The Manholes of Japan

April 9, 2006



Public art is on the decline as far as I'm concerned. Murals are everywhere… but usually they are under highway over-passes and on the walls adjacent to some vacant lot filled with weeds and trash. Billboards do not count as art for they are coporate visual coercion. It would be nice, however, to have the grey drab paint alongside the exterior walls of organic smoothee stores to be painted with some abstract expressionist or have, as Steven Wright once said, a Dali print of two dental hygenists trying to draw a circle on an Etch-a-Sketch. So why don't they do this? Graffiti? As if there isn't a way of painting which allows for graffiti defacement. But Graffiti artists aren't tagging murals, especially not those around Telegraph ave. They are tagging those which pose a threat to rebellion, or to put more succinctly; that which stiffels individuality and praises commonality or conformity, uniformity. White-space, blandness, billboards. Well if not graffiti, then what? Because it stops people. Art allows for social detours. It halts people without making them impatient. I may be a pretty empirical person, but there is something undefinable out the "lure of the object" in art. Ad executives throttle the research of aesthetics in the hopes of attracting customers. But despite all that work nobody buys into billboard coercion… but art, true passionate art, stops people. Enough to make them think and lose themselves within the art.

The manholes of Japan are meant to halt people. They are in the middle of roads and sidewalks because those who are too often swallowing the myth of the nation or the greedy guilty-pleasure ideology of consumption need to be stopped. Even at the expense of their safety, they must be stopped. For as Ben Franklin said: "Those who sacrifice a little liberty for some safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." And, not that I've mentioned it, we have seen a full ideological reversal since the days of Kennedy. "Think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." What you can do. It's individualisitc. What is the ideology of today? "America is safer because we did something." it's collectivistic. The individual has lost his say in things. People aren't individuals today. They are "parts" of groups. This is one reason why people are suggesting it's 1984 all over again. It's NeoMcCarthyism as someone said in Dazed and Confused. "Terrorists could be ANYONE." Any. ONE. If you're part of a group, you're not one.

Okay… now I'm just ranting incessantly..


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