Graffiti Confessions 吃喝拉撒 爱恨情仇

August 12, 2021 2021年8月12日
"I'm innocent for loving country, but I am guilty of loving you."

In today’s world, we’ve learned to close ourselves off. We’re always guarded, terrified of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s simply no place for emotional vulnerability in modern society. But unspoken thoughts can only remain muted for so long. Across China, candid confessions are appearing on the least likely of places—atop half-toppled walls and dilapidated structures. These off-the-cuff missives, though hardly pleasing in any aesthetic sense, are endearingly candor. They’re mysterious, leaving passersby who stumble across them intrigued about the life and fate of the vandal.

These spraypainted musings are the focus of Chinese Graffiti Hub, an Instagram and Weibo account that aggregates photos of amateur graffiti from across the Middle Kingdom. Chinese Graffiti Hub is operated by Lil Quacky, who says he prefers his real name withheld. While studying art history overseas, he discovered the works of Li Xiangwei and Murong Yaming, both of whom frequently photographed Chinese graffiti along with other absurd observations. Upon coming across their photography, Lil Quacky quickly became fascinated by Chinese graffiti. He believes the written word holds a certain power, but at the same time, graffiti as a medium is undeniably ephemeral. What others saw as acts of vandalism, he saw as art that deserved preservation.

One of Lil Quacky’s favorite posts is a photo taken by Li. On a cracked concrete walkway, large Chinese characters spell out a bittersweet stream of thought: “I’m innocent for loving my country, but I am guilty of loving you.” With a lone sentence, the melancholy of the mysterious writer becomes palpable.


不知是什么时候开始,铺天盖地的“正能量、诗和远方”已经将你我的生活统治;私密的朋友圈也成了标榜与炫耀的虚壳……对于奔波于城市之中的当代社会人来说,或许已经没有足够的空间和场地将内心的话公示于众;感性的情绪更是没有容身之所。仔细寻觅,你会在城市的犄角旮旯里找到这些心里话,它们大都以文字的形式出现在拆迁工地或即将废弃的瓦砾之上。即便毫无美感可言,而文字内容的直白与直接,不禁让观看者陷入思考,或联想起创作者过往的经历。

身居海外的艺术生鸭鸭对这类所谓的中文涂鸦为之着迷。他最早被艺术家李翔伟慕容亚明的作品吸引,两位前辈都是公共空间涂鸦艺术的爱好者,以镜头记录下街头场景和文字碰撞出的奇妙感觉、或是在街头书写下自己的触景生情2020 10 月,鸭鸭在 Instagram 建立了中文塗鴉中心(Chinese Graffiti Hub账号,专门收集广大网民在生活中拍下的路边文字。鸭鸭认为,这些文字终将会随时间一同流逝,而文字的力量却无比强大,它直接,可以洞穿观看者内心,是非常值得被记录下的艺术形式。

“我爱国无罪,爱你有罪” 是中文塗鴉中心收集来自李翔伟创作的文字涂鸦作品。照片中,强烈的转折句横在工地隔离带上,巨大的字号与一旁的路人形成对比,“爱”的声讨与斑驳的水泥彼此衬映,荒诞的视觉冲击力尽显眼底;临近还未看清,却早已令人魂飞魄散。

"I hope you're happy."
"I need a lot of love! Or a lot of money!"
"Love one another. One day we all go our own ways."

When graffiti is mentioned nowadays, the stylized burners and tags of hip-hop culture are often what first comes to mind. But to Lil Quacky, the art form has a completely different lineage in China. Whether it be the propaganda slogans from the Mao era or the shady advertisements stenciled on random walls, Chinese graffiti has appeared in different forms throughout the years. But he believes that prose-based graffiti, such as the works he’s chosen to feature, is the most profound. As he sees it, the written word has long been used to share the human experience, and there’s a certain reverence to the medium. “In this era of instant gratification, people may be in need of more forthright ways of communicating. This infotech age makes the simple prose of these graffiti shorthands that much more valuable—it feels like a literary renaissance of sorts, with these written words serving as a voice for the unheard masses. They’re mesmerizing.”


涂鸦在大众的广泛认知里,可能会是夸张的彩色签名字样、泡泡字、城市中的巨幅壁画、或是代表着嘻哈文化的符号等等,和纯文字类型的创作无关。在鸭鸭眼里,早到上世纪毛主席时代的宣传标语、近至当代国内墙壁上一串串办证电话等等,它们都算是文字涂鸦的表现形式他认为常见的涂鸦、或是街头艺术仅仅只是表层的艺术创作,用丰富的颜色和抽象造型来引人注目,且很难像公众传达更为深刻的内涵和思考;文字带给观众的体验则大不相同,文字是承载文明的形式,人对文字是敬畏的。他解释道:在节奏飞快的时代,人们往往需要更直接的内容来引起思考。眼下信息和科技发展迅猛,这样的短句就像是一场记载并传达了大众声音的当代文艺复兴,充满了魔幻现实的味道。

"Finding love shouldn't be so hard."
"The world keeps getting younger, but you keep getting older."
"I want to stay by your side, up until the day I no longer love you."
"The lonely flower petals are but the unkissed lips of spring."

