In Passing.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

–Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Blade Runner

A recurring theme with graffiti for me is that it’s transient. It seems like most artists want their work to be seen, even if it’s only for a short time but also an expectation that it won’t last, which is probably one reason they use the same tag over and over again. It’s a personal identifier—and graffiti is a very personal art form—and it’s the artist’s way of asserting their existence even when their work is destroyed. It’s all something I thought about when I was looking through some pictures of graffiti I’d collected and this picture I took in early July came up:

Not a real exciting piece, but the building, which had been a restaurant, is now gone. Here’s a picture of the same spot taken just yesterday, in the rain:

There’s a special poignancy to this. Once a week the owner of the restaurant that was there would serve a free meal to the homeless.

The reason this idea of transience keeps coming up with me is the idea of art that’s not supposed to last goes against something I’ve spent most of my life believing about art, specifically that it’s supposed to last. Art is supposed to outlive the artist, rather than the other way around, a message passed on to future generations. And yet there are plenty of known and respected artists who put works in galleries that are only meant to be there a short time. Whether you consider, say, an unmade bed strewn with trash a work of art is a whole other discussion, but there are literally dozens of stories of art gallery janitors who’ve accidentally “cleaned up” various art exhibits, usually consisting of beer bottles, cigarette butts, and other detritus. And the fact that art gallery janitors mistakenly assume these collections of trash are just trash says something about the kind of people who attend art gallery galas, but that’s another story.

Anyway art that breaks the rule that art is meant to last also jives perfectly with something else I’ve spent most of my life believing about art, specifically that the very nature of art is that it breaks the rules. There are no absolutes in art. Everything’s ambiguous and subject to personal view.

Interpret that how you will.

6 Comments

  1. mydangblog

    Ah, but you’ve made this anonymous artist’s work immortal with your words.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If I can help to memorialize a few things that would otherwise be lost entirely that’s a good thing.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    I get knocked down but I get up again. My delight about this post and that video is going to last for a long time, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Like the people in the video I know you’ll be singing when you’re winning. Keep on winning.

      Reply
  3. Gilly Maddison

    All the world really is a stage and the sets we play out our stories in are constant changing.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I like to think I’m playing a small part in helping to change the sets.

      Reply

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