Philly Tech Week talk about Viral Art

April 2nd, 2014 | By | No Comments »
Ted Talk

A piece of viral art. Click the here to understand why.

Okay, so I’m not quite speaking at TEDxPhiladelphia, but I am pretty excited to be giving a talk next week at AIGA Philadelphia‘s Old City headquarters/gallery, SPACE, as part of Philly Tech Week. The talk, Viral Art: Disruptions in the spectacle from spray paint to Google Bombs, will focus on some of the ideas found in my free ebook Viral Art.

I’ll be speaking about two main themes: 1. How the communication technologies from zines to books to the internet have affected the street art and graffiti that we see on walls and 2. How street art and graffiti are closely linked to hacking and net art. That will be followed by a Q&A, which I’m really looking forward to.

So if you’re in Philadelphia, I hope you’ll stop by SPACE on Thursday, April 10th. The event runs from 6-8pm. The talk is free, but you can RSVP here.

Photo courtesy of Evan Roth


Category: Events, Vandalog Projects | Tags: ,

Street art celebrating whistleblowers

January 2nd, 2014 | By | 1 Comment »
An anonymous artist's portrait of Edward Snowden, next to a Borf sticker. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

An anonymous artist’s portrait of Edward Snowden, next to a Borf sticker. Photo by RJ Rushmore.

It’s been quite a year for whistleblowers. In the last six months or so, the information that Edward Snowden leaked has changed the world, but Snowden is still hiding in Russia, hoping that some country will grant him permanent asylum and a way to get there. Meanwhile, Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower behind what became the Collateral Murder video and so many other documents released through Wikileaks, was sentenced in August to serve 35 years in a military prison. And just a few days ago, the email of a US government whistleblower was hacked and documents essential to his case were deleted. With the US government taking such a harsh stance against whistleblowers, it is even more essential that we, the people, stand up to support them. With that in mind, I’ve started Whistleblower Art, a tumblr archive of art and design celebrating whistleblowers. Last July, I collected all the Snowden-related street art I could find for a post. Whistleblower Art expands on that post to include all whistleblowers (most notably Manning at this point) and art and design beyond just street art.

For Vandalog though, I’ve put together this update on my Snowden post: Pretty much all the street art, graffiti and murals I could find in support of whistleblowers.

DROID 907, SARZ TKG and AMANDA WONG in Atlanta, GA. Photo by SARZ TKG.

DROID 907, SARZ TKG and AMANDA WONG in Atlanta, GA. Photo by SARZ TKG.

Daniel Ellsberg by Thierry Ehrmann at the Abode of Chaos outside of Lyon, France. Photo by Abode of Chaos.

Daniel Ellsberg by Thierry Ehrmann at the Abode of Chaos outside of Lyon, France. Photo by Abode of Chaos.

Read the rest of this article »


Category: Featured Posts, Photos, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Viral Art is now available at ViralArt.net

December 16th, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

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Two weeks ago, I announced that Viral Art: How the internet has shaped street art and graffiti, my new ebook, was set to launch on December 16th. Excerpts have appeared on Hyperallergic, Complex.com and Brooklyn Street Art, I was interviewed over at Graffuturism and the book even got a shout-out from Shepard Fairey. Well, today’s the day. Viral Art is live and you can read it now at ViralArt.net and download it as a PDF or find it in the iBooks Store now.

I want to thank everyone who has been sharing the news about Viral Art these last two weeks, especially everyone who supported the Thunderclap campaign. Just this afternoon, there have been over 200 posts about Viral Art across Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. So, a big thank you to everyone who participated in that. Promoting this book is an entirely grassroots effort, and I’ll be forever grateful for your help.

In case you didn’t catch that last post or you’ve forgotten, here’s a reminder of what Viral Art is all about…

What is Viral Art?

It’s an ebook that you can read online or download to your computer or ereader. It’s full of text, hyperlinks, photos, animated GIFs and embedded videos.

What is Viral Art about?

