When I was a kid I thought all books were good. Anyone who had the ability to write a book would have to be very intelligent, have an extraordinary vocabulary, have a superior ability to tell a story.
Over the years and the increase in readings, I realized, of course, that writers are not all the same, much less their works. I got to know excellent books, incredible narratives, unrepeatable masterpieces written with an incomparable class. And others that were awful, bad, mediocre or simply beyond my comprehension. I will never forget how stupid I felt when I started reading William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” (the only book I read and reread afterwards, to try to understand it) nor how surprised I was, chapter by chapter, with “If in a Italo Calvino’s Winter’s Night a Traveller, with the infinite possibilities that that novel showed me — something I didn’t think was possible in literature.
I grew up. I’ve read a lot of crap, it’s part of it, that’s life. Nowadays any idiot writes a book — I hope the reader has not found this chronicle in one of those objects: on the one hand, he will end up being right; on the other hand, you will become aware of one of those self-fulfilling prophecies.
I applied a similar logic to street art, namely graffiti — according to wikipedia: “a (visual) art in the form of a calligraphed inscription with a more complex elaboration than graffiti (author’s note: wikipedia says it) or a drawing painted on a support in public spaces that are not intended for this purpose (such as on walls), existing since the Roman Empire”.
All my life I thought of the type of graffiti artist as rebellious, talented, badass, nothing less than cooltherefore everything I wanted to be. From Banksy to Vhils, passing through Odeith, Bordalo II, etc, but never forgetting the anonymous, the one who leaves phrases on the city’s murals that make us think. The urban poet who, for me, links the two envied arts: writing and street art (whether it is composed of graffiti or graffiti).
I can’t forget what I felt when I read, in Lisbon, for the first time, the following expression written on a wall: “SO MANY PEOPLE WITHOUT A HOME, SO MANY HOME WITHOUT PEOPLE”. It’s used all over the world, I don’t know its origin, but every time I read it I get a little anguished. It’s a truth that hurts.
Just recently I found, on the side of a house in Ovar, the phrase “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and, not far away, written on a bridge over the road to Águeda, the inspiring title of The Smiths song “THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT”, which may well serve as a reminder to a more distracted driver who drives with his headlights off.
The art of writing powerful messages on the walls of the streets has a strong tradition in our country, if only in the historical period that compasses the 25th of April. Even today, in the most varied places, we find impactful statements such as “TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE VOTE”, among calls for general strikes from the 70’s or 80’s, and things like that.
However, as with literature, I ended up discovering that not all street artists are in the same category. Some are more “to bring home”, as my grandfather would say. There are those who opt for statements that, while not being wrong, do not bring anything right: “60% OF VACCINATED PEOPLE WILL DIE” — this sentence can be seen in several places in the country (possibly with different percentages), it became an epidemic with the pandemic . I feel like writing next to each one of them: “THE OTHER 40% ALSO, Ó CALHAU!”
However, from my perspective as a reader, I prefer the scribes of the obvious to the artists who sign non-existent works. Guys, what’s your deal with signing without painting? I don’t need to give many examples, we’ve all seen infinite scribbles on the walls, supposed signatures of “artists”. What happened in the mind of the individual so that, at the top of the arch of a tunnel on the North-South axis, in Lisbon, a place where tens of thousands of people pass through each day, with a visibility that would make any commercial brand envy, What gave you to decide to write there in giant letters “ALRTE” (if I read correctly)? It might be better to say that the earth is flat, at least he used the space to publicize a belief, even if silly. If he used it to just inscribe his stage name, “tag” as they say in the slang, I ask: do you really want to show that you were the one who did this shit? I may seem stingy, but if I had that space at my disposal and nothing to say, at least I would write “melons are sold at 100 meters” and set up a stall right there between the cricket tunnel and the Vasco da Gama bridge.
Anyway, I prefer a thousand times a meaningless sentence to a “tag” that doesn’t even leave me a doubt. In Leiria, in front of a school, lies the enigmatic formulation that reads the following: “COM VIDA NOT TA LIFE”. At the risk of not knowing the possible poem where it is inserted and its meaning, or a putative basic reference that any Fortnite player can immediately recognize, what is certain is that I still don’t understand how someone, with the possibility of expressing whatever it is on one of the busiest streets in the city, choose “COM VIDA NOT TA LIFE”. Whenever I go there I ask myself: what the hell does that mean? Less demanding Leirienses may counter me by saying that this one, at least, did better than his predecessor who, ten steps away from this epithet, wrote on a wall next to the roundabout: “PIROCAAA…”.
I don’t want to talk too much about the spelling mistakes, it makes you want to do what the Roman soldier did to Brian, but there is a graffiti (what would Abel Xavier say about this word?) that should be mentioned. In Serra dos Mangues, near São Martinho do Porto, a wall displayed the simple words: “PORTUGUAL ÉSTÁ NA MERDA”. Luckily I took a picture of it in 2017 as, unfortunately, someone repainted the wall erasing the sentence that I consider to be brilliant for two reasons: the first is that, if it was written with unintentional mistakes, it couldn’t be more accurate. and eloquent; the second is that if the mistakes were intentional, it’s a very well done joke. Looking more closely at the words and their accentuation, it is most likely that they were written by a Spaniard. More serious than the kicks in the language of Camões and in the name of the country itself, is the audacity of a monoglot Castilian to tell us what we already know, but only we have the right to say.
I can conclude that if not all writers are good and not all graffiti artists are bad (in the sense of bad boys), maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. With my short talent for writing and my “modern” way of painting walls, I would have the potential to be, I don’t know, a serious candidate for an award that merges the two arts. A “Brush Nobel”. I’m already thinking of stage names to sign my wonderful writings on the walls of the world. Literary names, but street”. Something that is unforgettable and remarkable. Like “Camilo José gives Cell” or “DesGraça Murais”, but connecting the two areas. For example: “Harold Painter”, “Manuel António Pinta”, “HG Wells das Walls”, “Saramago Não Estrago”, “Pencil do Stencil”, “Thomas Pyncha”, “O MEC do TAG”, “Hemingway of the Driveway”, “The Padura of Engraving”, “Günter Graff”, “Vila-Matas das Latas”, “Steinbeck of Design Black”, “Ivan Pintcharov”, “Salman Brushdie”, “Bukowski of Sprayzowski”, “ F. Scott Pintzgerald”…
I’ll see which one I can sign better.
As for the phrases, it is enough to extract quotes from the trunk of classics of literature and adapt them to the streets. Something that impacts people, that makes them reflect on life as they walk the lengthy paths of their daily solitude.
For example, let’s see this “The Year of Magical Thinking”, Joan Didion, right at the beginning:
“Life changes quickly. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and that life you used to know is suddenly over. With life, there is no life.”
Ass: Didion del Borron
The streets will not forget Didião do Borrão.
Just need to buy the ink and choose the wall. Do I still have a hat around here?
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