Friday, September 24, 2010
When is the last time you saw a freight train? When is the last time you saw a freight train without graffiti?
Remember a time when freight trains did not have graffiti? I think it was about 25 years ago. Why and when did graffiti show up on trains? Did Fixing Broken Windows programs and anti-graffiti strategies displace graffiti out of cities onto these traveling billboards?
I just watched a documentary film about angst-ridden Gen-X street "artists" who started the whole thing back in the 80s. Or so they say. Kids at the fringe. At 35 they are no longer kids and no longer on the fringe.
The rest of us are left with their legacy. A contribution to urban culture. Thanks.
Then again, if the sum Gen-Xer legacy amounts to painted freight trains (it doesn't!) is that so bad? Compared to the legacy of the "Greatest Generation" and the Boomers - vanishing fish stocks, depleted forests, genetically-modified food and the human-caused carbon nightmare driving climate change - painted trains are not so bad.
That, of course, is a conceit. Gen-Xers (like all other generations) owe, and deserve, much more. For me, painted trains are little more than the latest manifestation of contemporary culture. In this case they just happen to be ugly.
It need not be so. Why not capitalize on the fringe tendency to paint trains? Train murals. (Why not?) Traveling train-art competitions. (Such possibilities!)
I wonder why train companies have been so lethargic to move beyond "catch them and charge them"? Given the utter failure of that strategy over the past few decades, it would seem obvious something more intelligent is in order.
Look what Canada Post came up with...
Hard to graffiti when it already looks graffitied
If bureaucratic stasis were real, a large federal bureaucracy like Canada Post (or the US Postal Service for that matter) would be poster child. Yet, even here, innovation is possible.
So why are train companies silent?