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I’d like to talk about a friend here. Yas.
Yas was a dear friend.
Out of the blue, he told me one day « I quit ».
I didn’t understand, I didn’t know why.
Yas was a tagger.
The fact is that after this statement, I saw him less.
I spotted him.
He didn’t see me. Not anymore. Something had changed.
He was wandering.
I often saw him and I, who knew him to be a tagger, seeing him wandering like this reminded me of a king of wandering in what could be his studio, his gallery; with one more weird thing. He looked at the walls, however relieved of the urgency necessary to his former practice; and his hands intrigued me. They were not behind, crossed behind his back; he had none of the nonchalance of a museum visitor, nor the attentiveness of an expert for that matter. He was looking at the walls, that’s all; some tagged, some not. Previously, the non-tagged walls would trigger in him an ardent impatience for the night to come; then, in the shadow of the moon, he would hasten to paint them. He tagged all the time, but most of the time he lived at night. His appetite, that of Yas particularly since I know others for whom this is not the case, went beyond the placarding of name, “the egotrip”. Yas, he had a thing with walls.
I watched him in the street, from my window, I followed him sometimes; he didn’t notice me anymore. He never had a phone and the contact here didn’t have a hold either. It’s hard to see a friend stop seeing you. As a result of this attention paid to my friend, I began to look at him differently. I was curious about a secret, his point of view, his perspective.
Yas tagged diligently and stopping everything to just wander seemed like a new step in his use of the streets. He was wandering, wandering, anticipating the purpose of a road. Forget crosswalks, Yas was not a pedestrian. He wandered on foot beyond the sidewalks, the pavement of the lines, the design of the circulations. He wasn’t the kind of guy you think of when you’re designing things; although he is a permanent user. Yas was more of a millstone in preconceptions, the inhabitant of a blind spot, a negation.
One of his remarks stuck with me for a long time. We paced an infill that fascinated him – that was long before he “quitted” and stopped seeing me – then he started caressing a wall while we were talking about graffiti. So he whispered to me “A stained or clean wall, traced with piss and puke, even blood, irritated with lichen, fractured, peeled, a wall… it’s luminous”.
He sometimes did not tag a place because the trace of a splash (any kind) prohibited it. Religion was not his thing, only he took a rather crazy care for details, it was almost mystical. In front of this type of walls, he made wishes, he said. Vows or equivalents of which he had no control of either the concept or the ceremony; in any case, abstinence won over him, a disturbance baffled him; attitude opposite to the one facing freshly plastered walls, for which his bombs were bottomless and his agitation electric.
“A wall… it’s luminous”, ok.
Yas has disappeared. I no longer see him, nor spot him. I have no info. Maybe he is in the best of his world. Since then, all the tags I come across have taken over his presence from me. Whatever the name, it’s him. Sometimes even a fresh plaster makes me react, as if I were the writer that he was.
But once, during what I naively believed to be “wanderings”, the ones I make with my camera, I saw him again :
Waiting at the edge of a torrent of cars, I consult my phone, that I drop. The screen is shattered. I pick it up, get up, raise my head and freeze; my guts tighten. Yas is there.
“A wall… it’s luminous”.
I know these light phenomena, nothing extraordinary (I thought), especially in a big city. Distracted from my phone, Yas the unreachable in all circumstances manifested himself to me by an identical small luminous square, cousin of windows. Yas was there. The rebound of light from the neighboring panes, from the neighboring giants, offered me an opening instead of this apparent flatness. Yas was there. The strong impression knotted my stomach, nevertheless I was led to put my hand on the nitescent rampart.
It tingled at the pulp of my fingers, I shivered. I had goosebumps, my skin crackled, was roughcasting… freshly. And I imagined Yas wanting to tag my arm. I smiled. From impression to intuition, then touch, I contacted him.
This rebound of light had reached me, I had become its support. I was given to experience a presence on the street associated in my mind with the wanderings of Yas. In the form of a wave of shivers, the light dressed me up with a presence on the street as my friend experienced it. My phone had fallen, the urgency annihilated, the injunction to the efficiency of my movements, of my circulation, of the route of my gestures, was mocked as my breath then ample humiliated them.
Saturation of walls, light, and finally, Yas.
Somehow, I just had to look up, to see him and get an idea of what he was seeing. I walked out, looked up from my phone, and looking up took me out. Until then, I was outside while still being inside, elsewhere, in my bubble; Looking out my little window kept me inside. I had taken the habit of never really going outside, hermetic to nothing specific but to too many things, capricious about my routine and the relation I have with my surroundings. I who wanders in town to take pictures, I finally revealed myself blind to the subtleties that I could charge with everyone. And I was following Yas again; from wall to wall; I was newly wandering. The giants made me travel in a “photo album”, in a past but in a presence.
Maybe he lives in this world, where you can’t miss the little things; a world where the absurd is reversed. In this way, these spaces gain in consistency, come to life; they make sense to me even to the shivers. I will refrain from a forced mysticism, but will note that, thanks to Yas, “I have become the pupil of subtle differences ¹”.
Either be or rest in peace my friend.
¹ The spell of the sensuous (David Abram, ed. Penguin Random House)