RJ is a 20-something student living in Philadelphia and attending Haverford College. He hasn't been involved with street art very long, only since early 2008, but it's quickly become how he spends most of his free time. RJ has written a book, curated some shows, made some videos for Babelgum and is currently working part time at Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. When he didn't get to be editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he decided to start Vandalog and show those idiots that they made a big mistake. Some of RJ's favorite street artists are Jenny Holzer, Shepard Fairey, John Fekner, Judith Supine and Swoon.
If you thought, “Hmm, Vandalog doesn’t seem to be updating as much” throughout 2017… Here’s why: We were focused on Art in Ad Places, a 52-week campaign of ad takeovers across New York City! We worked with Faust, Shepard Fairey, Molly Crabapple, Jess X Snow, and dozens more artists to install their work in NYC payphones.
Now that the campaign has been going for a year, we’re ready to celebrate!
On January 26th, find us at LUCAS LUCAS in Williamsburg for an Art in Ad Places exhibition, and the launch of a book celebrating all of our ad takeovers to date. We’ll have photos from Luna Park, books, a special installation with the help of fellow ad takeover activist Jordan Seiler, and drinks from Ilegal Mezcal. We open at 7pm.
And if you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open through February 3rd.
In 2017, I curated the We The People series for Mural Arts Philadelphia, a series of six murals by some of my favorite artists. I probably should have been writing about We The People on here regularly since July, but here’s a very belated update from Philly.
Before we get into We the People, a bit of context. The last year has seen the floodgates open in the USA, with national conversations on crises that have been festering under-reported for years, like sexual harassment and racism. The arts community has added their voices to the mix through projects like the Amplifier Foundation, Not Surprised, and the Whitney’s An Incomplete History of Protest.
It’s in a similar spirit to all of those projects that we tried a little experiment in Philadelphia with We The People. When Mural Arts invited me to curate a series of walls for them, I figured it had to be of the moment, and with artists that they weren’t already doing a lot of work with. So we invited Molly Crabapple, Chris “Daze” Ellis, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Dennis McNett, NTEL, and Jess X. Snow to create work celebrating the best of the American spirit right now, while also reflecting current national concerns. Plus, it was a continuation of Mural Arts’ years-long effort to work with more street artists. There was little community engagement beyond what I and the project manager did while hunting for walls, but I think that by being careful about sites, artists, and content, we brought to life some strong, timely, and site-responsive work.
Obviously, that headline is misleading. And the above video is pretty messed up. But it’s pretty messed up inside the heads of Alex Jones’ viewers! Which brings us to… Inside the Crisis Actors Studio, hosted by James Lipton, a show based on things that far right conspiracy theorists actually believe. Admittedly, this is maybe an odd thing for me to post about, but I’ve been thinking about Inside the Crisis Actors Studio all week. Plus, although the video’s creators have chosen to remain anonymous, at least one of them has been covered on Vandalog before, and they’d be familiar to the street art/activism community.
No doubt that Inside the Crisis Actors Studio is disturbing. Four actors who were due to audition declined after reading the script. But it’s also rooted in a kind of truth, the truth that some people actually believe this stuff. The references that Lipton and “crisis actor” Mark Hannigan make are based on conspiracies that people Alex Jones and his fans actually subscribe to. Yes, seriously. If you’ve never before heard of the concept of a crisis actor, consider yourself lucky, but sheltered. Realizing that these conspiracies are out there starts to explain a little of why gun control is so difficult. Plus, it’s got me thinking about the media that I consume and the bubbles of odd beliefs and consumption that we all fall into. Inside the Crisis Actors Studio is some necessary but dark (very dark) comedy. Hopefully, more episodes are forthcoming.
Who doesn’t love popsicles? You? If you don’t love popsicles, maybe you work at JCDecaux (and even if you do work at JCDecaux and claim they aren’t your thing… we all know you still love popsicles).
Well, I love popsicles, and it seems that my friend Vlady is also a normal popsicle-loving person. For JCDecaux Ice Lolly, he covered up a series of JCDecaux’s ad spaces in Turku, Finland. This particular kind of outdoor ad, where the ad just pops up out of the ground, unattached to a pay phone, bus shelter, or any other public amenity, is sometimes referred to as a lollipop, for obvious reasons. So, Vlady took the hint and turned all of these annoying lollipop ad kiosks into summer treats.
