Excavation Under I-35, At The Graffiti Graveyard.

On 1/3/12, taking suggestion and direction from PDD, I went to the Graffiti Graveyard. I spent about 45 minutes there, wandering through the concrete and making my way through layers of paint. Nobody else was around, although I continually expected somebody to materialize from a dim corner. Vehicles rushed past overhead, providing a cascade of ghostly whooshes — a perfect soundtrack.

My time there was affecting. As a way of representing the experience, I paired some photos with a collage of ambient recording from the graveyard jumbled together with other sound (I’d recommend listening with headphones if you have some):

Of course, that’s just part of a response to a place that’s definitely the best representation of itself. So, if you’ve ever had half a notion of getting down there, and even if you haven’t, I’d highly recommend having the experience for yourself. (Many more thoughts on my experience and the Graffiti Graveyard after the jump.)

I’ve been sitting on those photos and this post for awhile. I’m not entirely sure why, but I probably needed to think about above-ground Duluth and see other graveyards before I really processed the Graffiti Graveyard.

Cave paintings tend to resonate with me in a way paintings in a gallery don’t. Cave paintings are less sterile, more vital, and when I’m standing in front of them, I spend a good deal of time imagining the lives of the people who did the painting. The Graffiti Graveyard felt a lot more on the cave painting side of things.

Like a coral reef of rebellious teenage creativity, there are layers and layers of tags, throw ups, burners, etc. The layering is muddying in some places, but many pieces have sharp enough elbows to create themselves some breathing room. Some writers are exacting and intensely imaginative. Others tentative and sloppy. I bet a lot of the kids are the kind of children whose parents aren’t particularly proud of them.

At first, I looked for anger in the work, but generally came up short. There were a few somewhat watery pronouncements (UMDPD seemed to be a major target), but none of it seemed overly aggressive to me. This was my favorite (in message, not style):

Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 10.20.47 PM

Very Buddhist, right? I oftentimes think of graffiti as a kind of reverse imperialism — a way for voices that feel volume-less and frustrated to make a space theirs. The Graffiti Graveyard, however, is tucked under I-35. It isn’t exactly a space anybody seems to want, aside from a few generation of kids — maybe it’s more about having a haven for making than defiance. Either way, being there was an absorbing way to experience a part of Duluth, the writers and their intentions invisible but the writing quite loud.

If the production of the audio slideshow wasn’t quite your speed, here are the photos:

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