Florida in Mexico

Img_1267 Creativity likes chaos.  So it loves Mexico City.  The graffiti here is markedly better than what I see in New York City, and it’s better than what I saw this spring in Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels or Paris.  (I admit happily that I am using old fashioned aesthetic notions to make these judgment.  Would a graffiti artist agree with me?  I think she would.  Please click on the image to the right.  It’s worth a closer look.)   

And it’s everywhere.  Very few vertical surfaces in Mexico City escape sprayed paint.  In Monterrey, my present location, there is much less work and what there is often anemic, as if someone can’t quite work the nerve to get on with it.

But chaos doesn’t just come from graffiti.  It’s there in the mixed (read, "no") zoning that shapes Mexico City.  A single block can contain an array of possibilities: several types of architecture, a couple types of habitation, many sizes and shapes of building, and a mix of commerce and habitation.  Buildings that are carefully segregated in the US here jumble up.

What Monterrey lacks in graffiti, it makes up in other intrusions. Just when we think we have a fix on what we’re doing, something intrudes, a glimpse of mountains, a field of brush, a stand of cactus,Img_1426 clouds draped on a hillside.  Just for a second, we’re a world away. And then we’re back.  What were we thinking again?  Oh, right.

Thomas Hardy was pretty good on the chaos of the heath, where perceptions swim and distinctions tremble.

the heath wore the appearance of an installment of night which had taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come: darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day stood distinct in the sky.

Monterrey’s got this sort of thing going on in a big way.  Who needs graffiti artists when the natural world remakes itself?

The creative classes are drawn to places like this.  I think that because, in these places, chaos does most of the hard work of creativity.  Graffiti in Mexico City and heaths in Monterrey break apart received wisdom and the taken-for-granted assumptions that would otherwise prevent us from (cliche alert) thinking outside the box.  The creative classes need "mixed zoning," because otherwise the decomposition and recombination of things would be up to them. 

Mea culpa.  Me, too.  Chaos at work is totally interesting.

References

Florida, Richard.  The Rise of the Creative Classes.  [sorry, I don’t have the full ref.]

Hardy, Thomas.  Return of the Native.  read and download here.

Post scriptImg_1166

Alex, I see your NY Graffiti (see comment below) and I raise it! (please click on this photo to get fuller detail)

Thanks for your kind words and the opportunity to pit noble graffiti tradition against one another.   (Not that graffiti is competitive or anything.)

2 thoughts on “Florida in Mexico”

  1. It’s like myspace — creativity loves chaos. But that also gets into the system that allows users to ‘graffiti’ their surroundings — is the inability to impact one’s surroundings (virtual or other) a deterrent to passionate interaction?

  2. Great post, Grant, but I think the set-up was a little unfair to other long-time bastions of graffiti worldwide, whose artists would certainly quarrel with your judgment, hehe.

    As a longtime fan of graf and NYC resident, I can proudly counter with homegrown evidence that graffiti’s creativity hasn’t waned in the place of its birth: graf trucks. What could be sneakier and more quintessentially New York than painting a great piece on the side of a delivery truck you know will be making stops in ritzy, posh places where graffiti doesn’t see the light of day? I always chuckle when I see something like this cruising the Upper East Side:

    http://newyorkguide.blogs.com/uknyc/images/vans_of_new_york.jpg

    We’re alive and kicking up here. Still though, great post. The Hardy quote is money.

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