Viral Art traces how the histories of street art and graffiti have been shaped by communication technologies, from trading photos by hand to publishing books to sharing videos online. It’s the most comprehensive look to date at how the internet has affected street art and graffiti. Conceptualizing the internet as a public space, I conclude the book by arguing that the future of street art and graffiti may lie in digital interventions rather than physical ones.

Why does Viral Art matter?

If you want to understand street art and graffiti, you have to understand how books, movies, magazines, photographs and the internet have affected artists and fans. Viral Art gets into all of that.

Today we live on our laptops and smartphones, so I argue that the best way for street art and graffiti to stay relevant is for artists to take over the public space of the internet. It’s a claim sure to cause controversy in the street art, graffiti and internet art communities.

Viral Art isn’t just another street art book cheer-leading the movement on. It’s history and theory with a critical stance, and my plea to keep the core values of street art and graffiti alive in a digital world.

What else is inside?

In researching for this project, I interviewed over 50 members of the street art and graffiti communities. In Viral Art, you’ll find brand new interviews, quotes and anecdotes from Banksy, Shepard Fairey, KATSU, Poster Boy, Ron English, Martha Cooper and many more.

Another cool touch is the cover, which you can see at the top of this post. It’s an animated GIF designed by General Howe, featuring artwork by Diego Bergia, General Howe and Jay Edlin, as well as photographs by Martha Cooper and myself.

What does this “book” cost?

Nothing. You can read Viral Art for free at ViralArt.net. There are also PDF and EPUB versions available for download.

How can fans support the book?

This book is the result of two and a half years of mostly-unpaid labor. It’s being self-published. My marketing budget consists of a few bucks for ads on Facebook. Major publishers spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars marketing everything they produce, but this project has no book tour or publicist or anything like that. There’s only your support. If Viral Art sounds interesting, or you read it and you think it is interesting, please tell your friends.

Where can people read Viral Art?

Just go here to read it online, or you can also download it to your computer or ereader.


Category: Books / Magazines, Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Announcing Viral Art, my new ebook

December 2nd, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

viralartcover-640

Today I have some news that I hope you’ll find very exciting, although you may have already heard a bit about it if you’re following me on Twitter. I’ve been waiting two and a half years to say this… Viral Art: How the internet has shaped street art and graffiti, my new ebook, comes out in just two weeks. Starting December 16th, the entirety of Viral Art will be available to read for free online at ViralArt.net. For now, there’s a brief excerpt published on Hyperallergic, and two more excerpts will be going up on other blogs between now and the 16th.

What is Viral Art about?

Viral Art traces how the histories of street art and graffiti have been shaped by communication technologies, from trading photos by hand to publishing books to sharing videos online. It is the most comprehensive look to date at how the internet has affected street art and graffiti. Conceptualizing the internet as a public space, I conclude the book by arguing that the future of street art and graffiti may lie in digital interventions rather than physical ones.

Why does Viral Art matter?

If you want to understand street art and graffiti, you have to understand how books, movies, magazines, photographs and the internet have affected artists and fans. Viral Art gets into all of that in depth, from the early days of graffiti through today.

Today we live on our laptops and smartphones, so I argue that the best way to keep the core values of street art and graffiti alive is for artists to take over the public space of the internet. It’s a claim sure to cause controversy in the street art, graffiti and internet art communities, but it might be the best way to save all three from irrelevance.

At Vandalog, we try to take stands and to go beyond just posting the latest pretty pictures. In that same vein, Viral Art isn’t just another street art book cheer-leading the movement on. It’s history and theory with a critical stance, and my plea to keep street art and graffiti relevant in a digital world.

What else is inside?

In researching for this project, I interviewed over 50 members of the street art and graffiti communities. In Viral Art, you’ll find never-before-published interviews, quotes and anecdotes from Banksy, Shepard Fairey, KATSU, Poster Boy, Ron English, Martha Cooper and many more.

