Popular Posts

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Catching my Eye

One of the first things to catch my eye last week was an article in The Guardian about the signs that burglars leave for potential burglars outside your house. Chalk marks on the ground, usually. I had known of this practice before, but seeing the examples given and their meaning brought it home afresh - pun not intended. In case you missed it, here are the examples given.

Now here is the key - just in case you need to know some day!

1: A good target.
2: Occupant, nervous and afraid.
3. Nothing worth stealing.
4. This house is alarmed.
5. Vulnerable female: easily conned.
6. Too risky.
7. Wealthy owner.
8. Has already been robbed.

Further comment is, I think, superfluous.

Except... gelling with so much talk of climate change and the parlous condition of the earth, it set my mind fancifully thinking what if aliens, robbers say, the extraterrestrial equivalent of Viking raiders, were to chance upon earth, recce it and leave the fruits of their reconnaissance in orbit. What would their signs say? Here, I have managed just two suggestions:-

Any more from any more?

Then there was the Andy Warhol Red Portrait affair. You may have seen this, too. Andy Warhol made ten identical red self-portraits. Excuse me while I rephrase that: there are ten identical red silk-screen portraits of Andy Warhol. David Mearns, a Sussex business man has one of them. It was to have been offered to the Tate, but has now been withdrawn. There exists a New York Foundation that pronounces on the authenticity or otherwise of works by, or said to be by, Andy Warhol. It offered to authenticate the work. The offer was turned down flat by David Mearns, who has accused it of making such offers in the past with the sole intention of stamping Denied on the back so as to destroy the value of the silk screen prints. From time to time the Foundations sells works that it owns, and so has a vested interest in the scarcity value of its own works.

And so the battle was joined: is the red portrait a fake or a valuable Warhol? The case for its authenticity is its provenance. Andy Warhol gave a photograph of himself to a friend. It was an automatic image produced by a bog-standard photo-booth. The friend passed it on to an outside firm. They produced the silk screens from it - and presumably ran off the prints. The finished prints were looked at and approved by Andy Warhol... and that's the case for the defence? Yes, my lord, there the case rests. What thinkest thou, O juror?

Good to see a painting taking the top Turner prize. Good, too, to see that beauty is the new ugly and to know that paint is okay again. I would not wish to exclude ugly, you understand, but it takes all sorts to make a world - even a fragile, fleeting world that is tied to a moment , a situation or an environment.

Richard Wright was asked - only natural, I suppose - if he had any plans for the prize money. His reply was that, like everyone else, he has bills. Since he has covered a rather large wall with the gold leaf that is destined to painted over at the exhibition's close, I just wonder if his bills really are like every one else's.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting post as usual, Dave. The Richard Wright wall was lovely though wasn't it? So refreshing to see "proper" painting. Interesting about the Warhol too - it raises all sorts of questions doesn't it - it is such a shame that money governs everything. As to the signs on the pavement - pre war tramps used to do this. My mother was always welcoming to tramps and gypsies (she came originally from Romany stock) and she found a tramp drawing on the pavement by our gate with a piece of chalk. When she asked him what he was doing he said he was leaving a message for other tramps that she was good for a hot meal!

Unknown said...

Hi Dave,

Food for thought. I had heard of pavement signs denoting an unsecured wifi hot spot but not for burglary! We will have the country paranoid. 'Limited editions' of artworks is fraught with danger if the limitation isn't easily proved.

Rosaria Williams said...

Interesting post. The signs are real? Not made up by somebody to fool the police? I love your galactic signs, Dave. It could start a whole new fad!

Jim Murdoch said...

I've never approved of the whole factory art thing. I find myself getting quite rankled when I see programmes about artists who have a whole team of assistants doing the work. Maybe I should start farming out my poems and see if I can get away with it. Of course ghost-writing has been going on for years but then so has cheating in exams. I'll stop now. I'm getting annoyed.

