Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Express yourselves through graffiti

“Before you love a girl, look into her eyes and you will see the graves of many boys there.” Wondering who is the philosopher? This is one of the many graffiti messages seen in suburban trains in the city.

`Express yourself' seems to be the buzzword of today’s youth, and how they express themselves is what matters. White spaces inside trains, buses, public toilets and even trunks of trees are billboards to express their feelings.

Graffiti, the act (or art?) of posting messages in public places still a common affair in the city. The most common type is scribbling of names and love names. Public telephone booth operators are the worst affected of this practice. “Though not done intentionally, by the time a person finishes a phone call, be may have scratched on the wall using a pen or a key,” says a PCO operator in the city.

Bathroom graffiti, also known as Latrinalia, is a different act altogether tending more towards the obscene than the artistic, including sexual propositions, vulgar insults, toilet humour and even pornography. “It is a rather psychological problem and psychologists pen it down as the expression of sexual dissatisfaction or suppressed feelings,” says Junaid Ahmed, a research scholar from Madras University.

“We are aware of this practice which is now rampant in suburban trains, especially on the Tambaram – beach route,” says S Gopinath, a senior publicity inspector with the Railway department. “Since it is not easy to trace them, no legal actions cannot be taken. The only measure is to periodically erase or paint them,” says Gopinath.

Situational graffiti is distorting a public message to create humour. For example, changing “To Let, Contact...” to Toilet, Contact...”. A shortage of water and the heavy dust that forms a layer over stationary objects provide vehicle graffiti lovers with the canvas they require. Vehicles sporting “Also available in white” or “Wash me” are a common sight.

Among adolescents, challenge graffiti marks the successful completion of a difficult or distant task. The name of an individual or a gang atop the clock tower or a mountain is an exercise in self-assertion.

The most common and long existing type of graffiti, is the caving names or messages on trees. Poster graffiti, political graffiti, online graffiti, drunk shaming... the list goes on and as long as public space exists, so will graffiti,

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