Non detto

To Frédéric Badré in memoriam

Philadelphia, December 10, 2011

The first time I saw this graffito in the area close to the Penn Treaty park, it didn’t attract my attention that much. It had been written on one of those small signs warning:


High voltage

Keep out

I didn’t pay any attention. Further on, as I came across bigger and more impressive graffiti, the tag appeared hidden among them, on its own, like this one on Front Street. From that moment on, like somebody who finds a bank note in the street, triggering an unexpected euphoria, memories and ideas came flooding into my mind.

I remembered Frédéric Badré discussing Titian and his incredible non finito technique whereby Titian would leave some part of a painting unfinished so as to breach perfection, the illusory domination of things.

I imagined that the author of this tag would be the most faithful and loyal follower of the incredible technique of non detto, by which one leaves part of what one wanted to say unsaid so as to breach the expression, the illusory domination of the spoken word. I thought the tag was the only thing its author was able to say to impress the world, as though reminding us that one doesn’t say everything one wants, and what’s more, it’s not a good idea to either, and moreover, what’s the point of saying anything if what is said has nothing to do with reality. Otherwise why use an unintelligible tag in which the only thing that can be made out is the arrow at the end? At the same time, that arrow wasn’t pointing anywhere, because sometimes it pointed north, then south, depending on where the tag had been sprayed. I deduced that the faithful follower of the non detto technique was signaling each person’s path … Now I was paying attention. Danger, high voltage, keep out, in other words, more non detto

José Félix Valdivieso. Director of Communications. IE Business School,