Saturday, June 16, 2007

Writing on the Wall

Tony's approach to archaeological reporting is fairly liberal, so I'm hoping not to be throttled for this fascinating piece when he comes back. I figure if something as eminent as Archaeology Magazine can feature it, then Tony won't reject it - and having read his blog for years, I think he might aprove:

Fifteen years is barely the scrape of a trowel to many archaeologists. But in another context, 1992 was ages ago. In that remote time, a 20-year-old computer programmer named Cassidy Curtis commuted by bus down Haight Street in San Francisco past Psycho City, a wall known for its long history of wild, colorful graffiti. Curtis saw the wall, next to a nondescript parking lot, change from day to day and started to think about recording how it evolved as layers of paint accumulated. He didn't act on the impulse and moved away for a few years, but when he returned to San Francisco to work as an animator for Dreamworks in 1999, he saw other constantly mutating graffiti walls on his train commute and thought, "Dammit, I'm going to do it this time."

The result is the Graffiti Archaeology Project (, a slick, clever, Flash-based website that lets visitors explore massive murals, zoom in, and overlay more recent works on older ones like layers of painted acetate. His regularly updated project records graffiti walls in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.

. . .

The walls he records abound with colorful, active art that doubles as ongoing social commentary. Despite the name of the project, Curtis admits he is no archaeologist, but he has created a structured record that evokes archaeology and questions how we will define the field tomorrow.

Do have a look at the full article - it makes for a fascinating read, and the photographs of the changing contexts are rivetting.

For more details of online and print contents of the June/July issue of Archaeology magazine, see their web page at: