Something that has been sitting at the back of my mind is aesthetics. This is especially important for my own self expression through graffiti art. I use the term graffiti because it relates to a negative value in some cases. It is seen as a blight rather than an art especially in a neoliberal world. It is strange to think that this way of thinking of the economy as a mind that needs to be deregulated and free to grow in its own way can come back to aesthetics as a tool like marketing for example.
Graffiti started to explode in the 70s around the same time Hayek met Thatcher to talk about his ideas and their application. Aesthetics though seem irrelevant in the case or at least changeable with the times but are very much tied into value. People still can admire bucking the trends and doing things outside of the accepted systems. These things are so difficult to quantify but what I want to highlight is the negative value of classic graffiti forms and then contrast the branded valued codes of graffiti.
I feel this is the real battle line for more than just graffiti. Aesthetics are constantly re valued and borders crossed and rewritten all of the time. This though is obvious but interesting because it has become so difficult to see value outside of monetary terms and every gateway seems to be essentially a path to money or no money. We all need money but when value is just money as opposed to values like integrity or resilience the world can seem bleak. Aesthetics though to me seem in this environment to be even bleaker. The aesthetic body in western society seems to have become a machine. An efficient burner of carbohydrates (for comic effect) and able to be more than human. It isn’t all cyborgs and bastardised technology but a beautiful machine that is primed for efficiency, ie the neoliberal dream machine!
The step away from self hacking to self preservation seems to be the point though it is pretty simplistic to see these aesthetics that way. The body is simply at its best and is its most efficient version. Other than that the buffoon is a great aesthetic icon to many as well. I wondered why “Ghost in the Shell” was a fizzer but it shows aesthetics that people can’t relate to these days. It is for the hacker and the glitch lover. The days of the living net are now the dark net, a market place for bogus Medicare cards and malware. The super highways of Facebook which seem idyllic are the bane of most peoples day seeing peoples thoughts laid bare. But it keeps people coming back and the savy sell themselves in what is essentially a market place. The photo of a nice vista or dinner are these aesthetic tid bits of oppression. It dawns on you that you need to take a back seat or get out and walk.
Thats why I keep coming back to graffiti in that it has negative value and that is its strength and weakness. It derives itself from the unthought of to the foreground only to be recognised. This recognition leads to its removal or erasure. It is constantly erased from sight and thought. There is something about its appearance in this world of unthought of spaces. The places that seem forgotten. It is proof that somebody is thinking where thought shouldn’t be.
In the late 90s I was researching digital encoding as part of my Honours paper. I opened sound files in image programmes to illustrate how files are encoded and decoded. I tried to tie this back to graffiti and its encoded nature in regards to Phase2 and Vulcan. After leaving University I did a lot of my own research spending a lot of time in the library. I mainly researched open source technologies and the nature of files. This eventually has lead me back to being engrossed in text files. My dialogue works were all based on text files. From scripts to control the computer which are just text files to the dialogues in the text files. Illustrating the point that everything on a computer is simply text. Some text is encoded so not readable in terms of dialogue and some is not encoded in that you can read them. Essentially though they are all encoded though in different ways and for different purposes. I think research is still my primary strength. I am good at it in that I am patient enough to dig around and I am curious. I love to spend time in the library but its great that these days the library comes to you in regards to the NSW state library and its vast online catalogue.
Well after a year of trying to ignore it I got the editing done on my second picture book “Reading the world”. After six drafts it actually makes sense and carries through. It is very short and there isn’t a lot of writing as it is a picture book primarily so it positions my practice and where it sits currently. It is more an attempt to introduce people to think about graffiti in a wider frame. It basically gives my own personal account of doing graffiti with ways of thinking about urban environments from utility and form to aesthetic design. It asks what are you primarily looking at in the world around you and why do people subvert spaces. I bring it all down to thought. Bringing together the obvious combination of thought and the environment. It concludes that these combinations are simply cultural and culture is at once divided but unified in the bigger picture. The images are what keep the interest going and I hope it is a good companion to my first picture book which was an overview of my work over a few decades.
I was lucky to get a good editor. In the end though I just had to clarify the points clearly and make them carry through. My next piece of writing has no pictures and is fiction. It feels natural because my graffiti is pretty hard to make sense of. Also graffiti is probably a tired subject for me. Though in saying that it needs a lot more clarification in the wider world. So I submitted it to iBooks today and it may take a few days to get submitted if all goes well.
An excerpt from some writing below. I seem to have more to say than I thought I had.
It wasn’t the dream of money and fast cars but instead a perpetual state of waking sleep. The world itself was the dream and difficult to manipulate or touch. His legs were slow and when he ran he felt he hadn’t moved. In these states of mind he felt aloof and seemed to watch the world as though it was a movie. Would he be the hero or fail before he had even began?
The onset of madness can be like this. An indistinct set of ideas and possibilities that seem to become immersive. It is sometimes called a fog that slowly appears making seeing ahead even harder than before. We don’t really know what the future holds but for the mad they start to think they know. They imagine the world is against them. Slowly shutting them out. Their terror becomes their reality. The paranoid plot. It must be more than just a fog though. Soon they simply see shadows. An abstraction. A hole. A metaphor. Seemingly they feel they know too much. When really they know nothing but semblances, and indistinct shapes and forms.