Graffiti and D.C. Metro Rides
November 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
I love riding on the D.C. metro during non-peak hours. The negative thoughts of 9-5ers worrying about being late and the ever-present look on the face of commuters as if they have poop under their nose is usually nonexistent after 10am. It is also pleasant to be surrounded by nonchalant metro-riders not wearing businesses formal attire. In addition, with the absence of a smart phone, ipod or a good book, my attention span acts as if it’s on crack (or some four loko). Riding the metro has become the best time to take note of the things in my immediate environment. There are always interesting-looking people to people watch or juicy bits of conversations to eavesdrop on.
My usual metro route starts from Silver Spring and takes me into the city, about a 20 min commute. The commute goes through the Northeast quadrant of the capitol. Both Northeast and Southeast are notorious for having high crime levels and low poverty levels. The view the window frames changes rapidly and unexpectably. The closer you get to downtown, the cleaner and more pristine the neighborhoods become. Washington D.C. is well-known for the gaping wealth and poverty levels. Yet, reading about social problems is one thing, seeing it unfold in front of you during a commute fuels a whole other level of understanding.
Instead of focusing on the dilapidated neighborhoods and the discrepancy between the rich and poor, I choose to focus my attention on the art that surrounds those walls – graffiti.
To some, it is an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions; to others it is merely vandalism. However, the creativity and self-expression of these graffiti is hard to dispute.
The artists ability to gain access to remote, closed off areas that seem impossible to get into let alone spraypaint without getting caught is a rare and admirable skill. Most of the street graffiti I see during my ride are usually showcased in closed off areas by the MARC tracks or the side panels of a bridge.
Graffiti artists have the looming threat of facing consequences for displaying their graffiti. To avoid these consequences, tags are used instead of real names, similar to pseudonyms for authors. The words and images created can be arguably more ‘real’. People can say what they want without repercussions; uncensored freedom of speech perhaps.