Another cool touch is the cover, which you can see at the top of this post. It’s an animated GIF designed by General Howe, featuring artwork by Diego Bergia, General Howe and Jay Edlin, as well as photographs by Martha Cooper and myself.

What’s all this gonna cost?

Nothing. You will be able to read Viral Art for free online. There will also be PDF and EPUB versions available for download.

How can fans support the book?

To help get the word out about Viral Art, you can join the campaign on Thunderclap.it. Thunderclap is kind of like Kickstarter, but instead of asking for money, I’m asking you to send out a link on the day that Viral Art goes live. Joining the campaign that will let you automatically tell your friends about Viral Art through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr on December 16th.

This book is the result of two and a half years of mostly-unpaid labor. It’s being self-published. My marketing budget consists of a few bucks for ads on Facebook. Major publishers spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars marketing everything they produce, but this project has no book tour or publicist or anything like that. There’s only your support.

If you can help spread the word about Viral Art by joining the Thunderclap, I would be extremely grateful. Thank you. And of course, I hope you’ll read the book come December 16th.


Category: Books / Magazines, Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects | Tags:

Tristan Eaton’s “Liberty” mural in Little Italy

October 10th, 2013 | By | No Comments »

Liberty 2

Earlier this week, Tristan Eaton completed this mural, titled Liberty, in Little Italy in New York City. Liberty is just across the street from Ron English’s Temper Tot mural from last October. I helped a little bit with organizing Tristan’s mural as part of my work with Wayne Rada at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC, but this mural had been in the works since before I got involved or The L.I.S.A. Project even existed, and it was the planning of this mural that resulted in the creation of The L.I.S.A. Project. I am so happy to finally see Liberty up on the wall, visible from Mulberry Street and Canal Street, adding something really special to the area. From the moment I saw Tristan’s first mock-up, I thought, “This is going to be iconic,” but Tristan has really outdone himself. Liberty is beautiful and iconic, but it really is Tristan’s interpretation of the Statue of Liberty and American ideals, rather than just a straightforward depiction of an already-iconic image.

If you want to check out the mural in person, I suggest coming down to Little Italy on Saturday afternoon when we’ll have five hours of events planned around Liberty and the other murals on Mulberry Street, including the live painting of a new piece as part of a Secret Walls competition. Bishop203, Epic, SeeOne and Meres will be competing against Greg Mishka, L’Amour Supreme, Buff Monster and Jon Burgerman, with Jay Edlin aka Terro161 aka J.SON (author of the book Graffiti 365) and Tristan Eaton as judges. More info on the Facebook event page.

Lastly, I want to thank Wix.com and all the individual supporters who have sponsored the mural. Hopefully, this is just part one of two, with Tristan adding Justice to Mulberry Street soon.

-2

Photos courtesy of The L.I.S.A. Project NYC


Category: Photos, Vandalog Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Weekend link-o-rama

September 7th, 2013 | By | 4 Comments »
Paul Insect and Sweet Toof

Paul Insect and Sweet Toof (and Sope)

For me, school is back in session. Hopefully everyone else out there is still enjoying the tail end of the summer. Here’s some art to keep your weekend interesting:

