The tattoos that, only five or six years ago, still often impressed me when they were revealed on the beach or simply in the street in summer, have become commonplace. Even in the police institution, as long as they didn’t report political or religious affiliation, they ended up being allowed. They are so widespread that, while remaining eminently personal, they are no longer in themselves a distinctive mark. Perhaps the new generations will make it a point of honor to leave their skin alone to stand out from their elders, in a sort of “tattooed OK” which would have the value of the famous “OK boomer” of today?
The first tattoos around me surprised me and, despite their discretion, affected me. They appeared about fifteen years ago, not only among young people. One of my cousins, for example, had the name of her first granddaughter tattooed on her wrist, and we joked: what a commitment, in case her children were to embark on large families!
But deep down I remained reluctant, not just out of snobbery. I instinctively made the connection with the tattoo of the blood type under the arm of the SS, which was to help them in the event of injury but lost many who tried after the defeat to blend into the mass of prisoners of war. ordinary, mobilized in the Wehrmacht. It seemed important to me to keep in mind that life is long, that we may have to hide, to flee, and that the less identifiable we are, the better.
More deeply, I feel like an obligation not to do anything that is irreversible, except for health reasons, and more particularly to respect one’s skin, fragile and soft barrier against danger, synonymous with life even in a formula like “saving your own skin”.
This conservatism extends to what belongs to all of us, the city walls. For half a century, the precious landscape offered by cities around the world has been standardized by the action of street artists, who privatize any surface that suits them to affix their signature. Without judging the quality of these works, what makes them antipathetic to me is that their authors appropriate the public space and that with their paint bombs they do to cities the same thing as the international chain stores, emblematic of the consumer society.
Like Zara or McDo, these artists standardize everything. The CAPITALE(S) exhibition offered (until March 25) by the Hôtel de Ville in Paris is interesting and telling for a béotienne like me, but she is careful not to address the question of the privatization of the medium and the landscape in general. Is it normal to impose one’s taste and colors, one’s fantasies and one’s style on everyone? What would become of us if musicians also wanted to express themselves everywhere, at any time? How to survive in this cacophony, even talented? The omnipresence of spray paints, everywhere, breaks the gaze as one breaks the ears.
And then, on Thursday, a dispatch from the Reuters news agency caught my attention. The photo showed the face of Argentine football world champion Lionel Messi, seen from the air. It is, in huge, a monochrome portrait, green, all in subtle gradations, like a giant stencil, with a double particularity that makes it very moving. On the one hand, this portrait is only visible from the sky, therefore from an airplane or filmed by a drone, because it occupies a vast expanse of countryside, of which the brief article accompanying the image does not specify the dimensions, but we know across Argentina.
We are therefore not talking about visual pollution for an image that no one on Earth can see. You have to rely on filmed images to believe in his existence, and only the imagination validates that of the invisible face of the Argentinian striker with seven Golden Balls, whose passion he inspires in his great country. The other peculiarity comes from the inherently transitory character of this portrait. It is not drawn with a spray can, nor with indelible ink, but with corn, sown using an algorithm, as explained by its creator, the young agricultural engineer Carlos Faricelli, playing on the sowing density. It will therefore naturally, with the leaves, turn yellow, wither, fall, disappear. Will he ever exist? It will have been enough to believe in it, in a way.
You see me coming. If only the seasons could do to the tattoos and sprays of urban art what they do to the plantations of ephemeral, almost chimerical agricultural art! I say it without irony: this art would then have found its vocation in the transitory, one would have to believe in it to see it, and it would hold its nobility from its precariousness. A bit like each of us, in a way, including Lionel Messi.
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