Macquarie University
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Pavement graffiti: an exploration of roads and footways in words and pictures

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:14 authored by Megan Hicks
This project is an invitation to notice the paved surfaces of roads and footways and to read what is written on them. It is based on some hundreds of photographs of pavement inscriptions, taken over a period of thirteen years, and is presented in two parts of equal value. The creative component is Pavement appreciation, an on-line gallery of images and interpretive text ( The written component is a cross-disciplinary exegesis that canvasses different aspects of pavement graffiti. Paved surfaces are so familiar that they have become almost invisible, so utilitarian that they have seldom merited contemplation. To counter such neglect, the project takes the reader on a series of intersecting journeys. The first journey is a metaphorical expedition through the written word, searching for evidence of the pavement's symbolic presence in people's thoughts. Along the way this expedition pays brief calls on road engineers and urban eccentrics, literary luminaries and newspaper letter-writers. The other journeys are photographic traversals of streets and sidewalks, scanning the asphalt for signs and messages written in chalk or spray-paint. These journeys are exercises in reconstructing stories – of vilification and romance, marketing and mourning – from fragments gathered off the pavement. Such stories transcend particular locations and individual instances of graffiti, and offer insights into the complexities of everyday life. The project is a travel guide to the horizontal. It suggests by example how the pavement might be studied for new perspectives on the built environment and the lives of people who inhabit it.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Imagining the pavement -- 2. Exploring the known -- 3. Capturing graffiti -- 4. Looking down -- 5. The traveller's tales: Noticing; Signs of a struggle; Horizontal billboards; Empty shells; Hard feelings; City of epitaphs; Surface reflections -- Conclusion -- Appendix 1. Road-making materials -- Appendix 2. The year in asphalt -- Appendix 3. List of images -- Appendix 4. Ethics approval


Bibliography: pages 170-232 Creative component of thesis: online gallery of images and interpretive text: "Thesis and accompanying website presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" "April 2013"

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies (MMCCS)

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Potts

Additional Supervisor 1

Kathryn Millard

Additional Supervisor 2

Peter Doyle


Copyright Megan Hicks 2013.




x, 242 pages colour illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:70482 2127114 | (AuNrM)2127114-macqdb-Voyager