The Art Conference will take place July 23 and 24th, and includes a ticketed conference portion and a free exhibition component. Friday the 8th is the last day to pick up early bird tickets to the conference, so don’t delay if you want a deal. For more about the speakers, schedule, and tickets, check The Art Conference’s website.
Speaking of Dan Witz, he’s got a Kickstarter campaign going for an upcoming series of street pieces, which he hopes to install inside London’s iconic red telephone booths.
So you’re swiping right and swiping left, swiping left and swiping right, swiping right and swiping left… Tinder is a practically mindless activity, at least anytime I’ve ever seen someone use it. But what are you swiping right and left, yes and no, to? Sometimes, it’s people’s lives.
This isn’t actually a new project, but last summer artist and hacker Matthew Rothenberg was inserting imagery of drone strikes and drone strike victims into Tinder for an artwork he calls Swipe Left. That bearded young man gazing off into the distance wasn’t another Williamsburg hipster. It was Hakimullah Mehsud, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike in 2013. Which way did you swipe? And what about that odd black and white photo that you liked on “Haki’s” profile? Blurry abstract art? No. Footage from a drone about to unleash hell on a target.
Since Rothenberg has already written so well about the social and political meaning ofSwipe Left, I just want to make a note about its meaning within the art world. Rothenberg considers the piece to be performance art, and yes it is, but what I think is most fascinating about Swipe Left is its relationship with street art. It’s a great example of what I’ve called invasive viral art, art that treats digital public space like street art and graffiti treat physical public space. While Tinder users are expecting one thing, Rothenberg gave them another, and he used the app for something it isn’t intended for.
Swipe Left may not immediately appear as art to viewers, but that’s okay. Plenty of street art doesn’t either: John Fekner’s random dates series, Dan Witz’ Broadway Poem, Jenny Holzer‘s Inflammatory Essays when they first appeared on the street as posters, and of course Shepard Fairey‘s early work could all appear as something other than art to someone seeing it for the first time, but it could still reach them. And as Rothenberg points out, “Tinder members who encounter the images are forced to make a decision.” Unlike street art, which can be ignored, Rothenberg’s project can be swiped away or not understood by the view, but it can’t be ignored entirely, and any reaction to Swipe Left‘s content is a valid and interesting data point.
But even if Swipe Left is a bit hidden within Tinder, arguably really meant to be be considered by observers reading about the work later on, not the Tinder users participating in the performance/experiment, the piece shows the potential for a new venue for performance art and invasive viral art.
What if someone like Shepard Fairey joined Tinder and used it to put his art in front of a new and unsuspecting audience? Every day, he could upload a different poster as a profile picture. Suddenly, his work would be reaching people in a relatively random way, like a sticker or a poster on the street does. And if people are playing with their phones and browsing Tinder as they ride the bus to work rather than looking out the window where they might see some street art, why not place that art on Tinder instead of, or in addition to, the street? Reach people where their eyeballs already are. I’d swipe right to that.
RJ: What’s the best prank (involving art or not) that you’ve ever pulled?
Dan Witz: Hmm-best? Hard to say: I mean most of my street stuff over the past 35 years could be described as pranks. I wouldn’t want to single out a winner, but probably the one that consistently gets the most ‘likes’ out of all my one-off pieces would be the clown face house in Brooklyn.
RJ: How did your work with Amnesty International come about and what keeps you working with them?
DW: They got in touch with me. Or, actually, an ad agency that was handling them in Germany reached out to me. Like most street artists I get a lot of e-mail probes from marketing types eager to link their product or cause with urban art. It’s been pretty easy for me to avoid this because my stuff works much better if I keep my identity, or “brand” as much under the radar as possible. When Amnesty International got in touch though, I was so honored and such a long-time supporter of theirs that I was willing to consider it. And I’d already been working with figures trapped behind grates in my WHAT THE %$#@? (WTF) series, so advocating for illegally detained prisoners was an easy fit.
I am so incredibly glad I opened up to this. The 20 or so Wailing Wall pieces in Frankfurt became one of the peak experiences of my career. Oddly, even with all the media frenzy (and the accompanying police attention) there was no pressure on me to compromise my normally aggressive installation tactics (these days, to avoid easy theft I anchor my grate pieces into the wall, which involves serious industrial adhesives and a hammer drill). It turns out that Amnesty international, despite its mainstream respectability, is a surprisingly bad-ass organization. They recognized that my methods, although illegal, were the most effective way to galvanize public attention. If anything they even pushed me to go larger and bolder than I usually do. I date a huge growth in my street practice to that first Amnesty project.
RJ: Whose artwork hangs in your home and why?
