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:
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.