I try to get down to the Sluzew wall twice a year - once in the winter and once in the summer. That way you get a real feel for the new stuff that’s been ‘posted’, and for the old stuff that has already begun to decay. In winter, the two kilometre stretch of pavement in front of this calli-graffitied wall is deserted. In summer, conversely, there’s always a couple of artists working away, making the most of the light. Whatever the season, the Sluzew wall is a wonderful open-air gallery which, at any given time, displays many different styles, and more colour than a bucketful of fruit!

When the graffiti artist Banksy mentioned in Wall and Piece that graffiti was ‘one of the more honest art forms available,’ he wasn’t far wrong. When art becomes a byword for profiteering or the ego, when we diminish the potential for 'an art of 5 kopeks', the game is up. Graffiti as an art form has no such pretensions. This is why places like the Sluzew wall in Warsaw hold a special place in the city’s psyche.

When I walk along the wall’s length aside Warsaw's main north-south expressway I can’t help but think of the thousands of cars and their drivers/passengers that zoom by it every day. And it’s then that I usually think of a short passage in Thoreau’s Walden (not wholly inappropriate since Thoreau himself reckoned that the name of the pond came from ‘walled in’ as it was by the two tracks of the Fitchburg railway and the stone walls that supported them).

Here, Thoreau remarks on the people in the train who pass by the pond every day:

The cars never pause to look at it; yet I fancy that the engineers and firemen and brakemen, and those passengers who have a season ticket and see it often, are better men for the sight.

And so it is with the Sluzew wall; for many, at such speed, the whole sight must pass by as nothing but a blur of colour, yet I fancy that even this flash of colour, as they head south into Warsaw’s grey high-rise suburb, illumes inside just a smattering of wonder and curiosity.


July 2009

September 2009

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