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.
Between two projects launching at Creative Time and preparations underway for two major personal projects (more on one of those in just a moment), Vandalog has been pretty quiet lately. Taking a step back has allowed me to get excited about all the good things happening in street art, graffiti, and public art over the last month or two, and there’s lots more goodness still to come in through the fall. So here’s a bit of a round up of what I’ve been working on, the great things some friends of Vandalog are doing, and all the interesting stuff that people who I were were my friends are doing.
Over at my office job at Creative Time, we just launched Doomocracy, an immersive artwork by Pedro Reyes. Basically, it’s a haunted house in Brooklyn, themed around the state of American politics. I’llet the folks at artnet News explain. I’ll just add that I am consistently amazed by the epic projects that the production team at Creative Time is able to pull off. Tickets to Doomocracy are free, but right now they’ve all booked up. You can sign up here to get an email if we release more tickets.
Simultaneously, we’ve also got the Creative Time Summit coming up in DC next week. Dozens of amazing speakers coming together to talk about art, social justice, and the state of democracy. And tickets to that are still available. See you there?
In January, I’ll be returning to Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia to curate ALL BIG LETTERS, an exhibition about the tools, strategies, motivations, and innovations of graffiti writers. It’s an honor to be curating a show at Haverford’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, where I worked for almost four years while I was in school there. More info on ALL BIG LETTERS as that approaches.
Wooster Collective is releasing a book to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their historic 11 Spring Street exhibition. Although I missed the original 11 Spring Street, I’m looking forward to celebrating the project with this book.
Luna Park, one of the most important photographers of contemporary street art and graffiti, is releasing her first book. (Un)Sanctioned: The Art on New York Streets will launch next month as part of the 10 Years of Ad Hoc Art show at Brooklyn’s 17 Frost Gallery, and you can pre-order the book on Amazon. This is LONG overdue. We all know that there’s a glut of generic street art and graffiti photography books already on the market, but (Un)Sanctioned seems likely to be an essential purchase on par with Trespass, Subway Art, and Stuck Up Piece of Crap.
Okay, I know I should be publishing more than just ad disruptions, which seems to be all I’m writing about lately in one way or another, but this piece that BR1 and Elfo did in Istanbul just made me smile and I couldn’t not post it. It’s called Houdini.
Okay, time for me to relax like Elfo’s character. I’ve got one week before senior year begins… But anyway… art:
Undercover cops at London’s Dragon Bar (a classic haunt for writers and street artists, although now a lot more posh than it used to be) are chasing graffiti writers. Let’s hope nothing comes from this incident, especially given the cruelly harsh prison sentences that graffiti artists have been getting in London recently.
Elfo has just given up the keys to his Facebook account for a piece he is calling Free Login. This begins what is intended to be a 10-day digital performance something like a modern version of Marina Abramović’s Rhythm 0 or Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. You can now log in to his firstname.lastname@example.org account using the password “smokesmoke” to have full access to his account. Of course, someone could change the password at any moment, keeping the performance going on for longer than intended. Assuming Elfo still has access to his account at the end of this, Free Login will be over on July 11th.
Street art is moving online. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that street artists are making art on the street for the purpose of photographing it and sharing the images online (and maybe you remember theseposts). I think it is too early to say for sure whether this transition is a good thing, a bad thing or just change, but it has gotten so pervasive that street art that comments on street art now often focuses on pointing out this transition from in-the-flesh street art to art that was intended to be shared digitally. Here are a few recent examples…
1. Reblog This by mobstr (shown above). This piece was painted in Shoreditch, a spot where it would have been seen by countless street art photographers, but it only lasted 7 hours before getting buffed. No matter. Mobstr got a great photo of it and put that photo online. Now it’s all ready to be reblogged on tumblr.
2. What ever happened to street art on the street? by Lush. Both a comment on the proliferation of street art online and the commercialization of the movement. This image is available as a print at Backwoods Gallery. Lush has also made animated gifs of his work, something else that can only be viewed digitally but is created on the street.
3. Fine by Elfo. The text is in Italian and references this work by Giuseppe Chiari. It translates to “Street art is finished, stop all together.” Rather than painting this in a busy city center, Elfo put it on an abandoned building in what looks like the countryside. The audience for the work is (primarily) the audience that will see this photo online and Elfo is well aware of that. Does this mean the death of street art though? Of course not. Chiari continued making art after his declaration, and Elfo has already made more street art. It’s just that Elfo’s public is primarily a digital one, either seeking his work out or coming across it randomly on a site like tumblr, but either way viewing it for free.
For more about this shift towards a digital street and a digital public, here are twoposts I wrote a while ago.
BR1 and Elfo teamed up to make this sculpture in Berlin. It combines so many of my favorite things: Décollage, referencing Gordon Matta-Clark, disrupting advertising and inserting something mildly spectacular into people’s everyday lives. Not the most environmentally friendly work though…