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, 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.
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.
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.)