Street memories…

I spent a few weeks in Amsterdam recently. I was there to meet artists and take photographs of art on the city streets (Amsterdam is one of the cities I’m studying as part of my research on street art). One day, I was walking along a street when I suddenly came across this:

In addition to the usual pleasure that I experience when I come across a new piece of art in the streets, I felt an incredible shock of recognition. The calligraphy, the allusive style, the signature…. I realised that I had seen the work of this writer when I had been in Amsterdam two years before. On that trip, walking around the area known as the Jordaan, I had wandered down a little street and seen words on a hoarding which read: ‘As she dances in the widescreen of her existence’.

Something about about those words had really moved me at the time (and still does). The idea of there being a ‘widescreen’ to existence… and the image of a woman dancing. It embodied, for me, a sense of a way of being that bespoke lightness and joy.

I had no idea who the writer was. I felt surprised and delighted that the writer inscribed his or her words in English rather than Dutch, and, over the next few days, I came across a few more of the writer’s words upon other walls: the distinctive black lettering and the short phrases and sentences, the signature of ‘Laser 3.14’.

But I’m used to the idea that street artists and graffiti writers come and go. They move city, they stop writing on the streets – one way or another, the words left by a writer often disappear and don’t get replaced. So to come across another of Laser 3.14’s texts, two years after my first encounter, seemed like an amazing piece of good fortune.

After that, throughout my 3 week stay in Amsterdam, I saw more and more of the writer’s work. I photographed everything I could see. Some of the texts appealed to me more than others, but all were interesting. Almost all were written on temporary surfaces: hoardings, screens, sheeting. I came across one text, faded and almost too faint to read, painted on a wall (it read ‘When the streets are wet/ the colours slip into the sky’). The others had all been granted ephemerality by virtue of their host surface: they would appear, be present in the city for a while, and then be ripped down.

One day my sense of this writer’s gift to the city intensified into an even more personal encounter. During my visit, I was staying in a studio on Prinsengracht, and each day would leave the studio, and turn left down a small street called Runstraat. On this street there was construction work being carried out on a building; a hoarding covered its lower floor. And then one morning, the hoarding looked like this:

I loved the idea that, while I slept, Laser 3.14 had passed by this hoarding, on the street around the corner from where I lived, and inscribed these words. My pleasure at seeing them made me feel as though I was ‘dancing in the widescreen of my existence’, indeed.

3 comments so far

  1. giulia on

    as she dance in the widescreen of her existence.
    those words moved something in me as well.
    but the curious thing is that i saw them in london, in a little street of shoreditch.
    just wanted to tell that to you.
    good blog.
    see u

  2. imagestoliveby on

    Hi Gliulia

    Thanks for the comment – that’s so fascinating to learn that you saw these words in Shoreditch. I think Laser 3.14, who lives in Amsterdam and writes these poetic phrases, has visited London a few times in the last couple of years, and he must have been to Shoreditch… I love it that, in street art, words and images can become mobile.

    Thanks for visiting the blog!

  3. […] reminded of the way that Laser 3.14 writes aphorisms on the walls of Amsterdam (see my earlier entry on his work). And, of course, the possibilities of the letter form are taken to their calligraphic […]

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