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2006 06 07
Angle of Incident - 7
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By Gary Michael Dault

It was another example of seeing what you want to see.

It’s the same kind of mediated visuality or romantic dementia that led me recently to read the word “Dancer” on a pea-green manhole cover in downtown Toronto (and write about its abrupt lyricism) when the word was actually “Danger” (see Angle of Incident-3)

Across the street from my dentist’s office near High Park, there is house with a wild back garden. Its entrance is swaddled by an arc of Spirea bushes which, when I took the photo last week, were in high bloom.

The blossom-laden branches broke like a wave over a rough, liver-coloured structure that, for some reason (because this is how arches of Spirea are supposed to perform?) I saw as a garden gate.

The “gate” bore a flourish of graffiti.

I have written often about graffiti, and while I have tried to understand it and the cultural surround from which it springs (writing the city, guerrilla expressiveness, urban utterance, blah blah) I cannot ever quite succeed in convincing myself that there is something lurking in its hectic, ad hoc, calligraphic energies that lifts it into the halcyon realms of art. Freedom of speech? Sure, I guess so—kind of.

I don’t love graffiti the way I don’t love smoking, but I still hate to see people forced to huddle outside in doorways for a hurried, furtive puff.

Maybe because my tooth was aching, I felt particularly out of patience with this example of it, this fugitive graffitum (graffetus?). It suddenly seemed such a shame, given the too-brief opulence of the Spirea, that its exuberant visual energies were made to contend with the outlaw vigour of the sprayed “gate”.

So I took this photograph, and went in to my dentist’s place to face the music. “I see you’re interested in the property across the street?” he asked me, snapping on my bib. “I was watching you through the window”. I explained that I was just cheesed off with the way the graffiti on the gate sort of spoiled the Spirea display. “Geez, you’d think the graffitist, however dedicated, could have spared that one small patch of gateway between the bushes”, I complained.

“The place is abandoned, you know”, he tells me, sharpening his weapons. “Oh yeh?” I guess this makes the graffiti moment slightly—only slightly—more understandable. “Yes”, he continues “and by the way”, he says, adjusting the light shining full into my eyes, “that isn’t a gate with the graffiti on it. It’s a dumpster.”

I still think the graffiti spoils the pastoral moment. “But you’d think whoever had intended to spray the place would suddenly take a look at the beauty of the moment and decide not to, wouldn’t you?” “Well”, says my dentist, “maybe the dumpster was already sprayed before it was moved across the street”. Dentists are so damned logical.
[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 06/07 at 11:39 AM

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