Brush with death

Late on Monday night, D and I went for a walk around Petersham and Lewisham. 

After rounding a few corners and circling a few blocks, we came down Terminus St from Crystal Street.  Terminus St  runs along the railway line. We could see and now hear a strange contraption moving slowly along the railway track closest to us, festooned with floodlights and orange-vested crew on a flat top bogie. One of the crew wielded a metal wand on the end of a hose against the retaining wall of the railway cutting – it looked something like a high-pressure water cleaner. 

D couldn’t see the point of going to such an effort.  His view was that it’s not as if “tags” do any damage. I tried in vain to explain the conventional slippery-slope wisdom that graffiti leads to disrespect leads to vandalism. D remained unconvinced. 

Oddly enough, D took a sterner view of true graffiti of a political nature (as we climbed the footbridge over Petersham Station, we passed an anarchist example on the opposite side of the line). D thinks that sort of thing should be controlled whereas tags, because incomprehensible to most, are harmless. Perhaps equally and oppositely oddly, I found myself inclined to allow an exception from the conventional wisdom for true political graffiti on the grounds of permissible expression of dissent, whereas I’m really not keen on tags and the great mass of spray-can art which for me have neither sense nor charm. I’m not sympathetic to “leaving your mark” in this way. (Don’t we have social media for that sort of thing?)

Riding past today I saw that the device the railway people were using did not clean the graffiti off, but rather painted over it.

One rationale is presumably to deter graffiti by depriving the practitioners of the gratification of seeing their work displayed. Ironically, it just clears space the next graffitist.

You can see the painting-over technique on channel 7’s report of the death of the young man hit by a train two nights later just a few hundred metres along the track, including (at about 0:53) what is said to be his “tag” on a recently painted-over space.

3 Responses to “Brush with death”

  1. Victor Says:

    There are no winners are there? Not the dead boy, nor his mother, nor the no doubt shocked train driver, nor traumatised police investigating such a scene, nor the tax payer who bears the financial cost of the clean up etc.

    A sign of the times that the mother learned of her son’s death on Facebook before the police notified her.

  2. wanderer Says:

    Excellent post title!

    I think D’s attitude to acceptability is interesting and reflects no doubt the sociopolitical complexities of background. I tended to take your stance, though was always susceptible to and forgave wit or irony (not that there was much of that) until I read (Sontag I think) the opinion that graffiti could be seen as the (my words) cry of the extremely disenfranchised that “I am”. I still register defacement first though. I suppose we are all of us about “I am” in the face of impermanence, and god knows some defacement is far worse – think of the landscape and temples of self.

  3. A memorial « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] the West St overpass, a zero-tolerance […]

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