The essence of life is not a feeling of being, of existence, but a feeling of participation in a flowing onward, necessarily expressed in terms of time, and secondarily expressed in terms of space.

E. Minkowski (Vers Une Cosmologie)

1. Decay is the flowering of time: it extends into us a sense of width, a wide sense of duration; it is life and death all rolled into one; it is culture, not clutter.

Within a 'simultaneous society' where time has effectively been 'flattened' by speed (projected onto the flat screen of modernity) and denied its duration, man loses his sense of self as a historical being. Decay allows us not just to see and feel time, to touch it even and smell it, but since we ourselves are depleted by similar processes, we contend a solidarity with it.

Decay is not the despair of Ozymandias. On the contrary, decay is a thing of reassuring beauty - it recognises us within the unstoppable flow of the kosmos.

It allows us to participate in time, to move through it; it accords us what the psychiatrist Eugene Minkowski (a man who began his medical studies in Warsaw no less) referred to as 'lived time'.

Decay, in its embrace of death, gives us life.

2. It is somewhat ironic that here, on the Sluzew Wall, decay is symbolic as nature's way of keeping the human species in check, reminding us not only of change and movement and the ephemeral nature of all things (one day a piece is there the next it's gone) but of our powerlessness to resist its force. In the lexicon of graffiti writers these 'pieces' we see on the walls are variously known as 'tags' or 'bombs' or 'burners'. They are a sort of primal marking of territory, a 'territorial signal' to others. When another writer decides to muscle in on this territory it is a matter of course to over-write (in street argot, to 'cap') the extant pieces with his own tag. In this way, he promotes his own super-iority and assumes ownership of the original piece.

Decay then, (as the act of de-composing), is nature's way of capping (and owning) man.

Graffiti is not just about scrawling on walls, though I am sure there are many who think no more of it than just that. Graffiti goes much deeper. It tackles the very bones of existence: creation, destruction, ebb and flow - the endless rhythms of renewal. We would do well to give graffiti a little more credit for involving us so overtly and freely (when was the last time you saw a painting in a gallery 'decompose'?) in this great process. It is no surprise that every metropolis has some. I have yet to visit a city that doesn't. That in itself must tell us something.

Details of a piece. (taken over the period of two years)

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