Sorry, Bus: Meta-Graffiti

This piece of graffiti is metagraffiti because it is self-referential: “I am sorry bus 4 writ[ing] here.” (Not sure about that last word, actually.) Why would someone write this? Consider for a moment what this self-reflective scrawl might mean.

(Photo by Omar Rodriguez-Rodriguez.)

The statement is ironic, of course. The writer is obviously not sorry, or he (or she) would not have written anything. Instead, he is thumbing his nose at the prohibition against graffiti. Even though he is not really sorry, he is apologizing to the bus itself, rather than the bus driver, the administrators of the MUNI transportation system, or the other riders. After all, he must have thought, his graffiti wasn’t hurting any of them. In any case, the writer of the graffiti was engaged in self-reflective thoughts about graffiti, the prohibitions against graffiti, and the question of who graffiti harms, if anyone.

In this picture (by Viola Lasmana), we read, “Watch my back while I tag this box. -AJL” Who is the writer addressing? Did he have a friend behind him (I’m just guessing it’s a guy), watching his back as he wrote this piece of metagraffiti? If so, wouldn’t he have just said it, instead of writing it? The message seems to be directed to the viewer, like you and me, who should tolerate graffiti and protect graffiti artists from harassment by the law.

See another example of meta-graffiti (a truck graffitied with the image of a truck covered with graffiti) on the site And I am Not Lying¬†and another on Flickr that says, “This sentence is graffiti,” which would have been more interesting, I think, if it had said, “This sentence is not graffiti.”

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