This is my mum.
She is very clever. Like über, super-duper clever. In fact she is like this massive big floating being of supreme brainy smarts that it makes the rest of us look like plebs.
It must be a burden to be so smart, in fact I know it is as she is constantly hassled by myself and others to help with our work: ‘der, please help my wordy thing.’ ‘i don’t write good english head words not working’ and so on.
She likes words and words like her, it’s such a perfect symbiosis that last year she finished her PhD. And next month she will don her cap and gown to receive the piece of paper that says: you are now officially Dr Smarty Pants.
My mum likes more than just words on paper, she likes words and marks and symbols and scribbles and splashes and scratchings and etchings on things like pavements, roads, walls, asphalt, grass, cobblestones, in fact anything beneath our feet.
You see my mum did her PhD on stuff on the ground. Well technical it’s a PhD in media and urban culture with the thesis title ‘Pavement graffiti: an exploration of roads and footways in words and pictures’. But my title Dr of Stuff on the Ground sounds much better don’t you think?
This is how she describes it: The project is an invitation to notice the hardscape – roadways, sidewalks, plazas and parking lots – and to read what is written on it. Prosaically functional though this pavement may be, it is at the same time monumental and grand. Stretched across the endless horizontal, it is a cultural marker that underpins our daily thoughts and activities. But graffiti on the pavement challenges its functional orderliness, upsets its familiar certainties and brings to it an element of charm.
But the way I see it she is documenting communication from the lowest graffiti scrawls abusing ex-lovers and friends, to sly advertisements and beyond. Council markings, cultural differences (look right!), hidden meanings in traffic accident markings, social activisim (rainbow zebra crossings?), inviting wet concrete, love letters, memorial plaques, and the general loveliness of concrete – textures, colours and shapes.
You’re probably noticed it’s not your average topic to study for a whole bunch of years. She’s not an average lady and I have a lot to credit her with, including the hoarding gene she passed on (from her father).
Luckily she is creatively minded, so is one of the people I talk AT when I’m having a design-brain block. You know those days when you have a brief but can’t seem to coax the ideas out, so you need someone to dissect the brief and discuss options, talk design in general and say ‘erm, yes okay… maybe not that idea’ too.
It’s one of the things I miss most working on my own – being able to turn to the person next to you and bat ideas around. Mum graciously lets me text her WIPs, email her screenshots and listens to my endless drivel on the phone when I am lonely in my studio and the dogs’ conversation is just not cutting it.
Thanks for being so rad mum.
And just to even this out, she is sucker for her grandkids, only watches depressing movies and gets hives in suburbia.
Do you have an awesome family too? And when was the last time you looked down and took notice of what you were walking past?
(All photos taken at family gatherings over the years)