  • Martha Cooper and I have announced our picks for the MOCAtv Upload More Art challenge. You uploaded your street art videos, and we selected our favorites. I used the opportunity to highlight videos of Enzo & Nio and A.CE. As you can probably guess when you watch me explain my picks, I made those picks during Illegal August, so those sorts of thoughts were on my mind. Martha Cooper also selected two videos to highlight.
  • Just because Colossal Media paints murals based on designs by people like KAWS and Faile doesn’t mean there should be any love for them. They paint advertisements. That is their business. If they paint some murals on the side, that doesn’t excuse billboards invading public space. Unless you think BP sponsoring art exhibits excuses oil spills and pollution…
  • Also what’s up with KAWS’ work being used for a mural (I hesitate to say he did a mural, since it appears all he did was license his imagery)? He’s spent the better part of this site’s existence distancing himself from street art and graffiti and his public art has consisted of sculptures and flyposted advertisements (if you consider that public art).
  • Maybe I’ll be able to ask KAWS about all this myself soon, since presumably he’ll be in Philadelphia for his show at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Arrested Motion has a bit of a preview, but I think the link really worth checking is PAFA’s website (and this archived version of the same page from mid-August) because of this section of the show description which has since been removed: “Placing KAWS’ sculptural works throughout PAFA’s historic galleries will further the ‘graffiti effect,’” and the edit of (emphasis added) “KAWS grew up in Jersey City, where he emerged as a graffiti artist in the early 1990s.” to “KAWS grew up in Jersey City, where he emerged as an artist in the early 1990s.” So that’s interesting.
  • I’ve never been a big fan of Elle’s work, but I do love this ad takeover.
  • And here are more ad takeovers, these from Jordan Seiler.
  • So many nice graffiti pieces on Ekosystem today.
  • I really like this new print from Shepard Fairey.
  • Pablo Delgado tiny pieces alway makes me smile.
  • Speak of small street art, here’s BSA’s take on the subject.
  • FAME Festival is no more, although ad hoc projects will continue to be organized in the town of Grottaglie, Italy by festival organizer Angelo Milano. It’s definitely sad news, but Angelo is always ahead of the times. Maybe this glut of street art festivals is just too much. Maybe it’s time for something different. Let’s hope Angelo figures it out. I can’t wait to see what he tries next.

Photo by Alex Ellison


Category: Art News, Festivals, Gallery/Museum Shows, Photos, Print Release, Random, Vandalog Projects, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Illegal August: Vandalog’s a month-long experiment revealed and explained

September 1st, 2013 | By | 17 Comments »

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I have a confession to make: If you read Vandalog at all this August, you were taking part in an experiment, but today we are ready to publicly announce what we were doing. We nicknamed the experiment Illegal August. Look back through what we posted last month and you’ll see that we only posted about illegal work or news stories relating to illegal work from August 1st-31st. The experiment extended to our Tumblr and Facebook pages too. It was an entire month of ignoring murals, gallery shows, print releases and the VMAs on all of the general Vandalog sites (we didn’t include our personal social media accounts in the experiment, so that’s why you may have seen legal work on the Vandalog Twitter or Instagram accounts, which are really my personal accounts).

The idea for Illegal August came out of a dinner that Caroline and I had with Luna Park and Laser Burners. We were discussing mural festivals and legal murals, and how perhaps street art blogs have lost focus on street art in favor of covering a roving band of international murals touring city to city like mercenaries with spray cans, ready to paint something out of their sketchbook on any wall they can get access to, as long as they also get access to a lift. Somehow, I don’t think Luna Park actually ever said this to me, but I got the idea in my head that she had challenged Vandalog to only post about illegal work for one month. Whether she said that outright or even intended to make that challenge or not, I associate Illegal August with Luna Park. I thought it was a great idea to try only posting about illegal street art and graffiti for one month, and I chose August for the challenge/experiment because I thought that would be the most difficult month. There are so many mural festivals from July through September that I knew Vandalog would miss out posting about some great murals. It would hurt, but if it wasn’t going to hurt, what would be the point?

The rules for Illegal August were simple: Anyone posting on Vandalog from August 1st through 31st had to be reasonably confident that what they were posting about had been done without permission, or if they were posting news or an interview that the content was related to something that had been done without permission.

Illegal August morphed from a challenge into an experiment when I decided that we would attempt to complete the challenge without announcing it publicly. I wanted to see what readers would do. Would people complain that we weren’t covering Living Walls? Would they stop visiting? Would they get tired of posts featuring stickers and tags when they had come to expect murals? Would anyone notice what we were doing and ask us about it?

One way to analyze what happened is by looking at visitor numbers. In July, our most popular post by a mile was this one about a legal mural by Escif. In August, it was this post about a piece by Above that I believe to have been done illegally but I’m not positive. The Escif post got about 3x the visits as the Above post. Looking at pageviews in July versus August, we saw about a 10% drop in visitors.

