Tuesday, January 15, 2013
It caught my eye: HOME SWEET HOME, sprayed in large red letters across the garage door beside an abandoned white house on Highway 69 outside of Britt, Ontario, about a hundred kilometres south of Sudbury. A young kid painting the words, or rather a painted young kid painting the words.
A quick U-turn was in order. But as we pulled up, a pick-up truck turned into the driveway and continued in behind the house. Another U-turn, and we continued our journey north to Killarney Provincial Park, noting the location for a visit on our return trip a week later.
In the meantime, I shared this location with a fellow explorer, and he made an immediate trip to investigate it for himself. He subsequently posted it online, sharing his view on not only the house and its contents, but his personal anger towards the street artists that had vandalized/decorated the garage door. This prompted a debate between the two of us, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Those of you that know me, are well aware that I have had my feet firmly planted in the street art world for many years. Although I have taken an extended hiatus from actively producing street art to focus on other interests, (including releasing my debut hip hop record, urban exploration, and getting sober) I am still deeply entrenched in the street art community. I am currently producing work for a new street art project that I am very excited about, which I hope to unleash on the public in spring and summer of this year.
I have been pondering the relationship between street artists and urban explorers in great detail of late, and figured I'd share some of those musings here and now. Please keep in mind that these are only my opinions and thoughts. I do not claim to be right or have any authority on the subject. It is important to note that as a member of the urban exploration community, I no longer put my own artwork up in abandoned buildings.
Street artists and graffiti writers are quite often disliked and downright detested by a vocal group within the urban exploration community. From the explorer's perspective, this is not without good reason. Not only is it perceived as vandalism by some members of the exploration community, whose arguably loosely followed motto is 'take only photographs, leave only footprints', it is also widely seen to deter from the natural photogenic aspects of decay and the story of the lives once lived in these locations. Just as importantly, graffiti, like any vandalism, such as broken windows, forced open doors, or even looting and theft, are clear signs to property owners and/or security that someone has been to a location, therefore heating it off and risking that it could be resealed or patrolled more frequently. Understandable.
On the other side of the coin however, graffiti artists were finding and exploring abandoned locations in search of remote places to hone their skills and leave their mark for decades before anyone identifying as an urban explorer started poking around with a camera, and claiming some inherent ownership of these locations.
Of course, in cases of spray painted swastikas and penises and curse words, often misspelled, with no arguable artistic merit, just kids being kids: Well, no one cares for that shit.
The artwork/vandalism at this location, that sparked this particular debate was done by two up and coming street artists, relatively new to the Ontario scene.
The black and white skull is the calling card of 'Deadboy'. He is best known for his very popular stenciled depictions of disgraced Toronto mayor and profound buffoon Rob Ford, sprayed all over the city of Toronto. Like many street artists, he also faces criticism from the graffiti community, which widely perceives paste-ups and stencils as a cheap mockery of the art form.
The kid painting HOME SWEET HOME is the work of 'Denial'. Many people, both inside and outside of the graffiti and street art communities, would argue that this particular piece is one of many imitations of work previously done and overdone by Banksy. But herein lies the the beauty of art, and in life, we all perceive things differently. While the average Joe and maybe even the average urban explorer alike may find this piece to be an eyesore and an intrusion on not only the property, but the beautiful natural northern landscape... I love it. The art breathes life into a dead space, and it provokes thought, which is what all great art should be about, in my opinion. In particular for me, it sparked thoughts about the ephemeral nature of it all: Street art, graffiti, urban exploration, our societal infrastructure and life itself.
What this debate really boils down to is personal choice. All of the aforementioned groups have one thing in common: They break the law. In interviews about my street art, I am often asked my take on art versus vandalism, and where I draw the line? The answer is simple, I can only draw that line for myself. I wasn't personally comfortable with the damage I was doing to my community with the use of spray paint years ago, so I traded in my spray cans in favour of less destructive tools: Paper and paste. That was the redrawing of my line. But beyond myself, I cannot say where that line should be drawn, or stenciled, or spray painted. I am a proud supporter of graffiti and street art in all its forms. It is the rawest and purest form of art ever. It doesn't cater to gallery owners and clients, it doesn't care if you like it, or buy it. It is not for sale...
And much like the urban explorers that detest it, it doesn't ask permission.
Now, lets have look around.