David Cranmer said...

Due for demolition was a good chuckle.

Kass said...

Why has no one tried to guess what your galactic signs might be saying? You ARE going to tell us, aren't you? The first one could be, "Inhabitants here very sqaure and off their Lollies."

Rachel Cotterill said...

So many interesting thoughts. I do wonder why burglars would want to help one another out....

Tumblewords: said...

A terrific post! I almost laughed but then I began to think I should grab my sidewalk chalk and mark my own warnings! Having been burgled once was more than enough for me. I wonder about the aliens...

The Grandpa said...

Someone drew a chalk drawling of Andy Warhol on my driveway a couple of days ago. What does it mean.

I think doomed for demolition.

Unknown said...

In Toronto, drug dealers apparently fling laced shoes over the electric cables hanging from post to post to advertise they are in the neighborhood, and gang members write signs no one can read except other gang members. Chalk at the end of my driveway means they are going to fix the curbs.
For the space aliens... perhaps the outline of a plastic pop bottle, with only the earth floating inside. The message could read, " carbon-ate-it" . I am sad to find out the Campbell Soup cans in my cupboard are ugly and not so artistic anymore. I marveled at the detail in Richard Wright's mural. It's a great amount of time and effort to just paint over. I enjoyed this thoughtful post Dave. Thanks.

Shadow said...

in this country they use colour. coloured bottles to be specific. green = easy. white = some resistance. red = alarm, dog, etc. are the one's i know about. also sticks placed in an arrangement of meaning. those though i don't know. needless to say, my pavement and street is kept very clean and neat...

Raj said...

interesting post sir. regarding the rogue language and the portrait.
ps: i really didnt know much about the andy warhol affair. :)
i know a bit i guess now.

SG said...

If these signs are indeed for real (and I wouldn't be surprised if they were at some point), I am just wondering, wouldn't the robbers have to be updating them every now and then? Once people knew what they meant, wouldn't they play with them?

The one expression that caught me while reading was 'beauty is the new ugly'. I have often wondered.. what it is about changing perceptions of our world.. is nothing absolute?

Carl said...

I can't help but think Warhol would love that the debate about what is art still rages over his stuff. At what point does art / authenticity begin and end.


Dave King said...

Yes, I did know that tramps used similar signs - a friend of mine was a country minister and had many such around his manse at various times of the year. I think he may have taken a less positive view of any left by burglars, though!

I had not heard of the wifi signs... incredible, that, I think!

Yes, shooting themselves in the foot, isn't it?

The signs are real all except my Galactis ones - and who knows? One day...

I have to say, I feel as you do.

Let's hope the laugh doesn't prove to be on us...

I did write the captions under the signs, though I have to admit, the colours do not show up too well unless you enlarge them. They say Due for Demolition and Keep Out: Structure unsafe.
But I have to say that I prefer your one.

The camaraderie of the road with tramps... as thick as thieves, perhaps?

Yes, the thought did occur that we could all mark our houses as not worth the trouble - or something like that.

The Grandpa
Welcome. Really good to have you back.
Maybe your sign meant that Andy Warhol had approved your house. He's probably taken out a copyright on it by now.

Thanks for those remarks Linda. Chalk marks meaning we are going to rob you of your road for a few weeks are quite common round our way. I loved the carbon-ate-it. Really good, that!

I did know about the sticks, but had not heard of the bottles before. Bottles and boots now! Cue for a song - or poem - perhaps.

I didn't know much about it until last week. Thanks for the comment.

I'm sure they are for real, and, yes, I wondered how long they would last - and why they would tell other robbers.

I think if I had to come off the fence I would say, no, nothing is absolute - bit I'm not sure.

I'm sure you are right. I am certain he would love it.

Kass said...

