Seeing as JCDecaux is an official sponsor of the COP21 conference, it makes sense that they would open up their bus shelters to messages about climate change. Of course, that’s not what happened. This was an unauthorized action, a mass ad-takeover organized by Brandalism, who say that the posters “highlight the links between advertising, consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and climate change.”
A few days ago, an anonymous person painted over two new walls by Broken Fingaz Crew in Hackney Wick, London. Both walls featured curvaceous women engaging in sex with skeletons, which the person buffed black and brandished with the words “Kill all men”. BFC responded to the defacement by altering it to read “Kill yourself” and adding “Why so mad? Give smile pussycat!” Broken Fingaz then shared the incident on their Facebook, sparking a surprising and intense response from their fans that has me questioning Broken Fingaz, their art and the people who enjoy it.
I have been a huge fan of Broken Fingaz for a while now. We’ve covered their work on Vandalog over the last few years and I cite them as a personal inspiration for my own art. Skeletons interacting with the living and sexualized women have been two prominent (although mostly separate) themes in BFC’s body of work. Over the last several months, Tant and Unga of BFC have developed a new, highly sexualized body of work. With their SuperSex series, BFC painted people having sex with various animals and a skeleton (which I covered for Vandalog here). The SuperSex series was predominantly women and animals, however they also included Unga’s fat male character, which led me to believe that the series was coming from a place which was inclusive of both men and women. In their more recent series, the crew has been painting women copulating with skeletons in massivecolorfulorgies. There’s one fat male figure slipped into one of the pieces in the series, but spotting him is like a game Where’s Waldo. My issue with this more recent work is not that it is sexual (though I could see why people might find it problematic in public spaces), but rather that it portrays only women as sexual and never shows women in a non-erotic manner. It’s a simple matter of equality.
I would be open to the idea that these images were painted in an effort to honor the feminine figure, not to merely objectify it. After all, the women are whole people and the men are depicted as skeletons, arguably neutered objects. Yet within the context of their larger body of work, these latest images emphasize BFC’s unequal portrayal of men and women. When men appear in their work, they are typically clothed in formal attire, or are humorously unattractive on the few occasions they are naked. Women are rarely shown in any other setting than a sexual one. Their fans and this anonymous protestor are not interpreting this as honoring women, and BFC’s comeback to the protestor doesn’t support that idea either with dehumanizing jibe “Give smile pussycat!”
I’m not saying it’s wrong to show women in a sexual setting, but to only ever show them in such a way reduces their role to merely erotic creatures. One very easy solution to this: paint women in formal, non-sexual settings every once in awhile. Might not be the perfect portrait of equality, but it’s one way to show that they hold men and women with equal respect.
Defacing two walls and writing “Kill all men” over BFC’s work is not a route I would promote, but the dialogue it provoked is important. Much like the commenters on BFC’s Facebook, my knee-jerk reaction was to write this act off as an overly-aggressive reaction from a radical feminist. In all likelihood, “Kill all men” is a derivative of the Twitter hashtag that was turning heads last month, which feminists were using as a space to vent their experiences with misogyny. Yet in closer consideration of this particular incident, this person isn’t saying anything that BFC didn’t say themselves first. Why should we take offense from the statement “Kill all men” when this was written on top of a BFC mural that literally depicted a group of dead men having sex with women?
To this act of vandalism, BFC’s responded with “Kill yourself!” and “Why so mad? Give smile pussycat!” Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say that this response is comedic ribbing and graffiti bravado in response to being capped, their response incited a slew of sexist and objectifying responses on Facebook, with commenters calling the anonymous vandal(s) a “fucking slut”, “stupid hoe”, “fags”, etc.; which is all a bit ridiculous when you consider that these terms being used as insults are in defense of an artwork depicting women in a way that fits stereotypes of whore-ish/slutty behavior. One commenter said, “Must be one of them ‘broken-b**ches’ … Doesn’t shave under the arm-pits, yet goes to pole dancing class every monday and thursday…”. A female commenter said, “I guess they don’t like drawings of girls fitter than them”. This is exactly why portraying women (and only women) in an exclusively sexual manner becomes problematic. These comments were not made by BFC, but some their supporters, yet would these comments have been made if these fans had felt that BFC were strong supporters of women’s rights?
