You went above the line
July 2, 2015 8:28 AM   Subscribe

"I cycled past this wall on the way to work for years. I noticed that graffiti painted within the red area was "buffed" with red paint. However, graffiti outside of the red area would be removed via pressure washing. This prompted the start of an experiment. Unlike other works, I was very uncertain as to what results it would yield. Below is what transpired over the course of a year." via
posted by rtha (66 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
KindRED Spirits indeed.

Sadly, I think it was only a dialog between the artist/experimenter and the Highway Maintenance crew. I imagine someone had the job of graffiti removal, and had red paint instead of a pressure washer one day, and said "well, this should do the job." Then subsequent workers didn't want to pressure wash off the red paint and opted to repaint the red with a different red.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2015


Civil service workers are not your playthings.
posted by gwint at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2015 [55 favorites]


So much for Product: RED?
posted by cstross at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Civil service workers are not your playthings.

Yeah, while I like graffiti in general and found this amusing at first, on reflection I share this sentiment.

I heard from a fellow Burqueño that someone was going around outlining the work of people painting over graffiti in Albuquerque, which created a small online dialog in the ABQ area, but I can't find an online record of that. This, sadly, seems like a one-way dialog.

Now if mobstr had tried different color words to prompt more color options, and the civil servants played along, that would have been fun. Painting over bricks (or stone) makes me sad, both when it's done with graffiti or graffiti, but if you have a bunch of blank walls that are blank because that's easy and not specifically blank by design, I am in full support of more interactive public art.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on July 2, 2015


So this is what I've been seeing in my Facebook feed the last day or two and ignoring. An asshole being an asshole.
posted by gurple at 8:43 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of Wanksy, if the goal all along was to get the wall painted.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:48 AM on July 2, 2015


Average council tax in England is something like £1,500 a year. This guy likely just burnt a whole household's tax contribution on some shitbag trick. By the looks of his Instagram page, it's pretty much his life to be an obnoxious prick costing others as much money as possible.
posted by Thing at 8:50 AM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


How are random patches of red any more appealing than actual graffiti?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:52 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I loved it, especially the shot of the pressure washers.
posted by karst at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2015


Honestly, it looks a lot better now than when he started...
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:01 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I generally hate graffiti (the world doesn't exist for you to cover it in your idea of art), but I thought that this was cute.

As far as "wasting tax dollars" goes, I think after the first couple of iterations, the municipality could have cut its losses by going with the complete paint job right away. The fact that they chose not to kind of makes me think that someone in charge was having a bit of fun playing along as well.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:02 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


How are random patches of red any more appealing than actual graffiti?

How is it any of his business to decide what's "appealing" and what is not? It isn't. It just simply isn't. The public realm is not some kind of sprayocracy, empowering people one can of spraypaint at a time. If somebody drew on your clothes because they thought it would look "more appealing" you would not have the same opinion.

Local government really doesn't have the money to be dealing with his shit at the moment. Most of them have had their budgets cut multiple times over the last few years. I hope they catch him and send him the bill.

Really fucking juvenile. I can't believe folks would actually condone this.
posted by Thing at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


I was amused to see that between photos 21 and 22, only one part of the wall (the right side) was pressure-washed - the graffiti on the left that is there in #21 is still there in #22, though the right side has been both painted over and zapped off.
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on July 2, 2015


Although I am not a painter, I think that the subaqueous qualities and purity of line makes resonant the distinctive formal juxtapositions of the work. What would elevate it's sublimatic quality, however, is if the artist in question were employed as the pressure washer, fixing his own work in a self-similar disjunctive perturbation of the typical potency signifier represented by lower street art forms and the devious simplicity of the inherent medium implied by the work itself.
posted by Poldo at 9:19 AM on July 2, 2015 [26 favorites]


This is slightly amusing but also incredibly disrespectful. I hope this guy gets sent to court and assigned to a graffiti clean up crew.
posted by miyabo at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the first few iterations, I figured he was trying to trick the city into painting its red patches in a pattern that would spell something or make some clever shape. I'm disappointed.
posted by The World Famous at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Of all the waste of tax money that has occurred on empire-expanding boondoggles throughout the courses of the history of human empires, I find a this little turnabout in a civic setting to not be all that terrible. The persons is a tad bit of a little shit, yes, I'll give the detractors that.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:45 AM on July 2, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think if it were me as a city worker, I'd consider an elaborate surveillance operation on my own time to find out who it was. Not to catch him, to spray paint "red?" on his car while he was being clever on the building.

