Thursday, October 02, 2008

back alleys.

The cultural measure of any town or city can be found in the alley ways. This is a far more productive way of discovering what is going on than by figuring out how many people appreciate the ballet or opera or how many art galleries a town has.

The problem with focusing on art galleries and ballet or opera fans, is that it is not a direct contribution by the residents. That is unless the production is put on by the community, which can backfire, since acting and singing aren’t automatic skills for most of us.

Each region should have its own flavour, its own sense of expression, instead of following some stuffy interpretation of culture approved by the local chamber of commerce.

Why I choose the humble alley as an indicator to a town’s artistic worth is because it a largely ignored space. In most places it serves only as a backdoor, a place of utility and nothing more. It makes a very nice canvas for the brave and creative, if any such people are allowed to freely express themselves in the community.

Here are some photos of the back alley behind the town square of Hinton, Alberta.

Pretty dull. Nothing on the wall. Relatively clean, but not inspiring or interesting. This is what Hinton is like; uninspiring and utilitarian.

Here are some back alley photos from my current home, Montréal.

This is more than a mere tag or symbol of personal ego. People clearly worked hard to paint an ignored part of the landscape and had more to express than their name hastily scrawled with an eye out for the cops.

Even if the wall is one colour, that is a measure of someone’s choice, of an expression of what they hold important and unimportant. Some might call that art. Perhaps many would prefer that walls be plain. Sometimes that looks good. Sometimes that’s the sort of thing that easily gets funding from the government; uninspired and inoffensive art.

I would rather risk being offended than bored.

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