Monday, January 12, 2015
Speaking with walls
"It's a wall"
"But what does it mean?"
"But what is the meaning?"
"It's for nepale blind dwarfs."
"Ah ok. Ramro cha."
So, we took a wall, a long and grey wall. The wall smells like piss, the ground covered in garbage, it's a favorite spot of the many glue kids of Thamel. Here they gather, squat next to the street dogs, hide under their caps and sniff the glue hidden in plastic bags. Glazed eyes watch life pass, the days are glued together by the sticky goo that takes them to oblivion. The kids look at us bring paints, spray cans and notebooks. We're not here to beat them, we even speak with them. Instead of rocks in our hands, we have paint brushes. So we chose a wall, a long and grey wall. Gonna put colors on this wall, gonna bring some art into the streets, gonna share a dream, gonna make some art. Gonna be like the dogs that piss on the wall to mark their territory. We're crazy artists, no body will stop us, we are ghosts, we pass through and only leave colored shapes behind us. For no reason at all, we play with kaos and give it forms we like...
We attack the wall. A team of 2 nepales, and 4 bideshis. One day at a time, one drawing at a time, we mix the acrylic white with the colored stains, shake the cans and mix again. Every day we come back on the spot. Figures and tags slowly come to life on the wall. While we face the wall, behind us, the busy street never stops. The crowd walks by as usual, a human flow of life waves by in the constant cacophonie of the street. Cops doing the corner traffic look without paying any attention to us, it's an ambassy wall, no body cares about ghosts splashing colors. It's just a wall, no laws are writen about walls. Rickshaws pass, cars honk, bikes zoom by, fruit and chawkpati sellers stop for a minute, it's business as usual.
"What is the meaning?" asks a lady. "I walk here every day, and I try to understand. What is it?" she asks.
"Well. what do you see?" I ask her. Smile, always smile.
She answers nothing, maybe she doesn't see anything. So why does she ask me what is the meaning of this? She must be seeing something to ask me this question.
"You see, there is writing, there is a girl, there is a face." I tell her pointing at forms. She doesn't look convinced, the puzzled look on her face tells me that she doesn't understand. Why are we painting a wall? Why are we spending time and money for such useless activity? What is this for Bagwan's sake?
"It's art" I say. "We put colors where it was grey and sad before."
"Ok" the lady with the puzzled face says. "Why are you doing this?" she continues.
"We like putting colors on the wall" I reply.
She says nothing. We look at each other eyes for an instant. 2 aliens meeting on the side of a street in front of a colored wall. We can share some words, we can exchange sentences, but we remain aliens to each other. So we smile, the true international language of the smile always works. I can't understand her questions, she can't understand my answers. We can't understand each other, a huge gap lies in between us, a few thousand years, a few million gods, we swim in communication breakdown.
"Do you like it?" I ask her. A simple question. No answer. She doesn't know if she likes it or not, she doesn't know what it is, she doesn't know what it means.
"It's for Dashain" I say. A light appears on her face, I moved away all her questions by a simple answer she can understand.
"Ah. Ramro cha" she says with a smile on her face. The gap between us disappears, I spoke her language, I gave an easy simple answer. A concrete answer, something that makes sense, it's for Dashain, the upcoming nepale festival. I've been here long enough, I finally gave up, I know those conversations get nowhere.
2 weeks to paint. 2 weeks of honking, sniffing glue kids, and passer byes. Most of the people stopping by seem happy. Thank you they say, "dehrai ramro cha". They smile, no need for words, we're crazy artists, our job is to color the world and sell dreams. We create artificial dreams, we are professional liers. We give shape to what does not exist, we create worlds out of nothing. Alchemists, scientists, artists, we are the farmers of imaginary lands. For no reason at all, we just do it. We lie to make the truh come out.
"Where do you come from?"
"Far far away" is really just a plane ride aways, a few hours sitting, watching a movie, eating a box meal with a small bottle of wine, taking a nap and waking up somewhere else. Some dream of time travel, i just get plane tickets.
Most pass by saying nothing, many hardly notice us at all, so busy most are running after their own dreams. It's city life as usual. When someone stops by and asks: "what is it?" we give an answer, any answer, but need to say what we are doing. "It's for nepale women", "it's for such and such religious festival", "it's for blind orphans of nepal", any answer is better than: "it's art". Because if it is art that we are doing, it needs a purpose, it needs a reason, it needs to be something less abstract than a mere desire to splatter colors on a wall. So, I paint squares, pink cubes one on top of the next. That's abstract, just felt like painting cubes. Been in a cube type of week anyhows. "What is it?" asks a group of young men. "It's kalpana" I reply. Imagination I say. "Mangho kalpana" one replies. "How much for the kalpana?". Kati paisa, kati paisa they wonder. How much, how much do dreams cost, I wonder as I keep on covering the cubes with a goowey marshmallow pink color. So far I spent 30 euros on white acrylic, a brush and on a few tints. What we don't use now we will use for next wall. Each of us gave a little, in return we got a lot.
"kati paisa...kati paisa?" money is everything. 30 euros is 1/3 of an average monthly salary here, it's almost a month rent for a simple room in the city. I must be crazy to spend so much paisa on paints for a wall, or maybe I am rich. Where I see art, most passer byes see paisa. I am speaking with walls, the answers remains the same, same old story. How much? How much for your dreams?
No answer. We'll keep on painting walls. No need to speak with walls either, just splash colors. For no reason at all, just cause we can. We're funky artists, we're professional liers, we create cause that's what we do. Our job is to sell dreams. And we like it that way.
Respect to the crew.
Dehrai ramro cha : it's very good. A popular nepale expression, here all is ramro cha (good, nice).
Bideshi : foreigner.
Chawkpati : a popular street food. It's a mix of puffed up rice and dried beans covered in spicy sauce.
Bagwan : god.
Dashain : One of the main religious hollyday in nepal (october time)
Kalpana : imagination.
Mangho : expensive.
Kati paisa? : how much does it cost? Paisa is money.
more pics of the wall here.