It’s Not Black And White.

003The question “What does it mean?” in regard to any work of art is, in my opinion, overrated. I’m not saying it’s unimportant, but if an artist is trying to say something that can be summed up in a simple sentence or two they can just come right out and say “Don’t play with razor blades in the middle of the interstate”. The more important question, I think, is, “Do I like this?” If you like something then it has some kind of meaning for you even if you can’t put it into words. And if you like it maybe you’ll try to understand what the artist’s intentions were, what meaning the work had for the person who created it and what, if anything, they hoped to convey. Maybe knowing what the artist wanted to convey will help you understand why you like a specific work.

I always wonder about the artist’s intentions with any graffiti I see but I’m especially fascinated by these two words. From the handwriting I’m pretty sure it’s the same person. What did they mean here?

The Oxford English Dictionary helps a little. “Abate” can be a noun that means “Diminution, reduction”, or a verb meaning “To put an end to” or ” To take possession of land between the death of the owner and the accession of the heir, thereby keeping the legitimate heir out of possession”. It can also mean ” Of a falcon, hawk, etc.: to beat or flap the wings, to flutter”.

All those definitions are listed as obsolete which is weird because I’m sure I’ve heard the word “abate” used, or maybe I’m just hanging around obsolete people.

So what is “erge”? Even though it’s kinda funky I’m pretty sure that second letter is an “r”. This would be a lot easier to figure out if it were an “d” because I know what “edge” means but not even the OED helps with “erge”. I have to go farther afield and consult the Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures by Theresa Bane: “From Basque mythology comes the demon Erge (‘taker’). The intangible and invisible demon of death, he takes a person when he feels that their time is right.”

I have no clue whether that’s what the artist intended and it doesn’t really matter. I like it.

Seen any graffiti you like? Send a picture to freethinkers@nerosoft.com. I’ll give you credit, unless you wouldn’t like that.

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    I like it, too. Erge, abate!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes! I thought it might be a gather-ye-rosebuds statement, warning that as life abates Erge approaches, but yours is a more glass-half-full reading.

      Reply
  2. Library Heather

    I wonder if the artist’s name is Erge? I confess when I first saw it, I thought it was Edge.

    My question, when encountering art is, “How does it make me feel?” Which is pretty close to “Do I like it?”

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I thought it might be Edge too, and Erge is a relatively common German last name, but if this was someone using a word as obsolete and obscure as “abate” it’s not that much of a stretch to think they’re drawing a name from Basque mythology.
      And “How does it make me feel?” is a really good question. It’s close to “Do I like it?” because if it doesn’t make you feel anything it’s not something you’re going to waste time on.

      Reply
  3. Gina W.

    I just wanted to say that I was glad to see that you would like to receive graffiti pics. I’ve been out and about in the world and seen graffiti and thought of you. However, I’ve never taken any photos. I’ll make an effort to do so in the future.

    When I take the “back” way home, often I get stuck by the railroad tracks. I need to cross them to get home. It sucks to wait for the train to pass, however it seems like nearly every train car is covered in graffiti, so sometimes it’s interesting to watch. I’ll have to see if I can capture anything; it can be hard with the train moving, so no guarantees.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      few months ago we were passing through Cincinnati and for some reason I saw a lot of amazing graffiti–really elaborate stuff–there, but there was no way to take a picture of it. And that’s when it occurred to me that I should ask for submissions.
      Taking a picture of a moving train is certainly difficult and it’s even more difficult to take a picture from a moving car. Obviously you shouldn’t even try while driving but even in the passenger seat it’s not easy. We regularly pass by a spot where there was a beautiful multi-color mural of flowers under an overpass. I never did get a picture of it and now the city has painted over it. It’s a real shame.

      Reply
  4. educational mentorship

    One person’s defacement is another person’s philosophy. I love it when graffiti provokes thought!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes! That’s why I have mixed feelings about graffiti. On the one hand it’s defacement and if left unchecked could lead to chaos. On the other hand it can be thought-provoking and even make a drab space more beautiful.

      Reply
  5. kdcol

    Ever the pessimist, I usually associate “word” graffiti as being somehow related to gangs, and they’re sending not-so-nice messages to each other. Or maybe they’re marking their territory? I guess I’ve just never understood the urge to put graffiti on anything. I’m sure it has nothing to do with me not even being able to draw a decent stick figure. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      A lot of it does seem to be gangs marking their territory, although there are others that seem to be a particular artist’s name. And some of those names intrigue me but I also think, hey, if you’re going to all that trouble why not draw a picture? And if you can’t draw a picture why bother?
      That’s probably why, even though graffiti fascinates me, I’ve never felt compelled to add any of my own.

      Reply

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