Somerset – here I come! Bristol, or my obsession for those things on the walls
I get to Bristol very early in the morning. Way too early, perhaps. I ring the doorbell of the B&B where I’m supposed to spend the last two days in Somerset. Ding-dong. Some creepy, beyond-the-grave noise approaches. A man, who must be at least 170, appears behind the door and looks at me like I was the ghost.
Sometimes, omens are presented to us in a very evident fashion. Why do we decide not to read them? Everything in the B&B is old: my room, the carpet, the furniture, the dog, my shower, the ceiling, the curtains and the sofa. The newspapers I find in the living room (which is, obviously, ancient) are dated 2001. I expect the TV to broadcast programs from 1999, but the TV doesn’t work. Problem solved. Over the following few days, the man that opened the door would often refer to a son, the B&B manager, who will never materialise. He also suggests I go to dinner to a local restaurant that closed five years before. I decide not to spend too much time in the B&B.
I came to Bristol to see and document “the things on the wall”. Depending on who is talking about them, those “things” are called graffiti, street art, doodles, crap, art, vandalism, rebellion, revolution, freedom of expression, stencil. The list could go on and on.
These bursts of colour and warmth on the walls, but also on the trains, are everywhere in the world: in Siberia, in Sarajevo, in Sydney, in Armenia. Their universal and humanistic characteristic has always pushed me to document them and look for them in my travels.
In addition, these scribbles the passers-by of either something you do not want to recall, or something that is worth keeping in mind. I would compare them to cracks: through them, ugliness or beauty, poetry or horrors emerge. They trigger laughter and thoughts. They force the viewer to focus on the fact that the world around us is either horrible or beautiful.
In Bristol, in theory, Banksy was born. They wrote manuals on him. For me, his works are magnetic. I searched for them in Palestine, in London, in New York and now in Bristol. Unfortunately, many of them were cancelled either voluntarily or by mistake before they were considered lucrative. One example is the “Gorilla in a pink mask” painted in the Eastville, on the wall of the North Bristol Social Club, an Islamic cultural centre: it was covered by accident by a municipal worker in charge of repainting some areas of the city.
Over time, the authorities have had a different attitude towards those “things on the walls.” Sycophant, almost. They would label them as “vandalism”, until they have become art galleries material, selling at disproportionate prices.
My little travels in Somerset end with me looking at the walls then, with the nose up towards the sky. The walls: very big weapons. One of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.