Gatineau’s success with graffiti
Gatineau’s multi-pronged anti-graffiti effort seems to have become a success. Not only have many tags disappeared from public and private walls and spaces – the visual-hygiene goal – but the city has turned graffiti into an art form with its festival and public space for these works. This is remarkable – it has stimulated a surge of creativity and self-expression within a milieu that seemed always to be more about anger and belligerence.
This glowing assessment is not scientific – I haven’t made a survey of all graffiti sites, nor have I interviewed the artists. These are personal observations. Many of the cement walls and building-sides which once showed graffiti (and showed the city’s efforts to remove it) now stand clean and as visually uninteresting as they were meant to be.
It seemed a stroke of genius for the city to launch a graffiti festival and invite artists in to do their work and then to judge them in a public ceremony – and to set up places where graffiti artists could practise their public art without running from the police or resorting to midnight spray-painting. All this now constitutes one more element in Gatineau’s widely acknowledged supportive environment for the arts, the “Gatineau pour la vie artistique!”
However, and this is positive, there do remain places
where the old graffiti artists practised their guerrilla art. I wouldn’t identify these few underpasses and sidewalk walls for fear of having them wiped clean. A little chaos can be a good thing and can stimulate our own creativity.
For the past few months, I’ve passed these spots and noted a shift – away from incomprehensible and exaggerated tagging to more interesting slogans and quotations (often unattributed). To show that these artists should also be spared censure, here are a few examples of the content which I’ve collected as both curious and provocative. Some of the quotes are recognizable (and I’ve kept only those in English) but these below, are less so:
- “She cursed having a heart but accepted it as her rent for being in the world.”
- “Tags are our thumbprints on the throat of time.”
- “Minds are not things, they’re skills.”
- “. . . ceremonial democracy”
- “Ever meet a happy racist?”
- “Look with your mind, not your device.”
- “Your best conversations are with the mirror.”
- “God fulfils our desire to believe.”
- “Time is momentum – of what?”
- “We don’t get machine consciousness
- because we’re not machines.”
- “ Avoid adjectives!”
- “If you understand this, you don’t get it.”
- “Dying is a complete loss of gravity.”
- “Humanity: self-driving cars with egos”
And finally, attributed to novelist Kurt Vonnegut, “We could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard . . . and too damn cheap.”
Imagine, we have such interesting stuff posted around us. Thank you, City of Gatineau.