I'd never do it, though, because I'd be getting paid all day, might as well pressure wash a wall.
posted by ctmf at 9:50 AM on July 2, 2015


I think the obvious answer to "why" is the height of one person standing. One can paint the red (which is faster than power-washing without a ladder. One then power-washers the higher up part.

I don't think anything mysterious is going on.
posted by French Fry at 9:57 AM on July 2, 2015




I was delighted by this, because it evoked for me a feeling I haven't felt in a long time, about the way cities used to be, even though I was reading about it on the Internet. Used to be you'd walk around and come upon some weird, amusing thing and there was mystery to it, an intention you could half-discern but never be certain of. And sometimes, more rarely, it would be something like this, where you're walking around your neighbourhood and over weeks or months you catch these fragments of a dialogue, a sense of play. And it was a queer thing, because the feeling it gave you was of somehow coming to know an individual who yet remained completely anonymous; the city was just this mass of strangers, but here was a thread pulled free from the cloth, one voice. But you could never untangle the ends.

There's less and less of that now, since Google. You expect now, that no matter how random, you can post something or do a quick search and the mystery will be wiped away --- you'll find the Tumblr explains the prank or the art, or some commenter will come forward and say who did it. The city doesn't speak to you anymore, it's all just people, and more often than not, publicity. I miss that, the mystery, the sensation of riding for a moment on someone else's weird brainwave, hopscotching through someone else's chalk, then moving on...
posted by maggiepolitt at 9:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [26 favorites]


the subconscious art of graffiti removal

HA! I was just tacking down a good link for this! Saw it at a film festival in Portland Oregon ages ago.
posted by French Fry at 10:00 AM on July 2, 2015


maggiepolitt, I totally agree. There are still mysteries Google can't solve though. Like the sign outside the Taco Bell on Clark and Beneva in Sarasota, Florida circa 2009 that read:

DOUBLE CHEESY
YOUR LIFE IN A BOX
OR NOT

Still puzzling over that one. It's like an unsettling, kind of gross zen koan.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 10:05 AM on July 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think the city doesn't speak to you in graffiti because people get locked up for speaking to the city in graffiti. If you aren't seeing graffiti in your city, it's because you're looking in the wrong city for graffiti.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:10 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


All in all, it's just another brick in the wall.

Reminds me of the local story in January about a big graffiti tag (saying "UOME") painted on a railroad bridge over Highway 101, how the city and the railroad fought over who should clean it up, and how person-unknown painted it over with almost-matching-the-bridge grey paint. Considering the awkward access and risk of falling onto the highway, a semi-awesome feat for both the original graffitist and the self-proclaimed cleaner.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:17 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


RIP unpainted brick wall.

[ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ]
. ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ]
[ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ]
. ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ]
[ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ] [ . ]


Though, I guess, someone might one day have fun telling others why that wall is painted red.
posted by Atreides at 10:42 AM on July 2, 2015


I think the handwriting of "Actually, fuck it" in the third photo is beautiful. That line, in its lovely-obviously-not-stenciled typography, would be amazing as the only thing on that wall.
posted by maxwelton at 10:45 AM on July 2, 2015


I actually was hoping that in the end the building would be a patchwork of different shades of red. Sort of like a dazzle ship reborn as a utility shed.

I was going to say that this guy may not have incurred much cost to the city to the extent that there was other graffiti on the building, particularly shit like "Fuck BTM!" which I think needs to get wiped out with prejudice. But on preview, it looks like (a) usually the only graffiti is his stencil, and (b) the other graffiti tends to come along after his, so it looks like he's not only defacing the building but his graffiti is prompting follow-up graffiti.
posted by bjrubble at 10:48 AM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Before Google, I had to look at the "stop casting porosity" sign for years until I finally got annoyed enough to get off the freeway, find the shop, and ask what it meant. I agree, it's too easy now.
posted by ctmf at 10:48 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


That reminds me of the sign I saw once next to a giant dirt mount that said "PROOF OF NEGITIVE COGGINS MUST BE PROVIDED". Yeah, Google did hook me up there, and I do think it was too easy. It was still pretty weird though, even after I knew what it meant.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 10:51 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Count me in the pro graffiti (especially when it is clever) camp.

