Sunday 1 January 2012

Rise & Root

I HAD A DREAM a few weeks ago in which several symbols appeared before me. They had no context, just were there. One of them remained with me upon waking, and I became determined to discover its meaning. It was a rune-like sign, made of straight sections, and looked like this:

I’ve been paying more attention to my dreams recently, and this sign seemed to need deciphering. I went first to the runes for a meaning, but though my symbol was very like a rune, I found none like mine. Then I searched amongst the Ogham alphabet. At first I thought it must be the Ogham cipher for birch which is made up of a vertical straight line, a shorter horizontal heading out to the right from the centre and at the base (as begins or ends all Ogham letters when written alone) an inverted V, making two legs. This was the symbol most like mine I could find, though it wasn’t quite satisfactory - my symbol had three legs and a diagonal stroke to the right. 

For a while I sat with birch trees and wondered, until one day I found the answer in my sketchbook. I was drawing ideas for an image I’ve had sitting on my shoulder for a while; as the imagery came out of my pencil in rough scribbles of ideas, I spotted the symbol hiding in amongst the sketching, and it gave me impetus to carry the idea through to a finished design. 

For some time I have wanted to make an image with which to start a quiet revolution on the backs of service station toilet doors, on the billboards behind carparks, over the screens of insidious train-journey advertising. In deep hatred for the feeling I get when I am forced to enter motorway service station cafes, shopping malls or toilets, I wanted to rail against all that is bland and homogeneous and commercial and life-suckingly chrome-and-concrete and spreading un-refuted like a disease across our land. I imagined planting little seeds of hope and solidarity in the form of a beautiful and rousing image which I would stick between the scrawlings of desperation and ugliness in the perfumed, disinfected cubicles made for us to shit in whilst we are not at home. The backs of public toilet doors are a fascinating melting pot of honest expression, dissent and advertising; it feels like there’s a communication between strangers played out there in this, the most private of rooms, and this is the way I wanted to communicate: liminally.

I suppose I wanted to plant my revolution-seed in the dirt in the cracks of the pavements, in the dirt between the formica and polyester, in the dirt pushed to the edges of millions of touchscreens, in the dirt underneath escalator rails and hygienic hand-dryers. Like the gargoyles and marginal grotesques of the middle ages, I wanted to coax beauty in once more like a stranger to the citadels of public ugliness we all have become so used to. I wanted to surprise and unnerve and delight and disedge all the lovely human beings who have grown so unseeing in the unbeautiful subway of their daily rush through these places. I wanted ivy to grow over all the chrome and adverts, its clinging rootlets ruining the L'Oréal shine with their ancient, living patination, and its roots grinding escalators to a twisted halt. I wanted green silence to toll through the noisy claustrophobia of shopping malls and for the shoppers to break their ankles on huge ancient roots, which had crept in past the security guards (notwithstanding hoodies and ASBOs) to smash up the shops. I wanted to grab them by the hand, and run with them (limping) to the dark woods and remind them that they are powerful.

And so I made this drawing for you - Rise & Root - a symbol perhaps, a waymarker for the Zapatistas of suburbia. As I drew the rooted tree-people raising their fists, I realised that they were the embodiment and representation of my dream-rune: raised fists to the fight, and roots in the earth. I give you this image to do with what you wish: download it, reblog it, print it, photocopy it, make it into stickers and take them with you in your bag to stick on the backs of public toilet doors, on supermarket conveyor belts or over underground advertising screens; make it into a poster, a projection, print it on bags and T-shirts, paint it large on the sides of petrol stations, pavements, parliaments. 
Or take the rune as a symbol we’ll all recognise when it’s chalked on our doorsteps, and tattooed on our foreheads.
I want this image not to be for sale - take it freely and use it, let’s make it spread unrelenting from the edges, appearing everywhere, but not obviously authored. I will not make a website about it. It is rough, and black-and-white as a badly photocopied pamphlet. It is yours. A gift to our revolution for Two Thousand And Twelve. Take it and run.