The house of cards
The coming down period
The high chair and the dryer
The chaos within
The bottle swallowed me
The curtain call
The things we tend to bottle up
The assurance of insurance
The job interview
The day the movies died
The way we used to watch
The memories we forget
The world has gone silent
The day the music died
The kid inside us all
The death of the written word
The jar collection
The 2012 hockey lock-out
The way it ends
This was once the home sweet home of Stella Galliano and family, who moved here from Buffalo, New York, in late 1978, when she was hired to work in the Sudbury Centre of The Canadian Red Cross. As is often the case, the date of abandonment, and what became of Stella and her family is not known.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES
- The following write-up is a work of fiction. It is the first in a series of fictional short stories and creative writing exercises inspired by the photos and the exploration experience of a given location. The subject matter is by no means representative of the actual homes or the real life former inhabitants. The first few write-ups in this series will be written in the form of letters and notes. This first post in the series is titled 'The Suicide Note'.
The Suicide Note
To whom it may concern,
I am sorry. Sorry that loneliness overwhelms. Sorry that life itself is just the opposite. Sorry that I couldn't muster the strength to repeat another day of this. Sorry that I couldn't put in 8 more hours. Sorry that I couldn't wipe the snow from the wind shield and fill the tank and eat another plastic wrapped microwave dinner and jerk off to this same old porn and get drunk and groom myself and pretend to care and watch one more evening of reality tv shows and hockey games.
Sorry that I couldn't find the desire to want something, anything. I never stopped trying, I assure you.
I'm sorry. Sorry that you had to find me like this. I'm writing to you because I have no one else left in this world. You are the only one that ever stops by, and if it wasn't for junk mail, maybe I'd never be found. My cunt boss wouldn't even notice me missing, surely. My co-workers won't miss a beat either, talking over each other incessantly. All of them talking, none of them listening.
Our friends all eventually stopped calling after Natalie died. I haven't been the same since, granted. Why would they bother to continue calling, just to share in my misery and apathy? I understand that they decided to distance themselves from me, hell I've been doing the same.
I'm sitting on Sophie's bed writing this. I want my last moments to be with her, or as close to my memories of her as possible. I miss her so much. I bet you remember her. You may not remember her playing outside, or the way her cheeks dimpled when she smiled, or her boisterous laugh, or her poetic sense of humour, or her generosity and kindness. But you remember the media reports and the trial and the corruption that went unchecked when the man that murdered an eight year old girl whilst drunk driving was found not guilty on a technicality. That is the sort of thing a mail man remembers happening on his rural route. That is the sort of thing everyone remembers. I can't stop remembering, even when I try.
She died on the road out front of the house, a mere matter of metres from where you will find me hanging. Five days a week your feet pass over the exact spot her body landed on the side of the road. You pay that fact no mind, a luxury I don't have. I think of her every time I see you.
Losing Soph killed my wife, it took a few years, but it killed her. Natalie never recovered, not in the slightest. She never returned to work. She stopped cleaning the house and shopping for food and helping on the farm. She barely ever left the house, or for that matter, even got out of bed, with the exception of her monthly doctors visit to refill her prescriptions. Our relationship turned bitter quickly thereafter. Not that I didn't make an attempt to be caring and supportive, but I refused to be her drug mule. Within months the doctors had her addicted to an ever increasing quantity of opiates and whatever else they were spoon feeding her for their kickbacks from their corporate pharmaceutical bosses. Her death seemed just another day in comparison to Sophies.
A few more years have passed now. More of the same. Another mundane stretch of time.
Alone, so very alone.
The rooms of this house, each and every one of them, they make me cry. Every single day. The memories are the most difficult thing to live with, but they are also the only reason I've held on this long.
Again, I'm sorry that I put you in this position stranger. I wanted to die here, where I once was actually alive. I couldn't fathom decomposing dangling from a rope in the basement forever. It had to be this way unfortunately, so that I could be put to rest.
If there is an after life, reuniting with Sophie will hopefully and ironically restore me back to life. If not, I'm grateful that this is all finally over.
- Thank you for continuing to follow my adventures, especially now as I attempt to broaden my delivery approach and introduce new styles of fictional short stories into the repertoire. While it flowed out of me naturally and effortlessly, this one was rather tough to write. I actually shed tears a few times as I tried to identify with the character that I was creating as I wrote his suicide note, and invented his back story and family and so on. This series will continue and appear periodically interspersed amongst future posts. The second fictional write-up in this SS series will be in letter form, and will be titled "A Love Letter'.
Again, this was a work of fiction inspired by the photos, and is not in any way representative of the real life former inhabitants of the home.
An Estate sale for the late Earl Finch (the actual former resident) took place here in December of 2006 and Earl's possessions were sold off.
click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES