History and Information about Graffiti Part 3 Dialogue and Kilroy

About the history of Graffiti, origins and meanings, uses and reasons behind graffiti, examples of dialogue, about Kilroy.

Graffiti--the Handwriting on the Wall

Sometimes graffitists start talking back to each other, and a graffiti dialogue is born. One individual writes, for example, "My mother made me a homosexual," and a witty response is scrawled underneath: "Will she make me one too? How much wool does she need?"

These graffiti dialogues can develop into longwinded conversations, with several scribblers getting in on the act. In the following wall conversation, each writer has been designated by a number:

1. I have lost the equivalence of my ability to live. Please help me find my way.

2. Be like Miss Muffet. Start with your curds and your whey will follow.

3. Solipsist! Can't you tell a heavy question by the weigh?

4. Encores away, my lads?--USNA

2. Your lads are laid, your anchors weighed, and you're the fools your mothers made.--USMA

3. All of you look like targets to me.--USAF

1. See what I mean? Send out an S.O.S. and every S.O.B. within range jams the airwaves!

Graffiti dialogues often get started in response to poster advertisements. A New York subway poster for a job retraining program showed a complicated electrical unit with the question written underneath, "When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?" The graffiti retort: "Go on relief," "Pull out the plug," and "Become a circuit breaker." Another poster asks "Did you make New York dirty today?" and got the obvious comeback: "New York makes me dirty every day."

Synonymous with the word "graffiti" and known the world over is the notorious Kilroy. The balloon nose and mischievously prying eyes, accompanied by the announcement that "Kilroy was here," 1st appeared during W.W. II. The generally accepted theory of Kilroy's origin is that he was an infantry soldier who got tired of hearing the Air Force brag that it was always 1st on the spot. Kilroy specialized in being the 1st and only one to show up in outrageous places, like the top of the torch of the Statue of Liberty, on the packing cases of 3 elephants sent to the U.S. by the Belgian Government, and in the bathroom reserved for Truman, Stalin, and Attlee at the Potsdam Conference.

A Freudian Kilroy theory hypothesizes that Kilroy is a modern version of the ancient Oedipal legend. Kilroy, according to this theory, actually means "kill roi" (roi is the French word for king); king and father are identical, so Kilroy is an expression of the Oedipal urge to kill one's father. The accompanying urge to marry one's mother is symbolized by Kilroy's appearance in inaccessible, taboo places.

Even without psychoanalytic theories, however, Kilroy would live on, for he needs no defense or explanation. Kilroy, and graffiti in general, are simply Everyman's medium. They offer special advantages: They're free, uncensored, and available to everyone. Graffiti have been both despised and delighted in throughout history, and will undoubtedly continue to survive despite periodic janitorial cleanup and paint jobs. An anonymous scribbler in a New York bathroom summed it up:

Everything has its place, even the stupid writings in this cold john. Amen.

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