Friday, April 4, 2008

Agawa Rock

Originally uploaded by True North Two
Risk isn't exactly my middle name, but when my husband and I came across Agawa Rock, we knew we had to do it.

And by "do it" I mean literally risk hide and hair to see it. A sign leading down to the rock warned visitors that waves from Lake Superior could wash them away forever. More than one person has been killed at the site when they either fell or were swept off the narrow rock ledge after heavy rains. Sometimes they close the area because it can be so treacherous.

It was well worth the risk. A woman whose job it is to sit down by the rock and throw a rope out in case anyone falls in (no joke) told us we were free to take our shoes off if we felt we would have a better grip on the rock that way. We inched past the pictographs, spotting rust-colored animals, hunters and even a canoe. There were chains to hold onto in some places where you had to hug the wall to pass by. Thick ropes were anchored into the rock to grab onto in case of emergency. Judging by the huge boulders we could see in the clear water, you'd be a goner before you'd get a grip on one of those ropes.

One of the reasons I love Canada so much is that there is such a wealth of natural beauty and they really don't make a huge deal out of it. Here in the states, any attraction like this would we crawling with people and there would probably be trash along the trail. Lake Superior Provencial park is pristine and on any given day you are likely to find yourself alone to explore with no interruption.

If you think about it, our modern graffiti is in the same vein as this ancient site.


Originally uploaded by True North Two
On a trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Canada in early fall we spotted this stop sign on a back road. We both had a good laugh and had to stop for a picture.

Usually the things people slap on street signs aren't as amusing--usually it is some obscure band's sticker or tag proclaiming a local high schooler's graduation year. This sign was so simple and clever it just might be one of my favorite examples of graffiti.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

City Demands Murals Painted Over

I think this story is interesting.

I have a love-hate relationship with graffiti. While it is often a blight on historic buildings and in public spaces, there are times when it brightens up an otherwise sad-looking spot.

Most of the artists mentioned in the story seem happy to have had the chance to practice their skills legally in a public space. While I understand that it must be difficult for the city to police the area to make sure gang activity and offensive words and images are kept to a minimum, it seems kind of wrong to let them do their thing and then demand they destroy it.

I wonder why a communal art space isn't subject to the same amazing, natural checks and balances system evident in web 2.0 technology. Take Wikipedia for example. Incorrect information might be published, but it is only a matter of time before other users find and correct it. I would think that graffiti artists desperate for a legal place to display their art would keep fellow painters in check to ensure the longevity of the project.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Toynbee Tiles

After a lot of waiting, I visited Cincinnati's only remaining Toynbee Tile. It was an urgent visit, as there is currently a huge hole in the road mere inches away and I am afraid the tile might be paved over soon.

A mini marathon was going on downtown when I visited and I purposefully stood for a few minutes to see how many of the dozens walking near or even over it would take a look. The answer? Zero. I was blatantly standing in the crosswalk taking photos, which I figured might pique the curiosity of other people. I'm not sure if it just becomes part of the background after awhile, but I look for it every time I pass. A Kubrick reference embedded in the middle of the road is worth stopping for a few seconds. And for a city known for always being seven years behind in everything, we should be proud to have such an interesting little gem right here in the Queen City. Knowing would almost be a disappointment, as it was when the Poe Toaster stepped forward.

As much as I would love to know the purpose of the Toynbee Tiles, it is fun not knowing exactly what they are all about. Like so many of my other interests, there is an element of mystery. I like that.

City Beat writer John Stoehr wrote this awesome article about Cincinnati's tiles back in 2001. sadly, two of the three have been paved over since (as far as I know) and the one that remains is at Fifth and Walnut (at the crosswalk right outside Nada). I think he counts the tile at Fifth and Walnut as two since there are two distinct sections. I would call it a single tile because of how they are manufactured, but that would be splitting hairs I think. I also believe (judging from the picture in this article) that the two Cincinnati tiles were manufactured by the same person. I plan to contact Stoehr to clarify a few details.

Note: Now, I don't want you kiddies running out and defacing public walkways, but instructions on creating your very own tile can be found on pages 66-74 of Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook.

I would love to try it, but since I have no idea what they really stand for, all I would be is a copycat. I wonder how many of the tiles are the work of someone who truly knows what the tiles mean and how many are simply people who replicated something cool they saw.