It is more important to me that cities are alive and interesting.

A sterile city with no noise pollution, no graffiti and no strange smells isn't worth living in.
posted by poe at 11:05 AM on July 2, 2015 [13 favorites]


That reminds me of the sign I saw once next to a giant dirt mount that said "PROOF OF NEGITIVE COGGINS MUST BE PROVIDED".

I DON'T WANT THE WORLD. I JUST WANT YOUR HALF.
posted by The Bellman at 11:09 AM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh man, that one summer in Boston where someone graffiti'd 'NO MORE PRISONS' all over every flat surface they could was a rough one. That was the summer I read Foucault's Pendulum twice and had easy access to weed - I was pretty sure Something Was Up but couldn't figure out the Plot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:53 AM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't have a problem with it. It's an art/jobs program. It's like the WPA scaled way, way down.

And it's not powerwashing, it's sandblasting.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:54 AM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I love this and you guys are making me feel bad about loving it.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:07 PM on July 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man, I love this and you guys are making me feel bad about loving it.

I like it too!

I mean, those painters presumably draw a paycheck from the city regardless of whether there's graffiti in a specific place on a specific day; yes, a significant uptick in the amount of graffiti citywide would require more removal guys to be hired (or just longer lag times), but this guy and this project alone can't make that happen.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:13 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


"here was a thread pulled free from the cloth, one voice. But you could never untangle the ends."

For me, that was EM EE UNSH. I eventually decided it was a reference to that 80s rapper EMCEE FUNSHACK.

(turns out that is not the case)
posted by komara at 12:15 PM on July 2, 2015


I like the way the clean up guy doesn't give up. He's dogged. Well done, clean up guy!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:46 PM on July 2, 2015


I, too, like it, and am completely unsurprised that the consensus seems to swing the other way towards the "kids these days and their graffiti, taking hard-earned cash from us civilized folk" end of things.
posted by odinsdream at 12:52 PM on July 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Googling still won't tell me why someone climbed a water tower in my ex's old stomping grounds in ~rural Suffolk County, Long Island* to write SOUP IS GOOD FOOD on there. Were they a paid shill of the Campbell's Soup company? Were they honest fans of soup? Were they hopped up on goofballs that a miscreant had laced their burrito with? Aliens? Was it aliens?

*I want to say it was in Eastport but it's been 20+ years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:03 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Count me in the pro graffiti (especially when it is clever) camp.

So go grab a couple of cans and start spraying the building you live in. Better yet let me do it.
posted by MikeMc at 1:09 PM on July 2, 2015


kids these days and their graffiti, taking hard-earned cash from us civilized folk

See, I've always been kind of puzzled at the opposite reaction. Art? Not art? Eyesore? Interesting? Those would all be interesting questions if the artist put it on their own shit. Putting it on someone else's shit without their permission seems like, well no analogy is very good. Blasting music in public? Insisting that websites host inane comments?

I guess I just don't see these artists painting their own houses and cars and property like that. Wonder why not?
posted by ctmf at 1:10 PM on July 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


bjrubble: the other graffiti tends to come along after his, so it looks like he's not only defacing the building but his graffiti is prompting follow-up graffiti

That follows the broken windows theory, a theory about norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. In other words, when a broken window is not repaired quickly, it indicates that no one cares about the property, so further damage is done to the property, which spreads to the vicinity, and so forth.

ctmf: Before Google, I had to look at the "stop casting porosity" sign for years until I finally got annoyed enough to get off the freeway, find the shop, and ask what it meant. I agree, it's too easy now.

Brings to mind the now-well documented No toad sexing.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2015


I guess I just don't see these artists painting their own houses and cars and property like that. Wonder why not?

Are you kidding? Have you seen kids who tag? Many of them draw on everything. I know not all graffitists are kids, but I don't think the urge to mark things up stops when they grow up.

Anyway, it seems folks are comparing graffiti to pristine walls, and forgetting that urban spaces are littered with legal (and quasi-legal) commercial art, with billboards and neon signs cropping up everywhere. Graffiti, in comparison, is a welcome addition to that noise for me, because it's not trying to sell me anything.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on July 2, 2015 [20 favorites]


forgetting that urban spaces are littered with legal (and quasi-legal) commercial art

That's a really good point I hadn't thought about before, so thanks for that. But that's as an observer. As a property owner I'm still going to get pissed if someone tags my wall and it's hard not to get sympathetically annoyed when it's someone else's. I'm just not really into "fuck you, got mine" in general and it seems like graffiti is a mild case of that.
posted by ctmf at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I find this amusing and not amusing. I deal with people graffiti-ing various structures, rocks, paths, trees etc in the gardens where I work.

