Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Secret Language Of Tarmac

I've always been intrigued by road markings. They're like an abstract language daubed on bitumen: parallel, continuous and broken lines that divide freeways and roads, curved arrows, chevrons and oblique perimeters indicating parking spaces, broad stripes for pedestrian crossings, even the reflective plastic prisms that sound staccato thumps when you drive over them. They each have distinct meanings that we understand. They rarely need words. We follow them without thinking. We are directed and contained by them.
Sometimes, I come across more arcane and random symbols. Sprayed in neon colours, they're a secret language informing of adjustments to the road or sometimes, the location of simpler, more widely understood symbols to come. It's these ephemeral markings that I like the most. Their forms, shapes and colours are probably regulated by someone somewhere but road-workers apply their own aesthetic to come up with individual interpretations.
I find them beautiful – perhaps more so because I know they will soon disappear beneath a seamless strip of black bitumen and clean, regimented lines applied by machine. They're probably destroyed in the process but I like to think they remain, bright and anarchic (despite their utilitarian intent), like shadowy alternative waypoints beneath the more rigidly constructed patterns that guide our everyday movements.


Anonymous said...

cool photo!

Adam_Y said...

The hieroglyphs of the road-worker.

I wish I could read them, beyond, 'this lookslike something goes here and ends there'.

Like tailors chalk marked down some cloth.