It’s a wonderfully simple intervention, one that doesn’t even require a key to open to ad kiosks, since Vlady just paints right over them. I’ve been thinking about how New Yorkers could do something similar with the LinkNYC towers that have been popping up everywhere… Maybe white sheets that turn the towers into ghosts for Halloween? But the popsicle idea is just perfect. Turn something hated into something everyone can enjoy.
Here’s one more:
Thanks Vlady! This series really made my day. Certainly the best street art I’ve seen all week (although Banksy at the Barbican is pretty great too), and something that anyone who feels inspired can replicate or adapt to their own environment.
To my readers: enjoy the last bits of summer. And remember: There’s no better way to enjoy the nice weather than a bit of vandalism for the public good!
Escif and Blu just wrapped up two murals each at Errekaleor, a self-managed neighborhood in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain that’s been around since 2013. The Errekaleor community is currently fighting against eviction, and has transitioned to renewable energy via solar panels after the city cut them off from the grid.
I’m not usually one for glow-in-the-dark murals, but I love this one from Escif. On his blog, Escif wrote (translated here by Google and me), “The city cut the light without thinking that night belongs to the residents, and they were given, unknowingly, the possibility of making the darkness a little clearer. They say cats can see at night. So we painted the eyes of this great black cat with fluorescent paint so that he too can be self-sufficient.”
And this Blu mural is an instant classic, and hopefully an inspiration to the residents of Errekaleor who are resisting eviction and development.
Been slow on updating Vandalog lately, and I’m realizing it’s because I’ve spent so much of this year focused on curating and project management, and that’s meant that writing has taken a backseat. Still, sometimes I come across something great that doesn’t need much additional commentary.
Today, that was this piece by Rub Kandy and Andrea Nolè, which you can find in Potenza, Italy. Aliens are welcome became immigrants are welcome. Aliens are welcome because sometimes it feels like my country is so messed up right now that it couldn’t possibly get any worse with aliens in charge (although I guess that’s the sort of logic that got us into this mess…). Aliens are welcome because if you’re gonna write something on a wall, it might as well be a greeting to a stranger. Aliens are welcome because why not.
Who doesn’t like something a bit weird and surprising on the street? Who doesn’t want to see something strange? This week, two such interventions landed in my inbox, while a fundamentally unimaginative attempt has been going viral and clogging my social media and blog feeds. I’m not even sure that these two successful pieces have much in common with each other, except that they are both new, made me think about all the imaginative ways to mess with public space, and compare favorably to what’s been going viral.
Resurrection, a collaboration between Biancoshock and Elfo, is a commentary on the Italian village of Bussana Vecchia. The town was devastated by a deadly earthquake, which led to to be abandoned as a ghost town. Over half a century later, it was resettled by artists, and has been an artist colony since the 1950’s. The duo write that the work reflects, “the impossibility of reconstructing [the village] except through the artistic ability and will.” So here you have a really beautiful piece, relatively simple, in a unique location, and certainly something that would be a surprise to come upon if you were exploring the ruins of Bussana Vecchia.
Brake, by Dosjotas, imagines a world with the physics of Mario Kart or Batman, with a car slamming on its breaks climbing up the wall of a building rather than crashing through it. Very fun, and a nice use of multiple surfaces. It was painted for Unfinished Museum of Urban Art in Fanzara, Spain.
As for the work that’s been frustrating me every time I see a tweet about it… no need to link or name names, but maybe you’ve seen it. The work in question shows that the artist actually has a great eye for placement. However, this piece is basically an advertisement designed to go viral. If you need to paint the entrance of a posh restaurant with someone else’s cartoon character while bringing no new concepts to that character, what you’re doing is closer to an ad campaign for the restaurant than muralism or street art. Arguably, for the artist, that’s fine. Get paid. But us bloggers should know better than to help something like that go viral when truly strange things are happening every day.
Last month, The Grifters’Good Buy Boris and I sat down with Radio Slik to chat about graffiti and the internet (or, as Boris would call it, the “internetchki”). We all know that internet is changing the way culture is created and consumed. And of course applies to graffiti too. Performance is more important, styles cross borders faster than ever, and social media is essential. Viral Art is all about that shift, but it’s really Boris who is at the cutting edge of it as a practitioner and content creator. Just checkhisInstagram.
Excerpts of our conversations have been turned into a podcast. Have a listen:
Thanks to MU artspace in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Radio Slik for putting together that podcast. Boris and I were in town together because MU and the EMOVES festival had invited us to town as part of MU’s #VIRALVANDALS exhibition (co-curated by Jasper van Es and Boris). More about that exhibition here.