Saturday, November 08, 2008

Writing on the Wall: Politics 2008

Some readers of this blog study Byzantine inscriptions and the sociology of defacement, graffiti, spolia. Just in class last week, I was explaining why the font used in the Vienna Genesis (6th-c. illuminated manuscript) resembles the font of stone-carved inscriptions. We discussed issues of literacy (especially in relation to Islam) and the conceptual framework of street art. In the last month, two images of public inscribing have struck my attention.

The first, a photograph by Joshua Lotts/Reuters, appeared in the
New York Times (10/6/08, p. B4) after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. It shows a Wall Street employee defacing the image of Lehman Brothers' CEO Richard Fuld, who was held responsible for the company's ill fate. The messages are predominantly negative: "Drop Dead Golden Parachute," "GREED," etc. This canvas was set up outside in Wall Street (not Main Street), giving the public a chance to textually perform.

The second photograph, by Mitch Dumke/Reuters, also from the
New York Times (11/6/08, p. P4) shows another act of public inscription, this time positive, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Three passers-by write congratulatory notes to their newly elected President. On the iconographic connections between Barack Obama and the Lincoln Memorial, see my earlier posting.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States