Who is The Phantom?

The backstreets of Surry Hills, a hub of Australian small business.

Some say it’s the Silicon Valley of Sydney. Some say it’s trash.

Surry, sporadically littered with graffiti, and occasionally blessed with street art, but rarely posed with an idea; a question…

Who is The Phantom?

It’s mid-2018; I start a new job in Surry Hills.

I used to be that pre-teen who watched the ground as he walked, because he could never look up to the places he thought he’d never reach.

After some sort of emotional reform in my late teen years, I now like to look around when I’m walking, from Central station to my office—I’m going to be staring at a screen for 8 hours anyway.

One day, I notice some spray-painted writing on a shutter—“The Phan-tom”.

The Phantom Garage 2

My initial thought is that it’s pretty standard; just another random word/phrase on another building in Sydney.

A few days later, it’s still there. Again, quite normal.

Another few days later. I’m walking my usual route to work. “The Phan-tom”.

The Phantom Garage 1

On another shutter. Ok, some repetition is cool; nothing we haven’t seen before…

If you’ve ever been on a Sydney train on the inner-west line and mustered the curiosity to look from your phone and out the window, you would see a prime example of bad repetition.

The random words or symbols graffitied over and over and over again, along the brick walls of the rail line.

SPUD, BONK, JINX.

There are 1,628,749,822 of them in a row and no one looks at them for the same reason that you didn’t read that entire number.

But the two words in question here, they’re different.

It’s only a few days later, that this shows up:

The Phantom Construction Wall

On a construction site gateway. The entire idea is subtly portrayed here: it stands out from everything else.

Now, it’s personal. It’s my game; a scavenger hunt, my very own Pokémon Go.

You’re may/may not be thinking, “ugh, it’s just more graffiti, but in purple.” And you may as well be right—art is subjective, and I can respect that.

But two words on a wall have never made me feel like I’m documenting an insanely smart comic book figure. I felt like I was following Batman’s Joker’s calling cards.

After all, it’s better than that guy who writes “no parking” on walls.

Speaking of parking:

The Phantom Parking

Now, he’s incorporating the environment. I didn’t study art, but it doesn’t take an artist to appreciate it.

This one didn’t last long though. It was scrubbed off within two days.

I had The Phantom comic book vibe initially, but it solidified after this one:

The Phantom Booster

 

Who is “The Phantom”? Why is he back?

 

Return of The Phantom

 

Where did he return from?

 

The Phantom Wall

 

Why has he returned?

 

The Phantom Green Box

 

Why is he scattering his calling cards all over Surry Hills?

 

The Phantom Red Door

 

Why are most of his tags hyphenated?

 

The Phantom Power Box

 

And why is it so cool?

 

The Phantom Garage

 

What is he trying to prove?

 

The Phantom Steel Door

 

Is there something coming next?

 

The Phantom Black Door

 

Is this just a very smart marketing stunt?

 

The Phantom Door

 

Just what is going on?

 

The Phantom Fire Hydrant

 

Will anyone ever know who’s behind the idea?

After all…

How can you trust that I’m not The Phantom?

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