But not all visits should be counted equally. Multiple posts in August inspired people to email me personally to say how much they enjoyed something that we had published. Most months, people will share what they like on Facebook or Twitter, but honestly it isn’t common for me to receive the kinds of emails I got last month. To me, that says that at least some of the people who did visit Vandalog in August were more engaged than visitors in July. I would rather know that a handful Vandalog readers are really loving the content than that a lot of people are visiting who are mostly indifferent about the content. It seems that focusing on illegal work forced myself, the rest of the Vandalog team and this month’s guest posters, to create more engaging and unique content.

What a lot of people may not realize is that a lot of what gets posted on Vandalog are things that I learn about because people email me press releases (sometimes very formal ones, sometimes entirely informal) about them. But most artists don’t send out messages to their mailing list when they put up a wheatpaste. Those emails are pretty much reserved for legal murals and gallery events. Illegal August forced me to not be so lazy. I had to go out and find content, whether that be interesting guest posts or searching through archives to highlight underrated artists. It was a lot harder than just publishing whatever was in my email inbox. But because I wasn’t worried about posting the latest murals, it freed me up to write about artists like You Go Girl! and Enzo&Nio whom I love but tend to neglect posting about. Basically, Illegal August allowed me to escape the rat race that street art blogging can be, the very existence of which is nuts since all of us bloggers are doing this out of love and a passion for the art.

But what art are we really so passionate about? I’ve always described Vandalog as a street art blog, and then there are blogs like StreetArtNews and Brooklyn Street Art with “street art” right in the name. I did a quick look at at what StreetArtNews, Wooster Collective, Brooklyn Street Art and Juxtapoz (in their “Street Art” section) posted during the week of August 19th…

    • 28 out of 38 posts on StreetArtNews that week were definitely about legal work, with one post mixing legal and illegal work and 9 where I wasn’t positive if the work was painted legally or illegally.
    • The only post on Wooster Collective that week was about a print release related to their 10 year anniversary show with Jonathan Levine Gallery.
    • Brooklyn Street Art had 2 posts about legal work, 2 posts about work that seemed likely to be illegal, and 3 posts that had a mix of legal and illegal work.
    • 13 out of 14 posts that Juxtapoz published under their “Street Art” category were entirely about legal work.
    • I would guess that if Vandalog had not been in the midst of Illegal August, at least 75% of our posts for that week would have been about legal work.

Given those numbers, if you think that “street art” means art placed in public space without permission, it’s pretty clear that street art blogs are not the place to go looking for street art online. But why is that? Talk to any street art blogger and they will tell you about the awesome wheatpaste or sticker that they saw recently before mentioning the mural they posted about the night before.

Huge murals captured in the perfect light by professional photographers look great on blogs, regardless of how they look in person. Stickers and wheatpastes captured with an iPhone that look like crap on blogs can stop you in your tracks on the street. And on the street, the work is confronting you, so you’re going to look at it whether it’s Swoon or Mr. Brainwash or someone you’ve never heard of. Online, if you’re like most viewers and see a headline for a blog post along the lines of “Some guy you’ve never heard of who does wheatpastes in a city you’ve never been to,” you’re maybe not so likely to read that post. This may be one reason why street art blogs and general art and culture blogs that cover street art have shifted from covering street art to covering contemporary muralism under the guise of covering street art.

And then there is the issue of laziness that I mentioned. Well, not really laziness, but it’s just easier to post about the legal piece is sitting right in your inbox than to go out searching through flickr or actual streets (if you’re lucky enough to live near a lot of street art) in search of something brilliant but still illegal.

Or maybe street art just doesn’t mean the same thing that it once did. Maybe mural festivals and the ease of finding legal walls has elevated the genre. Artists can spend days on a mural without worrying about police rather than sneaking around at night and working as quickly as possible. With plentiful legal walls, maybe some artists don’t see the need for working illegally anymore. Can the same goals be achieved at a legal wall as at an illegal spot? I don’t think so, but some may disagree with me.

