoot your own wall.
The message conveyed is contemporary, presumably aligned to the core messages of the #MeToo movement, a wider narrative about gendered power. It’s a story scattered in the wind (unless detailed analysis preceded it, to discover which doors needed to rise up). An invocation of the thing, and a call to action. Non specific: the movement is ‘up’, with no need for consensus beyond that, which is an interesting dynamic of the story. ‘Consensus’ stories need alignment on ‘what’ the end state is, but this type of ‘alignment’ story is more general. Pretty much anyone can get behind it.
There’s something about the canvas: the floor literally represents ‘down’, a suitable counterpoint to ‘rising up’. And this floor is studded with old gum, damp from the rain, pitted from use. It’s hard to imagine a more vernacular, downtrodden, place from which to rise.
Graffiti is a claimed voice, a shout, a plea, an unidentified voice. Considering the language of graffiti, the ways it finds it’s meaning and power, can help us to understand our broader landscape of stories.
Love your blog, keep it up!
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
For me, this piece raises a question about the identity of the person who did it. If I, as a woman, had a sign like this that I was carrying at, say, a women’s rally or march, I’d probably just write “rise up,” as the identity of the “speaker” and the “audience” would be obvious. If it’s directed *at* women (by whomever), it could have a comma after “women” for greater clarity. Without it, it could be–rather than a directive or incitement–a commentary on what is happening: “Women are rising up! And we’re excited about that fact!” Is the “speaker” someone who doesn’t identify as female, and who sees women as the “go-to” saviors with regard to whatever? Is the speaker female, but wants to be sure that women in particular get the message? You noted the “end goal” and the means/place of transmission (the wind, the non-specificity of the location), but your discourse on this piece got me thinking about messenger and receiver. I learned about your work when you presented remotely (from your home) at a regional ATD meeting in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan earlier this year. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughtful reflections Denise: i really appreciate them! Yes, i remember the session. By coincidence, i am just home from another ATD session, having presented the keynote at the Saudi Arabia ATD conference yesterday! With best wishes, and thanks for being part of this community, best wishes, Julian
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