We have this one guy (and I think I know who it is) who has starting doing anti-litter graffiti. "Don't litter, save the world" kind of stuff. And he's doing it on beautiful cut limestone fences. I want to throttle him. A lot.

Earlier in the year some kids decided to tag this beautiful rocky structure with a gazebo on top. I almost cried when I saw it. So many big black spraypaint tags on this amazing place. And then I noticed something curious - some of them were flaking. They'd used some form of marking paint and I took it all off with a scrub brush.

None of these locations are accessible by a vehicle mounted pressure washer or are near enough to a spigot to pull a gas powered one over. If it gets on there, I have to bring a watering can and a wire brush - but only if the structure can handle being attacked with a wire brush.

None of this is art. None of this has any creativity. I get a kick out of the graffiti I see when I take the train in the northeast corridor - wild color combinations, amazing font, sometimes funny wording. I think that the reddification of the building is kind of funny - I'd be pissed off if I were operating the pressure washer or dragging paint cans around, but I'd have a grudging admiration for my adversary.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:29 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think there's a difference between tagging and interesting adornment that qualifies as art (depending on your definition of art). For me, this qualifies (for other people, it won't. My definition is broad.)
Anyway, as a passer by, I like being surrounded by interesting things on walls.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:40 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, the old "urban graffiti is bad, won't someone think of the children" arguments get rolled out again. Talking about urban graffiti in general and ignoring appropriation, I once again encourage you to use your imagination, and picture yourself having brown skin, growing up in a white man's city, in a country run by white men. Why do black protestors riot in the neighborhoods they live in? Probably for the same reasons.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:50 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I once again encourage you to...

think of the children?
posted by ctmf at 2:18 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


How is it any of his business to decide what's "appealing" and what is not? It isn't. It just simply isn't. The public realm is not some kind of sprayocracy, empowering people one can of spraypaint at a time. If somebody drew on your clothes because they thought it would look "more appealing" you would not have the same opinion.

Local government really doesn't have the money to be dealing with his shit at the moment. Most of them have had their budgets cut multiple times over the last few years. I hope they catch him and send him the bill.

Really fucking juvenile. I can't believe folks would actually condone this.
posted by Thing at 12:07 PM on July 2 [12 favorites +] [!]


Wow, I dunno if my sarcasm detector is broken or what. If this is in earnest...relax man. Have a beer or something.
posted by nzero at 2:41 PM on July 2, 2015


Also, lol @ sprayocracy.

I'd like to live in a sprayocracy.

Please?

Pretty please?
posted by nzero at 2:45 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given the choice I'll take graffiti artists choosing what is beautiful over advertisers any day.

If you live in a city someone is making that choice for you already. It's nice when it's vaguely democratic.
posted by deadwax at 2:56 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Used to be you'd walk around and come upon some weird, amusing thing and there was mystery to it, an intention you could half-discern but never be certain of. And sometimes, more rarely, it would be something like this, where you're walking around your neighbourhood and over weeks or months you catch these fragments of a dialogue, a sense of play. And it was a queer thing, because the feeling it gave you was of somehow coming to know an individual who yet remained completely anonymous; the city was just this mass of strangers, but here was a thread pulled free from the cloth, one voice. But you could never untangle the ends. There's less and less of that now, since Google. ... I miss that, the mystery, the sensation of riding for a moment on someone else's weird brainwave, hopscotching through someone else's chalk, then moving on...

A couple weeks ago I saw my first geocache, thanks to some veteran geocachers of whom one was my nephew. They say there is a lot of crap geocaching but this one was brilliant. BRILLIANT. You're missing out.

I bet Greil Marcus geocaches.
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:10 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Someone had tried to paint "VOTE PEACE" on an overpass in the Oakland Maze back in the 90s, but never got the top or bottom cross-bars of the final E done. Everyone I knew mentally added a vertical stroke to finish it off, and called it the "vote peach bridge"
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:22 PM on July 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Imagine if he had used his power for good, actually painting the entire wall or the building for the council - instead of adding graffiti - wasting the communities time and money. Plus, he added a huge message on the nicely painted wall at the end, and that seems like such a dick move. Cute at first, but not impressed.
posted by greenhornet at 3:24 PM on July 2, 2015


Christ, what an asshole.

