Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gelman Furniture, the New Post Secret?

In my UW20 class, a large part of our discussion was concerning the literary merit of graffiti. Some literary experts argue that the "criminal" classification of graffiti is misguided and a rejection of the thoughts, words, and opinions existing behind the paint on the wall.

In some cases, as the GW Hatchet points out, graffiti art can be considered community service.

Although not as established, and in most cases not as artistic as the graffiti you would see around the District and in other cities, a case can be made that the markings on furniture in George Washington University's library similarly represent the thoughts and opinions of the GW community.

Looking around at the markings and carvings on study spaces can entice some to become angry, while prompting others to laugh, and most to shake their head in disapproval.

The following are some markings quoted verbetum from two cubicles on the third floor:
"Sleep here. A five min dose off and that's it. 10 min the most. OK... stick to it five. Yes..."

"I flow in The Tide
She knows I'm here
She knows I'm hers"

Obama rocks"
(written below arrow pointing to comment above is "socialist")

"GW girls

"I spend too much time reading these comments"
For those of you who have spent too much time reading the comments, or any time at all really, I'm sure you have come across your fair share espousing racism, sexism and my favorites - simple proclamations of profanity. I will not be posting those here.

What is interesting is that the furniture, which is "graffitied" quite often, acts as a fluid forum. One student writes a comment on the wall of the cubicle and leaves. A student down the road sees the comment and responds or adds on to the original sentiment of the author.

But what do the markings, if anything, represent? Are they a chance for students to write down their thoughts and feelings with anonymity? Are they similar to the "Post Secret" phenomenon where random people anonymously send in post cards bearing their deepest and darkest secrets?

The founder of Post Secret, Frank Warren, made a sold out appearance at GW last month. Arguing to the importance of anonymity and expression, Warren told the crowd:
"And right now there seems to be a big demand for people to share their secrets in a public way beyond what's happening on the Web anonymously.
Are GW students sharing their secrets "in a public way" through writing on the desks in the library?

As petty and inappropriate as some of the writings might be, GW students took the time to carve them into a desk. I ask why? And I wonder what they tell us about our student body.


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