I went hunting on my bicycle the other day. Armed with only my Sony P900 cellphone and its rather silly built in camera, I was on the trail of Laser 3.14.
Anyone who lives in Amsterdam has seen his work.
“Nimrod Built Babel“
“A woman should bloom“
“Naked and pure is the spirit that transcends the existence mediocre“
“They want you dead, or in their lie.”
Each of his pseudo-biblicalisms scrawled above that inimitable tag that may have something to do with Pi. Or vision. Or infinity. Or Halos. Or a pun on the Dutch “Lezer” –reader — Or something…
He appears to live by certain rules. I’ve never seen one of his tags on a shopwall or private property. He prefers the plywood whitespace of construction sites, the occasional bridge, a construction container or trailer, garbage receptacles, recycling bins.
He speaks to my mystical appreciation of good graffiti: it is, after all, The Word in some form, isn’t it?. That may be my latent Catholicism (all those cathedrals leave a brand effect even after you stop using the product) or it could be born of Paul Simon’s assurance in my formative years that “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.” Whatever its source, I confess, I have looked for wisdom in the marginalia of urban spaces, and if not quite a Writer in this sense, I’ve put my own mark on a few public objects. But when it comes to mystical utterance, Laser makes the competition look like punks.
When I read Don DeLillo’s “Underworld” I tracked the appearance of Moonman157’s graffiti across the walls of the novel and caught the winking sum of his tag to the number 13, as persistent in Underworld as the 0 in Gravity’s Rainbow, (stop me if you’ve heard this/I’m babbling/…) I loved the DeLillo sketch of a city sending messages to itself, the echo-chamber/house of mirrors riff on omniscience and authorship in this:
Once a man stood on the platform and took a picture of one of Moonman’s top-to-bottoms, a foreigner by the look of him, and Ismael sidled to the open door so he could be in the picture too, unknown to the man. The man was photographing the piece and the writer both, completely unknown to himself, from someplace like Sweden he looked.
(And what other work is featuring its “Call me Ismael” author in the frame at this point, and is that a subtle wink to the Nobel prize committee?)
Public messages in a free medium.
History written upon the most durable of materials, yet ephemeral as a coat of paint.
Subversion of public spaces to private message boards.
There’s an activist element in hijacking communication channels, in seeking to change the landscape of the world (physical, social, psychological, philosophical) with a spray can and a slogan.
I started collecting images of his writings. Lisa posted a challenge on one of my Flickr images: track down Laser 3.14 and have coffee with him.
So I had an idea. Geotag images of Laser 3.14’s work. Map in Googlespace his presence in Meatspace Amsterdam. Find his sphere of influence, determine if he truly IS everywhere, find out where he lives.
The key, of course, is Flickr. Many, many Amsterhamsters have uploaded images of Laser’s work. These are available on a Flickr search on “Laser 3.14″
I geotagged my own images using the insanely handy Flickr Geotagging bookmarklet which opens up a google map in your Flickr image page and lets you point and click geotags right into the shot.
Then I simply fed the Flickr search on “Laser 3.14″ into Flyr, which will chug through the search results looking for geotags and display the results in their proper place.
Voila, the “Not much in it yet, but beta proof of concept Laser 3.14 Walking Tour of Amsterdam Map.”
(Bad news: Flyr now appears to be defunct. Good news: Flickr does this all by itself now:
The Map is Here
Of course, now I have to convince my fellow Laser fans to geotag their finds or go out and photograph the entire scribbled city myself. So yo, if you live in Amsterdam, help me find and make digital a geographic outline of the collected works of Laser 3.14. Let’s create a visual concordance of his writings upon the page of the city.
But let’s ensure we use this map for good, not evil. And remember, we aren’t the only ones who are looking: