Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
Graffiti is not a new concept, maybe it never was; we’ve always needed walls and leaving them bare doesn’t make sense. Artwork has the potential to transform barricades to gateways, safety to entertainment, an enclosure to the open-world…the possibilities share boundaries with imagination but true limits are determined by canvas, or in most cases, lack thereof.
The Artist spends his days solving that problem, his nights, too, are a sacrifice; time is the price of creation’s tithe. We join him in the dark, his footsteps drum taps in a cricket concerto and his eyes bouncing like the wand of, not a conductor but a panic-stricken magician. He’s been caught before and hates the process, pristine police station walls mock the Artist more than the officers. ‘Aren’t you too old for this?’ They ask and laugh every time as if they’d thought of something new.
The Artist is on his way to where the police never patrol, a spot so far off the beaten path that arrival could never happen by accident – through a hole in the fence and across an abandoned alley a rattling sack is tossed over a low-standing wall.
The Artist is quick to follow and upon entering the lot, as per tradition, he envisions the building that once occupied the space; he never saw it, in fact, he thinks of a different construct every time – the exercise is a natural tradition but this time nothing comes to mind. He tries to force it, lays brick after brick in his mind but they fall every time. He collects his bag with a mind emptier than the discarded spray-paint cans scattered throughout the lot.
The Artist has never run into anyone else here but knows it hosts a community of creators, the walls feature every variety of style and different images on each visit. Seclusion and space to work is desirable for all creatives and since the area is so hard to find only the passionate go through the trouble of doing so – no one ever raises an issue about their art being worked over because all that’s important is that they were able to get it out in the first place.
The Artist’s back is against a wall, head between hands; he still can’t think and doesn’t know why. He walks a lap, stops where he can see the tip of a sea serpent’s tail poking from beneath a gang tag – the creature was a creation of his and he remembers being comfortable during the process. He plants his feet where they stood before, his legs set, eyes glaze over – the Artist sees a beautiful ocean on the wall, tranquility earned after chaos.
The artist can make that happen – but every blue he’s brought with him is empty – scattered clatters and the graveyard has a few new corpses. Frustrated, he is on his way out when a half-finished plane catches his eye. It’s a top-layer, not painted over, just abandoned. He gets closer, sees how the lines suddenly taper off as if the other half of the picture had been put somewhere else – he knows what the original creator was going for, knows himself capable of getting the image there – but is it allowed?
The Artist has never seen it done, presumably to do so violates some unwritten rule, but no one is around to stop him. He has the necessary colors in surplus, but even if he didn’t he’d have worked with what he had available. The lines come out of his can smooth, measured, perfect – he blinks – a lifesize plane covers the wall in front of him.
It’s his favorite thing he’s ever done, the most impressive by far – he touches his creation to ensure it’s real – it is – now ahead of him is a scribbled sky spanning the color spectrum – the Artist throttles forward.