Belly of the beast


“ASCEND”, unknown

The shades have lately been drawn over the tiny slit windows of Spanish 490’s basement classroom, killing any natural light and turning the already depressing room into a true cellar (isn’t that a wonderfully terrible word?). After an hour and a half of sitting in the dark, I wearily trudged up the steps towards fresh air, freedom and a regained will to live when I came upon this desperate message.

I imagined a poor soul crawling slowly up the passageway, his energy sapped by the treacherous journey through the entrails of the beast. With his last bit of strength, he places pen tip to concrete and scribbles a final command to his fellow travelers. The sharpie skitters across the floor, and the walls close in on him forever.

Now that I’m distanced from the passion of the moment, it’s interesting to wonder what the true story behind this tag is. My art history teacher recently talked about how just looking at art is actually an act of interpretation. His example was the classical Greek stone relief “Lapith fighting a Centaur” from the Parthenon. Because it’s a relief, the figures aren’t fully realized and the artist depends on shadows to suggest forms. How does our perception “create” the piece? How might we see the centaur differently in varying light conditions?

Or, in the case of this tag, how does its meaning change depending on whether we’re descending to get to a class or ascending to escape from one? Was the artist actually preparing for a spelunking journey when she or he wrote the message? Perhaps this is a cry of despair or a memory marker to be discovered on the return journey.

One thing’s for sure: in terms of underground journeys, I prefer to live vicariously through Wishbone. Hot diggity dawg!


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