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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

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cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Monday, November 27, 2006

3Tops II: Graffiti Update

Posted by Bill Benzon on 11/27/06 at 11:45 AM

At the beginning of the month I made a long post on graffiti, Shrine of the Triceratops (aka 3Tops). I’d wandered into a fairly extensive graffiti site and got curious about grafs. Since that post, I’ve begun keeping field notes of my site visits, have purchased a new camera so that I can take better pictures, and taken 100s of more photographs. I’m pursuing one major idea:

Graffiti is to the contemporary world what rock art and cave are were to early humankind. Or, perhaps a more challenging formulation, that we would do well to see it as the rock art of a New Savanna. I hinted at this notion toward the end of that previous essay.

This notion involves more than the formal or pictorial aspects of the grafs. It is about how those designs arise from and are embedded in social space, about how people’s lives intersect through those images. But I don’t intend to pursue that one here, though I address a companion notion in another post, Grooves, Grafs, and Toons.

My aim is less systematic, more informal. I simply want to make a few more observations about the graffiti I’ve been exploring locally, and note some changes that have taken place at the site reported on last time.

The Sites

There are four main sites within walking distance of my apartment in the Hamilton Park area of Jersey City. The piece in Figure 3 of the triceratops (3tops) post is at one of the cites, call it the 10th Street Site, while the other pieces are at the Brunswick Tracks site - so-called because the railroad tracks run near Brunswick St. The other sites are a bit to the north of Brunswick tracks, both near Hoboken Avenue as it sidles up the Jersey Palisades to The Heights. I hadn’t discovered these sites at the time I wrote that earlier post.

By way of calibration and reference, On the Waterfront (1954) was set in Hoboken, which was a working port at the time, as was Jersey City. Neither are working ports now.

The two Hoboken sites - call them Hoboken North and Hoboken South - are located amid the ruin and rubble of buildings. A homeless man living at Hoboken North, as I call it, told me that one building was a chemical factory while another was a chocolate plant. There are several homeless people living at these sites - I’ve also talked with an Indian man (judging by the accent) at Brunswick Tracks - but no one bothers their stuff. It remains neatly in place from one visit to the next. I’ve also seen the remains of expended fireworks at Hoboken North. As that location is readily visible and accessible, I can only assume that the police are not interested suppressing the illegal use of fireworks that takes place there two or three times a year.

Two large concrete slabs at Hoboken South - I assume they were once floors in some large building whose walls have been demolished - are set up as a skate board ground. There are several low ramps and a sign that says “locals only.” The day after Thanksgiving I saw three teen-aged boys skate-boarding there. It is thus in active use. There is also a small improvised enclosure that, presumably, functions as someone’s homestead.

Part of the Brunswick Tracks site is an active work site. This site is beneath Routes 1 and 9 as they go to and from the Holland Tunnel. These roads are under repair and work crews and large machinery are working there during the week. I’ve been there several times, and been noticed by workers, but no one has approached me or said anything. I’ve also noticed locals walking through the work-site on the way up to or down from The Heights.

That’s the kind of place the graffiti zone is. It is governed by informal norms. People in these site mind their own business and let others go their own way.

Note also that the boundaries of these sites are not very specific. There are tags and throw-ups all over the place in the area. What makes these sites particularly interesting is the high density of elaborate pieces, but the existence of pieces pretty much implies throwups and tags in the neighborhood.

The following piece isn’t in any of the four sites I’ve designated, but it’s in the same general part of Jersey City, off of 14th St. between Jersey and Coles just inland from the Holland Tunnel.


This wall, bearing the ghosts of old Bull Durham painted signs, is on 16th between Grove and Erie:

Bull Durham, enhanced

The Writers

Susan Farrell, of Art Crimes, told me that the piece in Shrine: Figure 3 is by one Jersey Joe, aka rime. He’s got another piece up on that 10th Street embankment, but you can’t see it from the street. He’s gone legit, has a website, a blog at myspace, and has toured the Far East with a crew called Seventh Letter. They’ve been active at Hoboken North, though I don’t know how long ago that’s been.

A writer who calls himself faroinc (that is, faro inc) has been active at Brunswick Tracks, and has put some pieces on a trailer parked at the construction site. A design student of Pratt Institute who was taking pictures at Hoboken North knows him and tells me that he’s Egyptian. That would explain the Arabic script I’ve seen on some of the pieces, such as (look at upper right, upper center):


This odd looking creature is a mummy, hence the white wrappings.

The Pieces

Two of the pieces I displayed in that older post have been painted over with new work, those in Figures 6 and 7.

Reflections Two

The flying saucer and “crop circles” (Figure 7) used to be on the stanchion at the left while ZAR (Figure 6) used to be on the stanchion to the right. (Note: the water isn’t a permanent feature of that area. It pools there during a rain and may lie around for days afterward at this time of year, when it does not evaporate rapidly.)

More Photos

I’ve set up an account at flickr and will be posting more photos there. I’ve set up a number of sets for my graffiti images. The set “Colonade at Brunswick Tracks” will give you some sense of the overall context of the grafs there - at the bases of tall columns. Note that not all my sets are about graffiti.

There’s lots of graffiti images on flickr and its clear that a number of writers post photos of their own work on flickr.

More later.


I’ve seen great graffiti on RR cars in the middle of Montana. It’s gotta give the local kids the idea of a greater world out there.

By John Emerson on 11/27/06 at 02:47 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill, have you seen this post on graffiti in The Naked Gaze?

By The Constructivist on 12/04/06 at 02:18 AM | Permanent link to this comment

No, I hadn’t. Thanks for the link. Most interesting.

John—With your interest in things Chinese, you might want to take a look at that link.

By Bill Benzon on 12/04/06 at 03:17 AM | Permanent link to this comment

graffiti is the best way to express your self......do it up…

By on 09/25/07 at 01:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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