DW: There’s a rotating selection of friends’ work, a few copies of old master paintings I’ve done, (in gold frames, which really class the place up), and the usual magnetized refrigerator masterpieces from our two year old. I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying fooling around with the non-toxic kiddie art supplies. Don’t look for a new Crayola series from me or anything, but it’s reminded me how great it is to draw just for the fun of it
RJ: The kitschy artist Thomas Kinkade called himself a “painter of light,” but that description is probably more appropriate for you. What fascinates you about light in paintings?
DW: Didn’t that guy copyright or trademark the “Painter of Light” thing? And isn’t he like the best selling artist, ever? I’ve never seen one in real life but I bet they have a nice heartwarming glow. To be honest, not to put him down, but simulating light with oil paint isn’t really that hard to do. And yeah, like him (I’m guessing) I’ve never gotten over what a miracle it is. It’s magic. And addictive. Same for me with creating trompe l’oeil illusions of space. I never get sick of it. I guess I should be grateful to artists like Kinkade: if it wasn’t for them I might forget how easily these effects can turn into clichés.
RJ: What are you working on at the moment?
DW: As usual I’ve got a few projects simultaneously dead-lining in my studio. Right now, on easel one I’m preparing this summer’s street art; and easel two has my ongoing Mosh pit painting series. Most days I bounce back and forth—I get sick of one and take refuge in the other. But in a few weeks I’ve got a show, NY Hardcore, opening at Jonathan Levine Gallery so we’re frantically varnishing and framing and e-mailing and packing. Fortunately my studio has a separate ‘dirty’ room in the garage downstairs so I can spray and do woodwork without endangering the artworks and my family’s health. But it’s out of control over here. Which used to be an unbearably stressful way to live, but I’ve gotten used to it, and sometimes (like now, answering these questions) I even get a brief moment to step back and appreciate how lucky I am to be so busy and have all this crazy shit going on.
This event sounds amazing. Between the hype in New York, London, Los Angeles and Paris, Vienna has enthusiastically been trying to put itself on the map in the global street art scene. The history of the city is one that has shown support of international street art for years but all that suddenly seems fairly small-scale in comparison to this festival. Cash, Cans & Candy has invited some of the big names of street artists (Shepard Fairey, Faile, Retna, Roa, Robbie Conal, Jaz, Dan Witz, etc) as well as some newer or lesser known talent to paint 800 meters (a half mile) of wall space around Vienna.
Shepard finished his wall at the end of May. Kicking the festival off with Shepard was probably a smart move in setting the tone for the rest of the events. The space he was given to work with definitely suited his style and the image is beautiful but I don’t think he incorporated the existing architecture as much as he could have. You can catch Faile painting their wall on June 20th.
The gallery exhibition of the same name at Galerie Hilger Next looks worth seeing. They’ve posted photos of a number of the exhibited works here.
The festival closes September 13th. To keep up with the ongoing events, including talks, tours, workshops, performances and block parties, check out the Cash, Cans & Candy Facebook page.
Back to school on Tuesday. Actually, I’m okay with that. And of course, it means more time blogging because it means more time procrastinating. Here’s some of what we missed this week while Caroline and I were on vacation:
Martyn Reed, the man behind Nuart, is finally opening up a gallery space. Reed Projects, like Nuart, will be based in Stavanger, Norway and draw in contemporary artists from the world of street art and beyond. The Re-Jects will be the first show at Reed Project and it features a sampling of artists from past editions of Nuart: Vhils, Dolk, Escif, Evol, Brad Downey, Dan Witz and Roa. Nuart has never come across to me as something done half-assed, so I’m sure Reed Projects will be no different and I can’t wait to see how it develops. The Re-Jects opens this Thursday (7-10pm) and runs through June 22nd.
Rizzoli recently published the official book documenting The Underbelly Project, We Own the Night: The Art of The Underbelly Project. If you haven’t heard of The Underbelly Project, check out my firsthand account. Basically, over 100 artists were taken down to an abandoned subway station beneath New York City to put up artwork and explore hidden depths of the city. Artists involved in the project include Revok, Roa, Anthony Lister, Faile, Ron English, Dan Witz, Gaia, Know Hope, Haze and many others.
In December, a collector’s edition of the book was sold at The Underbelly Project’s show in Miami. Until now, that show was the only place to pick up a copy of this special edition of We Own the Night. The collector’s edition version includes a hardcover copy of the book, nine photographic prints from the project, and comes in a handcrafted and laser-engraved oak box. This package is an edition of 100, plus 10 APs, and a handful were held back in Miami to be sold later. Now, the remaining collector’s editions are available online for the first time exclusively at The Vandalog Shop.
