Though graffiti, both bizarre and banal, is an ancient thing, and has even been rendered buzzworthy as of late by Banksy (see Exit Though the Gift Shop) and his hipster acolytes, some of the most interesting graffiti I’ve ever personally come across has been at UCSB.
Opinions, exclamations, and famous quotes can be found scratched on every surface, from the desk on the sixth floor of the library where I exiled myself as finals loomed, to the more traditional bathroom wall. Some of it’s inspirational, some makes you want to reach out to the writer, and some is just stupid.
Take, for example, that desk I was talking about, the one on the sixth floor of the Davidson Library.
Taking my eyes off of the film theories of Comolli and his musing that “photography is the grave of the eye” (something that I’m sure we all wonder about [not!] as we upload our pictures onto our laptops), I turned to look out the window. Now, reader, it is important to know that I chose that particular desk, on that particular floor, because instead of being surrounded by the breathtaking view of campus that I would have on the eighth floor, I instead had a view of a roof and a drainpipe. Not picturesque, but as I’m apt to stare dreamily out of windows, also not distracting.
Anyway, as I turned back to look at my book, I noticed, scrawled on the side of the desk, the following: “I am gonna own my own company someday.” I thought of the writer, imagining him as a business/economics major with a huge final the following day, and that dream was what was getting him through it. Another mused, “I’m gonna be a doctor someday.” On a gloomier note, another writer scrawled “You’re all gonna Die Someday” in large, messy handwriting. Well, it is a library study room. Not everyone is feeling hopeful, I suppose.
On that same desk, another writer posed: “I’m a good looking, funny guy, I’ve never had a GF. Why?” He had two responders, both commenting “Me too.”
In a more inspiring post, one writer penned, “You are Beautiful,” to whom someone responded, with an arrow pointing at the words of encouragement, “She’s lying. You’re pretty.” In response to which yet another writer added “and amazing.” Finally another, probably frazzled, student put, very neatly, “Talk in the Group Study room,” punctuated by a happy face.
The inscriptions on the wooden desk got a bit philosophical. “There is no Good + Evil, but only power and those too weak to seak (sic) it,” one student wrote. Another simply noted: “God is in the rain.”
More traditional graffiti followed, with an “I love Rudy,” and an “I heart David.” I hoped that Rudy and David were two of the guys wondering why they didn’t have girlfriends.
Naturally, more profane comments were there too, but I found them too inappropriate and uninteresting to repeat here.
The graffiti was ultimately more distracting than the view from the eighth floor would have been. I was fascinated by all of the longing, frustration, and idiocy that had been recorded on this one desk.
The desk across from it had only one piece of writing carved on it, from a person who wrote simply, “Why is there no writing on this desk???”
On the second floor of Davidson, more politically virulent writing could be found. One student wrote “Affirmative Action is Racist.”
This comment had two arrows pointing to it, one noting, “Dumbest Statement Ever,” and another crossing out the “is Racist” and putting “Now!” Still another added, “When has America ever attempted to be fair regarding race? … at least it is moving people in the right direction.”
Funny thing: Even though we college students have status updates and tweets and blogs where we can dump our frustrations, stress, hopes, and dreams, we still want to leave our mark on a desk. I guess electronic permanence isn’t everything.