Every once in a while, the Facebook algorithm tosses us a bone so worthwhile that we punt “uninstall app” down the road another few months. This morning was one of those times.
I was fed a memory from 8 years ago. It was an image I took of a piece of plywood being used as part of a temporary wall at a construction site. Painted on the plywood was a Basquiat-style image, the type that often intrigues me.
In the image the plywood has a “mature” look to it and clearly gets reused (insert applause for one of “the 3 Rs here). The wood is weathered, no doubt has “seen things”, and served many purposes throughout its life. Who knows what other functions it has performed, and who knows where it has been?
“This art went on tour, like Peter Frampton, eh?”**
But perhaps even more importantly, by being painted on reusable construction site materials, the art enjoys a much larger audience than one that is painted on a building in an alley. And certainly, its audience is much more varied, widespread, and diverse, and larger than it would be if it were “static”, painted on a more permanent structure. It becomes “art about town”.
This Is Where the Brain Pain Starts
One of the most disposable things i can think of is a soup can, and yet Andy Warhol made eternal art by simply reproducing images of them. Perhaps that was his intention. As a window dresser, his art would have a similar lifespan as that of a graffiti artist, changing with the seasons, at best.
In the digital, Covid age, you might as well say “tossed them out like yesterday’s soup cans”, because when was the last time you even saw a physical version of a newspaper?
The artists who create graffiti put a LOT of time and effort into their street art, and yet their art has the life expectancy of a can of beans. It must be frustrating, seeing their creations come and go so quickly, and not being seen by the audience it deserves. Unless, of course, you paint a piece of plywood that is used on various construction sites.
Unit 102, Where Are You?
The location where I captured the image is the eastern end of Milky Way, an alley just south of Queen Street. It runs from Dufferin in the east to Cowan in the west, and is not unlike Graffiti Alley, “Toronto’s most unexpected tourist attraction”.
I would have been there to review a play at the Unit 102 Theatre, a place which I loved a lot. It was tiny, operated by hungry, committed, and talented young people who staged interesting plays. It had a vibe that must have been similar to downtown NYC when it was at its zenith in the late 70s/early 80s.
To make my case about Unit 102 Theatre being as vibrant as NYC, I offer the following as “exhibit A”. I once saw a play there that featured one-time Blue Rodeo keyboardist and 6-time Juno winner Bob Wiseman playing accordion “matter-of-factly” in the lobby. The play was called Smother and you can read more about it here.
Here’s links to 3 more plays I reviewed at Unit 102 Theatre. BIG THANKS for everyone there for what they accomplished and shared:
Sometimes it is easier to just wear the tinfoil hat though…
I don’t know, I just got my first Covid shot, so maybe the newly implanted tracking device in my body is working in cahoots with the Facebook algorithm…
* “My brain hurts a lot” is a lyric in David Bowie’s song Five Years
** Somewhere on the Bob and Doug McKenzie album The Great White North Canada’s Finest talk about “going on the road like Peter Frampton” and taking “50,000 lbs. of back bacon” with them. I can not help but think is an unconscious reference to the Irish folk song The Irish Rover and of course the 8× Platinum album Frampton Comes Alive!