The Underbelly Project is one of the most fascinating projects to ever happen in the street art or graffiti worlds. While there are photos all over the web showing what the project looked liked, reading We Own the Night is just about the only way to get a sense of what it was actually like to participate in The Underbelly Project. I saw The Underbelly Project in the flesh, but hearing other people’s stories shed new light on it even for me. I’m extremely pleased that The Vandalog Shop will be selling the collector’s edition of We Own the Night, giving people who couldn’t make it to Basel Miami a chance to pick up a copy. My copy of We Own the Night was the best thing I’ve received under a Christmas tree in years, and I hope other people will enjoy the book and the photographs as much as I do.
Here are a just a couple of the photographs included in the set:
Other images include work by Roa, Anthony Lister, Skullphone, Kid Zoom, Revok, Ceaze and Jeff Soto.
Only a few of these collector’s editions are remain, and The Vandalog Shop is the only place you’ll find them online. They are available for $250.
There are so many interesting shows opening in the next week or two that I thought I’d just throw them all together into one post. Here’s what I think looks worth checking out:
Yesterday, the Museum of Sex in New York opened a show that sounds absolutely awesome called F*ck Art. It’s on through June 10th and features artwork by Aiko, El Celso, Lush, Mode2, Cassius Fouler, Miss Van and many more.
Love & Hate is a group show opening at StolenSpace this week and runs through March 4th. D*face, Dan Witz, Ronzo, Word to Mother, Jeff Soto, Eine, Charles Krafft and others are included.
Another collaborative group show will be in Da Mental Vaporz‘ (Bom.k, Blo, Brusk, Dran, Gris1, ISO, Jaw, Kan, and Sowat) show at Melbourne. That show, Le Venin, will be at RTIST Gallery from February 16th through March 4th.
All Talk at Pandemic Gallery will include Aakash Nihalani, Cassius Fouler, Gabriel Specter, Jesus Saves, NohJColey and others and runs from February 17th through March 11th.
UPDATE – LOCATION CHANGE: The Underbelly Show has moved to 78 NW 25th Street in Wynwood, Miami to accommodate the large scale of the artwork in this show.
The Underbelly Project is back. Last year, I posteda lotabout the project where 103 artists from around the world secretly painted an abandoned/half-completed New York City subway station. After that initial burst of press here and around the web, The Underbelly Project organizers stayed silent. With only occasional vague tweets from a mysterious twitter account and the appearance on Amazon of an upcoming book about the project. Yesterday though, The Underbelly Project announced that they will be participating in this year’s Basel Miami Week madness with a pop-up gallery in South BeachWynwood.
The organizers of The Underbelly Project and The Underbelly Show, Workhorse and PAC, have this to say about the show:
Workhorse: The New York Underbelly was an important chapter for us, but the story hadn’t been comprehensively told. The Underbelly Miami show gives us a chance to present the broad scope of documentation – Videos, photos, time-lapses and first hand accounts. The project is about more than just artwork. This show gives us a chance to show the people and the environment behind the artwork.
PAC: While the experience each artist had in their expedition underground can never be captured, it is my hope that this show will highlight some of the trials and tribulations associated with urban art taking place in the remote corners of our cities. Too often the practice of making art in unconventional venues remains shrouded in mystery and I hope this exhibition will shine a faint light on those artists who risk their safety to find alternative ways to create and be a part of the cities they live in.
35 of the 103 artists from The Underbelly Project will be exhibiting art in The Underbelly Show, plus video and still footage of the artists at work in the tunnel. Here’s the full line-up: Faile, Dabs & Myla, TrustoCorp, Aiko, Rone, Revok, Ron English, Jeff Soto, Mark Jenkins, Anthony Lister, Logan Hicks, Lucy McLauchlan, M-City, Kid Zoom, Haze, Saber, Meggs, Jim & Tina Darling, The London Police, Sheone, Skewville, Jeff Stark, Jordan Seiler, Jason Eppink and I AM, Dan Witz, Specter, Ripo, MoMo, Remi/Rough, Stormie Mills, Swoon, Know Hope, Skullphone, L’Atlas, Roa, Surge, Gaia, Michael De Feo, Joe Iurato, Love Me, Adam 5100, and Chris Stain.
For this show, the space will be transformed into an environment imitating the tunnel where The Underbelly Project took place, right down to playing sounds recorded in the station while The Underbelly Project was happening.
If you absolutely cannot wait until February to get We Own The Night, the book documenting The Underbelly Project, a limited number will be available at The Underbelly Show in a box set with 9 photographic prints and the book all contained in a handcrafted oak box. Additionally, you will be able to your book signed by the artists participating in The Underbelly Show.
The Underbelly Show will take place at 2200 Collins Avenue, South Beach, Miami78 NW 25th Street, Wynwood, Miami. There will be a private opening on November 30th, and the space will be open to the general public December 2nd-5th, with a general opening on the 2nd from 8-10pm.