Curious how our readers feel about Broken Fingaz’ response to this protester and their fans’ subsequent response to the back and forth.
NYC is having a good couple of weeks for magazine launch parties. Today was the Very Nearly Almost issue with Faile on the cover, and August 10th is the launch of King Brownissue 9. This issue comes in a bag with designs by Unga of Broken Fingaz and Ed Templeton and the magazine includes features on Ed Templeton, Unga, Nychos, Huskmitnavn, Dabs Myla, Ghostpatrol and others. Issue 9 will be launched at Schoolhouse Gallery (330 Ellery St Brooklyn – Flushing Ave stop off the JMZ) on August 10th from 6-10pm. The launch party will include music by Fake Hooker and live painting by The Yok, Sheryo and Nychos. All good things. Except that I won’t be there, so please have fun for me.
Hooked Blog recently spotted Tant and Unga of the Broken Fingaz crew, painting this “SuperSex” mural in London. The two were briefly in London en route back to Tel Aviv after painting a large mural in Germany and a commissioned piece in London, and decided to reclaim these wooden gates in East London which they had painted previously.
Faile are working on a huge project with the New York City Ballet. It sounds like a bit of a strange collaboration at first, but I’m excited to see the results. It seems like this has given Faile an opportunity to develop new work in a direction that they would have otherwise never gone, and the results that have been teased so far look strong.
I might have asked this question before, but can someone please explain the appeal of Barry McGee’s recent Brooklyn mural to me? The first of the videos here has some info about it, but I need more. McGee has previously stated his objections to painting so-call beautifying murals. The only time in recent memory that I can recall seeing anything similar to the Brooklyn mural is the one he painted a few years ago in Miami, but even that piece included a fair bit of traditional graffiti. Plus, the Brooklyn mural was painted by the billboard painting company Colossal. I’ve got no problem with artist assistants or anything like that, but the whole thing strikes me as McGee just saying “Sure, if Cadillac wants to pay me a bunch of money to license one of my images and hire someone else to paint it on a building, I’ll take that paycheck.” And hey, more power to the guy if he can get Cadillac to pay him for that, but is that all that’s going on here or am I missing something? Has McGee’s philosophy about public art changed?
This summer has been anything but slow and relaxing for Broken Fingaz Crew. After 3 months touring Europe, painting walls, doing collaborations, 2 solo shows in London and Vienna and a group show in Paris, the crew is finally headed back home to Tel Aviv. But before, Tant and Unga left Austria with these murals (and this cool animation), which were inspired by a few old books they found in a coffee house they they were staying in, about how death is just around the corner.
Julien Seth is a public art documentarian for French television. The job’s required traveling has given Seth some interesting opportunities. Plenty of street artists these days travel and put work up around the globe, but instead of sticking to some blandly universal subject matter, Seth’s murals are inspired by the countries they’re painted in.
Here are a few examples of Julien Seth’s work. For more, check out his Facebook or his Flickr.
If you’re a Broken Fingaz fan in Vienna, you’re in luck. If you’re not a Broken Fingaz fan but you are in Vienna, you’re still in luck because you’re about to become a fan. If you’re a Broken Fingaz fan and are not in Vienna (like me) but can afford to travel there (not like me), call work and tell them you’re sick because this Thursday, June 28th they have yet another solo show (because let’s be honest, who’s going to put work next to BF’s?) opening at Inoperable Gallery. For this show, they’ll be exhibiting some new works alongside pieces from their recent show in London and will hang through the month of the July. The piece above, done recently on the side of the gallery, is entitled “Chase the Devil” which is a play on the long history of Devil mythology in Vienna.