Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More ghost signs, and more ruminations about them

Thanks to the Indian summer we're having this Melbourne autumn - and notwithstanding last week's daylight saving change back to winter mode - I've been able to continue my bike-powered sticky-beaking around this city. (Note: In my 20s and 30s I used to be into travel, but now that I'm comfortably into my 40s I've channeled my restlessness and curiosity into exploring more of the city I call home. Melbourne, I have to say, just keeps on giving: I've been here for 23 years now, and still keep finding new things every time I venture out with bike and camera phone.)

So here are some more signs. The first lot have led to the question: can a sign be a ghost sign if what it advertises still exists? Can a live person have a ghost? Here, I present exhibits 1, 2 and 3:

Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale

Somewhere in Pascoe Vale

Maribyrnong Road, Moonee Ponds
Thinking about this, I reckon that a sign has less impact if what it advertises is not dead. And particularly when the thing being advertised is in the same location as the sign. Bushells Tea is still around, but an old Bushells sign still has some impact if it's old enough. Signs promoting dead brands have even more impact. So, a ghost sign is at its most powerful if it is a trace of something gone, a hint of a past existence that no longer exists. And apart from any issue of aesthetics or craftsmanship, part of a ghost sign's power (as I've proposed earlier) is related to its miraculous survival over time when everything around is is being demolished, altered or painted over. The older, the more miraculous the survival, and the more impact it has. In the three examples above, signs advertise something that is still there, at the same location. So their power is a bit diminished, because their  survival is less miraculous. Their survival is due less to a miracle and more about the building's owners not mustering the resources or care to update their signage.

Navel-gazing aside now, here are a few more ghost signs, both from recent trips and from my archives. They're mostly small scale, industrial and local:

West Melbourne - no radio or glass now, just taxi repairs


Ballarat Road, Footscray

Ballarat Road, Footscray

Ballarat Road, Footscray
West Footscray
North Melbourne
Geez where was that? Somewhere in the NE suburbs, near Macleod

And now, a few very old ones I've uncovered, taken with the old dodgy phone:

Coburg North




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