Sunday, 30 April 2017
Extra-Mural Studies - Flash Fiction
It was old-style graffiti. Before it became an art form. If you can call a canvas solely consisting of the artist’s signature, his brand, his logo, his spoor, ’art’. This was spray painting as a tool of communication. Mural messaging. Words rather than calligraphy. Plaintive or outlandish.
Walls have always provided a surface begging inscription. Whether thrown up to keep others out, keep your own in, or just to hoist up numinous edifices inviting God in. In the atrium to God’s chamber, Jews write their messages and prayers on paper, rolling them up and inserting them into the mortar of the Wailing Wall rather than profaning it directly. The Wailing Wall, one of just four retaining walls retained. A remnant. Yet each ersatz prayer scroll mulcts a wisp of that mortar, so that at some point of critical mass of the entreaties of a people, the Wall will collapse. Not from weight, but from lack of coherence.
Closer to home is another wall, that is currently being dismantled brick by brick beneath sledgehammers brought from home. A people united. Families gleefully repatriating themselves into the bosom of loved ones not seen for a couple of generations. One side of this wall was directly graved upon by ink and the blood of those shot trying to scale it. The other was inscribed with graffiti, an expression of freedom of speech and a plaintive plea against conflict, division and injustice. After the initial flurry, I returned nightly to secrete away a couple of the bricks and add to my burgeoning collection. Only those with graffiti on, hopefully none with captioning blood. Few of the bricks were intact. Words sawn off by a hammer blow.
Du kannst den Bruder nicht vom Bruder teilen. Es macht uns mehr entschlossen zu arbeiten, um diese Mauer zu zerreißen. Um unsere Brüder frei zu machen. (You cannot divide brother from brother. It makes us more resolved to work to tear down this wall. To set our brothers free).
I moved around the pieces in my collection. Trying to form new words from the serrated letters. Coalescing new slogans. Reminded of my toy letter bricks as a child. Though there, each brick was only stamped with a single letter per face. Multiple bricks stacked in order to construct a word. A word that could be subverted, simply but turning another face of the brick to face front. Surprising words when the edifice was read as an acrostic. But these fragments were not hewn smooth enough to sit on top of one another without cascading back down.
I made mosaics of the bricks. Moved them around one another to form blotches of colour. My wall was spelling out the new freedoms. Or perhaps the new repressions. When a dividing wall comes down, somewhere on the earth another one goes up. I hear Mexico is to have one. And of course, the Wailing Wall has its modern accompaniment all around the biblical borders of the nation that last existed when the Wailing Wall was intact. Strange geographies. Anomalous echoes from history.
arbeit macht frei
For every wall, there always have to be wall builders.
Some wall themed songs
Pink Floyd - "Another Brick In The Wall"
Mickey Dread - "Break Down The Walls"
The Style Council - "Walls Come Tumbling Down"
Tom Robinson Band - "Up Against The Wall"
From the Berlin Wall