In less than a year since starting Chinese Graffiti Hub, Lil Quacky’s accounts on Instagram and Weibo have raked up a sizable following. Despite the large uptick in submissions, he still filters through all of the sent material with a curatorial eye. “I pick the ones that feel the most insightful, words that can make people take pause in their busy lives and think” he explains. “I ask myself, ‘Would the writing strike a note with me if I came across it in the streets? Does it make me think?'”

Many of the works that Lil Quacky features on the account have been elevated to meme status. Netizens have found resonance with these texts; some find them to be simply humorous, while others see them as societal meditations. Regardless, the misery, despondence, and anger conveyed by the messy graffiti have a certain universality, allowing audiences to leave with their own interpretation.

In China, large-scale writing intended for the public eye is often critical, meant to denounce, shame, or draw attention to societal issues. For example, unpaid laborers have written large banners of their mistreatment and hung them over construction sites. When COVID claimed the life of Li Wenliang, the doctor who first raised awareness of the virus’s danger, heartbroken civilians wrote a farewell to him in the snow. “The writing I collect are like diaries of sorts,” Lil Quacky says. “Except the graffiti is more concise, and the way that the writing appears in the context of these dilapidated environments, amplifies their message. Behind the writing, I see a certain helplessness and confusion. These are the confessions of people capitulated by the status quo, people desperate for happiness and love.”


中文塗鴉中心”在成立至今仅不到一年时间,于网络引发大批网友的拥趸。现如今在 Instagram 平台上,他的粉丝数目已达到将近七万。而账户上发布的大部分作品也都来自网民的投稿。平时,鸭鸭在收集并挑选这些文字涂鸦作品时别有用心,他说道:我会挑选那些有深度的,能够让身处快节奏都市的人们驻足思考的文字。会想象,如果这些作品在路边出现,是否能与大众产生共鸣?是否能为我带来片刻思考?正是因为这种共鸣和直言不讳,让文字涂鸦在网络上被看作为一种热梗(Meme),为大家广泛喜爱和传播。而在谈笑之余,表面的文字背后又渗透着一些反映社会的内容,你总能从那些失望欲绝的、愤怒的、或是无奈的文字背后,读出点什么。

在中国,建筑物或是公共区域出现的大型手写文字,通常具有某种声讨或批判、以及某种个人情绪的表达。例如工地上讨要血汗钱的横批、还有前段子日网友在雪中写下 “送别李文亮!”的字样……“中文塗鴉中心”也同样如此,这些文字涂鸦大都和爱恨情仇、以及都市中的压抑情绪有关,不同的是,创作者由内向外散发的幽默感。鸭鸭说道:这些文字其实和日记一样,把想法与感触即时地记录下来,只不过文字涂鸦内容更精炼,与场景之间产生出一种奇特的效果。文字背后反映出的,我看到更多的是在资本钳制下,人作为个体的无助与失落,在速食时代里对于自我定位的困惑和迷茫,以及对纯真的快乐和爱的渴望。”而这些文字通常出现在废墟和城市待拆区域,像是某种末世和废土之上的浪漫主义情节。

"I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick, I love you."
"Caution: Heavy heart ahead. No admittance."
"Don't love me for I am stuck at the bottom of the valley."
"To see you, to love you, and then to silently depart."

Perhaps it’s apt that these glum missives are most often scrawled across abandoned ruins—the words themselves reveal the emotional barrens of the writer’s own inner world. Lil Quacky is endlessly inspired by these streetside poets, and one day, he hopes to make his own mark on a wall. “It’ll most likely convey my nihilist mindset, something like, ‘Cynics rule the world,'” he laughs. “Today’s youth feel jaded, repressed by society and in desperate need of mental relief. They can’t find a suitable way, so that’s why these unvoiced grievances eventually end on the walls. It’s their way of rebelling against the world. But it’s a bit disheartening, knowing that these words will be washed away by the tides of time. The words they’re finally brave enough to voice will revert to silence. It’s a futile struggle in a cruel society.”


如果有机会,鸭鸭也希望能有朝一日在墙上创作属于自己的文字涂鸦,他说:可能会写一些虚无主义相关的内容吧,比如写个犬儒治世,因为现在年轻人往往在社会环境的压力下活得太累,需要在精神上得到解脱却找不到合适的途径,只好把无声的怨言变作墙上的大字,有种对世界沉默抵抗的感觉。然而,这些文字早晚会被涂掉或被人遗弃,就像平民渺小的声音终将埋没在这无情的社会一样,是一种无效的挣扎。”而在这个网络时代,人们的私人情绪却只能以这样的形式暂存下来,这是否也在警惕着我们,在高科技表面的背后,依然还存放在一片片精神的残骸。

"Graduated and unemployed."
"Art."

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供稿人: Pete Zhang

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