Dave - Thanks for pointing out that I can click on images to make them larger. I've been blogging 4 months (but not without breaks) and I never realized you could do this. I appreciate your dropping by my 'Redoing the Undone' blog. I can see what you mean about selecting a tissue that has come out of the representation of a nose, but if I pleased all of the people all of the time, I wouldn't be human. Take a jaunt over to one of my other blogs:
The K Is No Longer Silent
Old Sugarhouse

Kass said...

Dave - I just realized that I invited you to view my other blogs and I just went over and saw that you had commented on one of my photos in Old Sugarhouse. I don't have the notification button turned on so I failed to see this. My faux pas. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it, especially since you are such a fine photographer.

J. C. said...

A very thought provoking Dave, thanks for this one.

Dianne said...

Very funny, I would like to read the other humorous pieces you have done, do you have a link to any specific ones?

My Flash 55 Fiction is up. Though I prefer poetry and prose, I'm beginning to wonder what the difference is. As long as I have my muse.

A Cuban In London said...

Of the Andy, if you can't tell them apart, then, there's no forgery. Just sell it and send a contribution to the Foundation.

Of the burglars' language, I rolled on the floor when I first read it. I have heard of secret language amongst criminals, but signs, what for? They mostly work on their own. Completely bonkers.

And as for Wright's response, it was genius. Pay the bills and carry on painting.

Greetings from London.

Dave King said...

Thanks for the links. Will do.

Good heavens, don't start trying to please folk - except yourself, of course -, I didn't mean you to do that!

And my thanks to you for the comment.

Sorry, no. I've never created a link specifically to humerous posts, but if you pop this one in your browser and then follow the tag at the bottom you should pick up a few. I have to admit though, that I haven't used it a lot. Thanks for the interest.

A Cuban in London
My reactions when I read about them in the news were much the same.

Jeanne Estridge said...

Early in the advent of wireless internet, a practice of latching onto others' signals evolved, called hoboing. Like the theives markings, hobos would leave marks on the sidewalk telling their fellows about the relative strength and security of the signals inside.

In re: your comment on my blog: That's what I believe. However, an etiquette seems to exist in Blogworld that says it's only okay to praise, never to offer useful critique. You seem to be one of the few bloggers who are mature enough to desire real feedback. (And even at that, I got my head handed to me by one of your readers when I questioned your use of idiom in one of your pieces.)

Anonymous said...

An interesting read Dave. Can't say I have noticed similar chalk marks on the footpaths in Melbourne. Andy Warhol would be sitting back contemplating the debate and thinking up a new image. He'd done Marilyn, maybe this time it would be Angelina or maybe an iPod image to compete with Campbell's soup image. we can only wonder.

Dave King said...

I thought for a moment you were going to say "I got my head handed to me ona plate"! I had not realised that it had become an etiquette to praise and not to criticise in the full sense on the Blogosphere. If so, that is a shame, for true feedback is like life blood. I had been told that there were two kinds of commenters, those who are seeking to develop their poetry skills (say) and those whose main purpose is to foster relationships. (I don't quite see why the two should be regarded as mutually exclusive, but still.) I am sorry if, no doubt with the best of intentions, a blogger took you to task on my account. Please don't let it put you off!

I hadn't known about the wireless internet hobos. I found that very interesting.

Studio Sylvia
Maybe Andy would be designing some new ikons for the footpaths.

Madame DeFarge said...

A wide ranging post as always. The Warhol saga sounds baffling, but then why people like Warhol is a constant mystery to me.

Dave King said...

Madame DeFarge
Thanks for that. Yes, the Warhol business baffled me, too: how can they argue about an authentic Warhol when he had nothing to do with it in any case?

Anonymous said...

Ah, This is perfect! Clears up
a few misnomers I've seen

Anonymous said...

Ah, This is great! Clears up
several misnomers I've read

Anonymous said...

Ah, This is awesome! Puts to bed
a few contradictions I've been hearing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, This is great! Clears up
several misnomers I've read

Anonymous said...

Good fill someone in on and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you seeking your information.