The Informed

Street Art In My Way

A slight departure, a short story:


Perfect by Alexandros Vasmoulakis

There is a tangible way that something unexpected and juxtiposingly beautiful can move you, right in the middle of the day, right when you least suspect it. Minding my own business, weaving through the streets of my own individual urban decay, there is such grim and grey dullness to it all, only to be broken incessantly with the lusty colours and mindless chattering of the corporate message, the new, dominating 'street art' that decorates our cities; the adverts, meant to manipulate not just our feelings, but by extension our behaviour and our empathy, or lack thereof. and despite its proliferation and abundance, there is only one message that they provide.

There is also something profound in the way that such welcome counter-images to the corporate doctrine, meant perhaps to lift us from this banality, stirs our consciousness in a way that the ads simply cannot. But the ads, in their psychologically well-studied approach to the shaping of our mental environment, contain perhaps the most profound concept after all, far more than any Banksy or Shepard Fairey could convey, simply because of their frequency, and their dubious placement on what was once our very own landscape. The corporate ownership of our physical environment is no dull analogy for their ownership over our mental one. But still, I only notice the street art, at least consciously. although the advertisers, no doubt, have a louder voice.

Meanwhile with dull and heavy footsteps, the mass of humanity moves around me with the singular preoccupation of adhering to the whim of the giant billboards and transit-stop images, to pay for that which they have already used up, as the financiers of it all continue to reap their just deserts long after the fact. Some would say unwittingly, but this is not the case - they know full-well and they hate themselves for it, but they know. And so they stomp, and trod trough the muck of their particular urban desires as they are sold ideas which they, in their last glimmers of consciousness, can still conceptualize that they have no power over, none at all. In this they realize that their free will is an illusion and nothing more. and I realize that I, too, am one of them. 

And so the giant gleaming ads continue to shout amid the silent roar of the city. Until, like a sudden flash of light in a cave that has been darkened for aeons, there comes into view a piece of art, a simple stencilled image amongst the static, and so powerful in its simplicity. A ten-dollar sentiment against the billboards of the billion-dollar behemoths, and I, for one, realize that I still have a beating heart, at least for a moment as its dark message laughs with me or at me in its ironic darkness and dark humourlessness. 

And so I wonder, is the creator of this silhouette lurking in the shadows as I literally stop momentarily in my tracks, taken aback by the sudden appearance of this hieroglyph? I have to wonder, for all of the other imagery I can see literally screams for us to be self-obsessed, to need validation from any source, to require the tallying of likes in a world full of so much hate. So why would someone do this, only to leave it in its place to be destroyed, or covered, or scrubbed, and for no forthcoming validation? Why? Unless they come from another time or place, one in which they were not considered merely a useful idiot. 

To that I can only imagine, but I do imagine that artist lurking and waiting; not to know if they have been validated by my own arrest by their piece, but to know that they are needed in a world we no longer own.

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