Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh Canada! Big Ups (and Downs)

My partner and I included a morning visit to the Tech Wall early Canada Day before losing ourselves in the crowd, doing a jig to Great Big Sea, and overpaying for hot dogs and cold beer.

As we pulled up along side the legal wall, we were gobsmacked. Someone had been to the wall the night before, rolling over the stretch of productions with white throw ups.

We stumbled upon the scene a short while after writers started working on new pieces. Rasek demonstrated some handiwork with a pressurized canister, a technique rarely seen in Ottawa but common in Montreal and Toronto.

"Get back" Rasek cautioned onlookers as one of the canisters 'popped' under pressure, creating a  geyser of black paint and cheers from onlookers.

No writers were harmed in the making of this dripping wall.

The scene was surreal. There were impressive productions by Mopes, Cens, Hiero and Prank covered up that night. The huge Mopes piece took about 4 days to complete, and was only up for a few days before the whitewash.

Mopes (before)
Canada Day (after)
We didn't stick around long that morning- hot dog calling and such. Clearly there was a sense that the buff was a huge act of disrespect to the bigger writers. On the other hand, local writers know that the wall is going to be buffed in a few weeks in preparation for House of PainT, so the buff  was at least somewhat well timed.

A buffing like this has not happened for some time, which speaks to the relative ease that exists between most writers in this town. Do not mistake this ease with homogeneity, though. 

When I first started taking pics of graff three years ago, my response to buffing was defensive: "Man, I cannot believe that they covered that up!" The Cerk & Myrage production near the corner of Bank and Slater is an example of this.

Most writers seem to accept this as the nature of writing graffiti; the irony of this writer buff was not lost on most. Some productions have a long run, but few do. There is a zen-like approach to productions in the community:

Nothing is permanent. 

Always do better.

Show respect to those who do.

Alternatively, there are writers who take the position that legal graffiti is a violation of true graffiti. For example, there is at least one writer in Ottawa who has been known to buff over elaborate pieces the day after legal graffiti jams. Most writers I have talked to over the past few years are quite reflexive and accept the diversity that comes with graffiti. Different strokes for different folks.

Since Canada Day, the writers have returned to Tech. Last night I went back for a few pics: Jesro, Iltoner and Heiro (among others) were hard at work, knowing full well that the wall was going to be taken over by House of PainT jam on the weekend of August 6.


 In part, I suspect this return in spite of impending buff is fueled by a desire to not have the graffiti wall look unsightly for the next few weeks. Clearly there is a diverse graffiti community that is invested in the aesthetics of our city.

Policy makers need to keep these complexities in mind when they imagine who writes graffiti in our city.

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