cultural criticism | photography | place & space

The Writing on the Walls

Altamira and Lascaux are sites of some of the most famous Paleolithic cave paintings in Europe. The predominate interpretation of the cave art is that it is a part of the religious system of its creators. This is an all too common interpretation in archaeology (when in doubt, it's religious) and it doesn't shed much specific light on this matter either. One more specific interpretation however suggests that the images are a symbiotic part of shamanic transconsiousness ritual and experience. Within either of these contexts anyway, the images must certainly represent some manner of transnatural power. Regardless of aesthetics or differences between the sacred and profane, we see from earliest times man’s impulse to write on walls.

Dirt is matter out of place.

This concept from Purity and Danger is really at the heart of whether something is graffiti or not...whether the script or image belongs on the object where it is placed as determined by the owner of the object. It is also an issue of public versus private domains. So with this understanding we can pretty well assume that these cave paintings constitute matter in its proper place. Not so with graffiti. I remember volumes of it growing up in a neighborhood that was in a turf battle between the rival Hollywood and 9th Street gangs. The tags (some larger than life and some rather artistic) were essentially a form of corporate branding for the purpose of claiming territory within the public domain scripted in a highly stylized way on unwilling private property.

A certain detachment from the surrounding world causes me to examine that world as if it were an archaeological project. Maybe this could be considered a three dimensional anthropologic ethnography where a discreet and singular snapshot is taken from a living four dimensional culture, and so my attention to graffiti began to sharpen when, about a year ago, I noticed serial tags, or that is the same graffiti tag repeated. I began to think, why? The repeated tags don’t make sense in the same way as the repeated tags of the gang rivalry of my childhood. Are these serial tags simply copycatism or is someone trying to deliberately communicate something. That’s hard to say because most of the messages are seemingly rather trite, while others are just plain cryptic. Then I came across a tag that made me much more alert. 23.

I See Good Spirits, I See Bad Spirits.

I became suspicious of the meaning behind that 23 because I recognized that number to have primary occult significance to the Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) whom I first gained acquaintance with during my sophomore year in college. TOPY cannot much be defined as it really seems to present an un-dogma, but most simply it seeks manifestation of magical concepts lacking mysticism or worship of gods. There is considerable overlap with occult sex-magick and chaos-magick, and ultimately I believe that its roots are in Thelema and Gnosis. Of interest is also a similarity between its information ratio system and the 3 degrees of initiation in various secret societies, yet TOPY maintains that all of the ratios are open to all. Incidentally, chaos is also a serial tag, but I have never come across the tag of an eight-pointed compass (symbol of chaos-magick) nor have I come across a tag of TOPY's distinct psychick cross, but 23 has also become a serial tag. So, am I reading too much into meaningless bits of dirt, or has my landscape become a canvas for subliminal messaging?

There are just some, uh, eccentric housewives
trying to imagine the devil under every bed.

Who knows. It is quite possible particularly because TOPY ritualism involves the creation of sigils, which are image compositions often containing collages, symbols, fractals, and pornography. The creation of sigils is believed to be a highly potent act. Extrapolated, random and deliberate objects from billboards and legitimate signage down to graffiti may potentially be used as bits and pieces put together to present a semblance of the whole. If it is true that the landscape is purposely being used as a canvas for sigils...that public space is a sanctuary of occult ritualism, then is this the Altamira and Lascaux for the New Age?

She gave away the secrets of her past and said I’ve lost control again.

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