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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kyoto Graffiti

京の落書き

kyoto graffitiIn the sections of Kyoto that still have traditional walls lining the street, you will often find one of the most ancient and most modern forms of art: tagging.

On the eastern slope of the city, near Shisendo and Enkoji Temple, "Satoshi Kiyomizu" scrawled his name into the wall in front of a minor temple on the narrow road between the two aforementioned (and better known) temples.

His level of skill has nothing on modern bombers, who have tagged many of the walls of Tokyo and Osaka, some quite artistically. His technique perhaps has more in common with the scrawl to be found on the grates that protect stores in Nara.

Still, his work is somehow less objectionable. Whether he pulled out his penknife last week or in 1907, the end result is timeless. Perhaps I am being naive, but there is none of the anger and anti-social taint that is associated with spray-can wielding young men in hoodies.

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"Satoshi" is merely asserting his own small existence; modern "writers" on the other hand are venting, thumbing their snotty noses at a society that disapproves of them.

The canvas "Satoshi" uses is ancient and enduring, a tiled roof and daubed mud wall; the canvases modern graffiti writers employ tend toward concrete underpasses and abandoned buildings, the sides of trains and street signs.

If the former had chosen to tag instead with a black spray-can paint on a ferro-concrete wall, what would the effect be?

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