This annoys me a lot more than regular graffiti does. I think the reason is that whoever painted it clearly understood that someone who have to clean up their mess, and was enjoying treating them like personal staff. It makes me think they are the type of rich-kid liberal arts student who hasn't fully grasped that public works employees are humans too.
posted by fermezporte at 4:52 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I figure some of those public works employees might ALSO think it's funny, even if it's their job to remove it. They are humans too!
posted by Andrhia at 5:22 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


The public realm is not some kind of sprayocracy, empowering people one can of spraypaint at a time.

That is precisely what some believe, and why they might call graffiti a revolutionary act. People who feel they have no voice are making themselves heard by claiming public space. Corporations fill our cities with billboards and other advertisements, and is that better somehow than individual artists expressing themselves?

I'm playing devil's advocate to some extent, because I am very divided about things like this. My artsy weirdo side loves graffiti and the annoyance it causes the squares, but my proletarian side can understand why somebody who is just trying to run a hardware shop would be incensed to get gang tags on the side of his business, or how somebody could feel like tags were bringing down their neighborhood, or how somebody working minimum wage would die a little inside as they have to go out yet again to paint over some idiot's big swoopy signature.

At least in a case like this, it's not an individual's home or business. The only person being directly impacted is the person who is paid to cover this stuff up. It's not a gang tag or profanity ("Actually, fuck it" aside, and I assume that was another artist.) It's about as playful and benign as graffiti is going to get.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:03 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's very odd to me that people seem to think the graffiti cleaners were super-pissed about this project. The same way dentists get really bummed out about the existence of cavities, right?
posted by threeants at 8:55 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter, the World is your lawn and everyone is on it.
posted by klanawa at 9:59 PM on July 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's very odd to me that people seem to think the graffiti cleaners were super-pissed about this project.

It's odd that people might actually take pride in the mission of their job and not just grind it out for 8 hours? That it might piss them off that the work they did yesterday was wasted? I can't speak for all of them, but it's possible city workers care about their city.

I mean, by that logic firefighters wouldn't mind if you threw lit cigarettes out in the California brush. Job security!
posted by ctmf at 10:11 PM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


(I'm exaggerating on purpose for effect, I don't literally think you're saying that, by the way. Seems to need saying around here lately.)
posted by ctmf at 10:16 PM on July 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Given the choice I'll take graffiti artists choosing what is beautiful over advertisers any day.

And, expanding on what filthy light thief says above, we're trained from birth to accept advertising on any and all public surfaces from tv to print to buildings, vehicles, and crappy billboards plastered all over the fucking MOUNTAINS. But that's ok, because someone paid for those ads, but your little graffito is an OUTRAGE. How dare you say something for public consumption with a spray can, you damn criminal!

Lots of graffiti is crap, but the amount of public money and outrage we expend on policing the boundaries between paid propaganda from corporations and someone who wants to wave a flag for some kind of self-expression is ridiculous. I like listening to the police and bylaw people talking on the news about how this or that graffiti is an OFFENSE against all that's good and decent in our community. The fact that they can say this stuff without a hint of irony or any rebuttal is a clue to how difficult it is to address larger public issues.
posted by sneebler at 11:40 AM on July 3, 2015


I was waiting to see what happened when he painted "red" on the bricks and "pressure wash" on the panel beneath.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:41 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


> I mean, by that logic firefighters wouldn't mind if you threw lit cigarettes out in the California brush. Job security!

Firefighter Arson Incident Database. Job security is a motive for some!
posted by rtha at 3:06 PM on July 3, 2015


I am the person who cleans the graffiti in the gardens where I work. I'm the only person in this thread, so far as I know who has this as part of her job description.

I'd like to point out that the graffiti I'm talking about is in a suburban 50 acre public garden. There are no billboards or advertisements within the garden with the exception of signs asking people not to litter, bring dogs in and that commercial and professional photography requires a permit.

I spend time every week cleaning up broken glass, pot smoking detritus, and other forms of litter. I see new graffiti every week. Some of it I can clean, other bits I can't. It is tremendously frustrating to see new writing on 2,000 year old Roman marble columns.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:09 AM on July 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


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