The Sound of One Can Spraying

Buford Youthward

The sound of the caves is as essential as the visuals. Drenched in reverb, whet as a train whistle. The noises in our ears don't defy the scenes in our eyes. They compliment, complement them or even complicate them. Hindsight gives us the ability to analyze, re-analyze, to fill in the gaps. Graffiti as icing or showcase, supplies this indulgence. It is a thorough idiom in this regard.

Elementary perception of sights and sounds is not a passive process. We actively process incoming stimulation while ignoring others. Moreover, we impose organization on the stimuli that we pay attention to. These tendencies combine to make perception personalized and subjective.

Reputation influences result. Motives and expectations color our experience. To some extent we see what we want to see or what we anticipate seeing, and we hear what we expect as well. The illusion of movement in a highway construction sign is an instance of the phi phenomenon, which is also at work in motion pictures, television and graffiti. The phenomenon illustrates the Gestalt principle that the whole can have properties that are not found in any of its parts. Dynamics in sound correlate with movement of form in the visual world.

There is a science to graffiti. While technique and craft provide parameters of acceptability to the critics with less than sufficient perceptual awareness, in the land of the blind, the person with the ability to see is not king but a raving lunatic. So peeling layers off of surfaces may be considered a heroic action. Maybe even Promethean. To buff is to deny the fire of the Gods.

The dynamics of graffiti shift between senses at times. Graffiti cannot be removed from its environment (no matter how many zines Tower Records decides to stock). The contextual environment of graffiti goes beyond the physical to the psychological. Not only is it important to relate a certain work to a date and a location but also to an attitude, perhaps even to a song that is stinging in your brain. This is not romance. This is not a love song. This is just the grip of existence. We are the creators of our context.

It is up to us to uncover continuity, symmetry, and motion within our lives. We must connect our own dots. Our duty is to create a masterpiece of life, not just slapdash pseudonyms. Our individual efforts and instances should have the common fate that the Gestalt psychologists celebrate.

So we sit, subject to our contexts, listening to the sound of the caves, the soundtrack for life's messages. The railroad tracks hum and clack, the subway tunnels echo our footsteps and the distant drip of water, the rooftops mock the traffic below. The drunk and the junkyard dogs mutter and croon about wasted opportunities. The train whistle hints of the road not yet taken. The places below or above our accepted perceptual existence remain mute but for our efforts.

Graffiti reverberates in our heads, in our ears and eyes. The hiss and smell of freshly sprayed ultra flat black is unforgettable. The cold metal can and that rhythmic shake and rattle of steel balls mixing the paint in our hands--combining the tints and oils from our inner eye onto the surfaces of our reality. Hear the faint train whistle at midnight, under the street lamp strobing like a candle dancing with a moth. Listen closely enough and you can hear your past and future converging in the moment of visual impact.

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