But What Does It Mean?

nopeburger1I took this picture last year and put it aside because I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I think it’s a really interesting piece of graffiti. The elaborate font is striking as is the color choice. Compared to the other graffiti around it this piece is really something special. But what does it mean?

It’s in an area that’s undergoing rapid development, right across the street from J.J.’s coffee shop (where I found some other interesting graffiti) in fact, where new apartments are going up all over the place and competing for space with restaurants, and local restaurants are competing with chains muscling in. It’s on the side of a building that was a small real estate office before it was taken over by a nearby comic book store that used it for overflow stock and then it was a tattoo studio. Now the building’s undergoing serious renovation and while they’re not knocking down the walls there’s no telling what’s going in there next but given the area’s gentrification it’s probably something expensive.

nopeburger2

The fence around the construction site makes it hard to get a good picture of it now.

So is it a statement of futility in the face of local history and culture being ground up into a bland “nope burger”? Or am I overreaching in an effort to make sense of something that’s meant to be purposely senseless?

I’m going to get a little meta-critical here and say that the major role of a critic is to make sense of culture, to explain things in a way that will make them fit into a cultural narrative. That’s what makes professional critics useful even though the only difference between a professional critic’s opinion and the opinion of somebody on the street is the professional critic’s opinion is usually better informed. Better informed doesn’t necessarily mean better, but that’s another story.

And even though professional critics are paid to offer opinions I think even they sometimes have to admit they don’t know what to say about something.

I’m not a professional critic, just a guy with some opinions who can embellish those opinions with what I know about art, but I look at this and I have no idea what to say except that I like it. Professional critics may feel differently.

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Sandra

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it says, “Nope burger” right? Maybe the artist was on a diet, and was all, “I’m craving a burger right now.” And then thought about it, and was all, “Nope.”

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Yes, that’s what it says, and that’s as good an interpretation as any. Also there are no burger places in the area which is weird because it’s two blocks from a college campus. So maybe they were saying “Nope, no burgers around here.” Or maybe it was a variation of the old joke “No soap, radio!” which also makes no sense.

      Reply
  2. Kristine @MumRevised

    I thought it said Nope hunger… But my eyes are old and I haven’t had my first coffee yet. It also looks like nope burger — there is irony there.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Nope burger is exactly what it says–and what that means is…well, your guess is as good as mine. I think it means have some more coffee.

      Reply
  3. halfa1000miles

    We had a nasty part of town and I could see graffiti from the road. I knew it just HAD to say something evil and sinister and I parked, got out, and went and looked at it one day. It said “chicken livers”, which I guessed could be a put down, but to me was just food. Either way, I felt less scared of an imagined gang that would write that.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I don’t know. That chicken livers gang can be pretty scary, spreading salmonella. Or maybe it was just all someone could think of. I see some weird graffiti where people have written something as simple as “2+2=4” and I think, well, they had an urge to create something but that’s the best they could come up with.

      Reply
  4. tripping

    I like it too. I think we don’t say ‘nope’ often enough and I would love to do so with so much flourish.
    Maybe ‘nope’ to the kale salad and ‘yes’ to the burger.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Definitely “nope” to kale salad. One summer I had a restaurant job restocking the salad bar and we used kale as a garnish. The same kale would be recycled for up to three days. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it now. Oddly I don’t have as much trouble with salad bars.

      Reply
  5. Chuck Baudelaire

    I think a nope burger sounds delicious. I hate seeing places of character destroyed for faceless chains. Living in a semi-gentrified area myself, I hope this part of your city maintains at least some of its charm.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think the area will maintain some of its charm because of the university right at the heart of it and the students who go to the hipper places, who don’t want to go to the faceless chains, but there’s also a lot of development going on, and some spots just seem like death for any business that goes into them. Only the faceless chains can afford to sink a lot of money into putting up something in a corner that’s had half a dozen businesses and then been left empty for a decade.

      Reply
  6. M. Firpi

    ‘What does it all mean’ is what society tries to conceal. Things, even graffiti, are not supposed to be questioned, even when there are tons of books with scholarly opinions and research. Science is allowed to guess because if it works, it helps humankind. Things that are simply theoretical or existential, are meant to go around in circles, each time using different words to try to convince you that ‘this is it’. Is it really?

    So is it a statement of futility

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      There are a lot of interesting questions raises there. Is empiricism the only way to knowledge, or is it even a way to knowledge? I look at some graffiti and think we all have to find our way to understanding individually, which is an intimidating thought.

      Reply
  7. Ann Koplow

    I would never say “nope” to your posts, Chris, including this one.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad you said “yes” to this one. You might have said “yep” but I’ve always found the sibilant “yes” to be so much friendlier. “Yep” sounds too brusque to be positive.

      Reply

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