For me, Illegal August was difficult. I had to spend a lot more time than usual coming up with content, even though I asked guest bloggers to come in and help lighten the load. And it hurt. It hurt to not post about Living Walls while Caroline and I were there watching the conference happen. It hurt to not post about Tristan Eaton painting a spot that I helped to organize in Little Italy. It hurt to tell artists whose work I really like, “Sorry, no. I can’t post about this.” But Illegal August was also freeing. It made me realize when it hurt to not post something, and when I hardly cared. It allowed me to get out of posting work that I would have otherwise been on the fence about, but would have felt obligated to post because of personal ties or because all the other blogs were posting about it and not posting would make it look like Vandalog wasn’t up on the latest thing. I hope that this experiment can spark a discussion in the street art and contemporary muralism communities about how we create, promote and consume art, but on a personal level it has helped to remind me that Vandalog is about what I feel strongly about, and I need to keep the focus on that. Today Vandalog goes back to “normal,” but it won’t be unchanged.

What do you think about Illegal August? Did you notice anything different on the site? Was the experiment valuable or a waste? Are street art blogs too focused on legal walls? Has “street art” become about legal work? If so, should that change and how could it?

Photo by RJ Rushmore


Category: Featured Posts, Random, Site News, Vandalog Projects

Tag Happy, Rx Uppers – spraycan sculptures by Caroline Caldwell

April 1st, 2013 | By | 1 Comment »

Cans

Vandalog is proud to announce the latest product in The Vandalog Shop and our second product in the shop by a Vandalog contributing writer. Tag Happy, Rx Uppers is an edition of sculptures by Caroline Caldwell. These relabeled spray cans include veiled references to key people and places in the history of graffiti. How many can you spot?

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Tag Happy, Rx Uppers comes in black or pink versions, each an edition of 10 which are signed and numbered on the underside of the sculpture. When shipped within the continental United States, Tag Happy, Rx Uppers will arrive as a full can of real spray paint. For all other orders, the cans will be emptied and a small hole will be put in the bottom of the piece. Tag Happy, Rx Uppers are available now at $22 for one black or pink sculpture, or $40 for a matching set of black and pink pieces. Each sculpture also comes with a set of handwritten instructions.

three cans 640

I’ve had an early version of the Tag Happy, Rx Uppers sitting on my shelf for the last year alongside sculptures by artists including Faile, Sweet Toof, and Skewville, and it more than holds its own against those classics. Caroline’s sense of style is perfectly encapsulated in these pieces, and they’re a friendly reminder for the vandal in all of us.

Starting today, you can find Tag Happy, Rx Uppers in The Vandalog Shop.

pink can 640

Photos by Caroline Caldwell


Category: Featured Posts, Products, Toys, Vandalog Projects | Tags:

Submit your video to the MOCAtv YouTube channel

March 15th, 2013 | By | No Comments »

Yesterday MOCAtv (MOCA Los Angeles’ YouTube channel) announced an open call for content for the channel. Jeffrey Deitch, Carlo McCormick, Martha Cooper, Ethel Seno, and I will be reviewing content on YouTube with “#MOCATVUPLOAD” in the video title and then selecting the best of those films for inclusion on MOCAtv. Read more about the project here.

I can’t wait to see what gets submitted.


Category: Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects, Videos | Tags: , , , , ,

RJ’s favorite 25 murals of 2012

December 26th, 2012 | By | 3 Comments »
MOMO in Baltimore for Open Walls Baltimore

MOMO in Baltimore for Open Walls Baltimore

Earlier this month, I wrote about my 25 favorite murals of the year over at Complex.com. Check out the list and let me know what you think. One caveat: I submitted the list to Complex before Miami, so nothing from Miami this year was considered for it.

Photo by Geoff Hargadon


Category: Art News, Featured Posts, Vandalog Projects | Tags: ,