Say It, Don’t Spray It

DSC_0037One of the most odious side effects of the Love Locks is the graffiti that has begun to appear on the bridges—the surrounding stone walls, the railings, and even on the wall of locks themselves. While graffiti artists, like Banksy, arguably have a solid place in the world of art, in the case of the Pont des Arts (and other bridges), this graffiti is less about individual artistic expression and more about a mob out of control. It’s as if the very presence of the locks has breached an invisible boundary of social restraint and respect, of human decency, and has released the feeding frenzy. We are at a critical tipping point between dignity and savagery, like William Golding’s boys in Lord of the Flies who, once they put that pig’s head on a stick, surrendered to their baser selves.

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Removing graffiti from stone is an expensive proposition. Is the Pont Neuf, Paris’s oldest bridge (1578), safe?

That the locks seem to have beget the graffiti is proof that the act of putting a lock on a public structure is mentally akin to vandalism. Proof, too, that the locks need to be treated as a nuisance, and regulated. Even those pro-lock can easily see how the graffiti defaces and disfigures the bridges, and in turn the entire center of Paris. What were once elegant and stately structures, now look more like train trestles in an abandoned section of Detroit, Michigan, USA—where these are signs of a city in decline. Is this also true of Paris?

Municipally-funded public spaces belong to everyone, but they are a privilege for all, not a right of the individual, and if we permit their degradation, we risk degrading ourselves. When communal structures are well cared for, it sends a message of wellbeing and prosperity to the collective subconscious. The negative visual impact that these ravaged bridges will have on the psyches of the citizens—already struggling in an economic recession—will take a generation to erase, even after the locks are gone. —Lisa Anselmo

The wall of locks create the perfect solid surface for graffiti. You can make out the letters R-A-T-R and some others sprayed over top the locks. It took someone a significant amount of time to do this. That this is is able to happen unchecked—so close to police headquarters—is bewildering. How bad does it have to get before the government takes action?
The wall of locks create the perfect solid surface for graffiti. You can make out the letters R-A-T-R and some others sprayed over top the locks. It took someone a significant amount of time to do this. That this is is able to happen unchecked—so close to police headquarters—is bewildering. How bad does it have to get before the government takes action?

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7 thoughts on “Say It, Don’t Spray It”

  1. How absolutely APPALLING , what is going on in Paris , why is someone not stepping up to save this bridge ?? This is NOT ART , this is sheer disrespect . They do not care!!

  2. Thanks for this article! I am in total accordance with you on this one!
    I just shared on my FB page… I really hope the Mayor of Paris will do something about this annoying problem! It really does de-beautify our lovely city!

  3. As a resident of Detroit I am well aware of the dysesthetic and psycho-social effects of defacement. What masquerades as expression is essentially violence directed at the viewer. It is a defacement of environment and each other; a slap to the face/facade that controls by intimidation just like physical abuse of each other.

    We do not change a violent society with violence. We cannot change fear by replacing it with a different fear.

    Lisa Anselmo writes: “What were once elegant and stately structures, now look more like train trestles in an abandoned section of Detroit, Michigan, USA—where these are signs of a city in decline. Is this also true of Paris?”

    You should not resuscitate a decadent Paris by assaulting another city – Detroit. It would be more rational to declare that Parisian graffiti reveals a decline of Paris by Parisians, whether the assailant (tagger) or prevailing attitude (viewer): Cela m’est bien indifférent ! .

    You should not illustrate the depths of misery of a woman aggressed by kicking another woman while saying, “See! Do you want to be as worthless as this other woman I am kicking beside you?”

    See: http://www.disobediencearchive.com/texts/index.html

    John Bentz
    Detroit

    1. Thank you, John, for your very thoughtful and eloquent comment. I had to take time to reflect before replying because I know this is a sensitive issue. I can imagine how you may have felt personally assaulted by my reference to Detroit—as if I threw you under the bus, as it were, to make a point. But this wasn’t a sentenced I dashed off lightly; I paused long and hard before I committed to it. The reason: I love Detroit, deeply. It’s one of my favorite places in the U.S., and I have friends there, too. Detroit represents at once the greatness and the folly of our country; her glory and her pain. And you, yourself, cannot deny the issues with Detroit: a devitalized city surrounded by thriving suburbs; it’s beautiful, historic structures left to decay. I also come from a city in a similar state, one less well-known to Parisians: Buffalo, NY. Another once-glorious metropolis, she languished after industry left and was finished off my Robert Moses’s heavy-handed highway system. This is heartbreaking to me, personal; it touches a very raw nerve, and that’s why I noted Detroit. When I see the “violence,” as you so perfectly called it, happening to the bridges in Paris, it touches that same nerve.

      I know well that those who live in Detroit, the ones with the gumption to stay deep in city proper, those who take it upon themselves to maintain their own city parks because there are no public funds, are passionate residents who love their city and choose to stay and rebuild her. Maybe it’s wrong to call Detroit a city in decline when there is that kind of vitality there. Maybe while the decaying buildings may represent what’s wrong with our country, the fighting spirit of those who live there represent everything that’s right with it. Go Tigers!

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