This month, Swampy and ekg both released quite unexpected video pieces on YouTube, and I happened see a relatively new piece by Adam Void aka AVOID pi for the first time (even though it was uploaded in June). What I find so interesting about these three artists making these videos is that all three come from a sort of alternative mark-making tradition that doesn’t fall neatly into street art, hip hop graffiti or that grey area in between street art and graffiti where artists paint logos instead of letters. Although Swampy, ekg and AVOID pi’s outdoor may at first glance appear to fit in with grey area, I think there’s something different about what these three are doing (as well as artists like DROID 907 or stikman) and what artists like Pez or ChrisRWK or members of the now-defunct Burning Candy crew do. There’s nothing wrong with Burning Candy or Pez or ChrisRWK, but this is different. With Swampy, AVOID pi and ekg, there’s a sense that they are drawing from a larger tradition of public mark-making like Situationist graffiti, zine culture, art theory and freight train monikers. And of course, all three have made zines.
These three new videos seem to have been influenced by zines rather than the endless stream of timelapse and interview videos that most street artists and graffiti writers either make themselves or contribute to. The rough cuts remind me of the collages in zines and if the videos were cut into a series of stills, they would seem right at home in a zine (or in ekg’s case, a flipbook/zine).
Even ekg’s video, the most “normal” of the bunch, is not your straight-up animation or timelapse. ekg’s video is a promotional video for his show at Pandemic Gallery (opening in about 1 hour) and a timelapse of sorts, but it still has a video art feel rather than the feel of a slick and perfectly produced promo video developed by someone in charge of PR for the show. And it fits somewhere between animation and timelapse, since it’s a timelapse of a massive artwork coming together, but it’s an animation in that the piece is never really in-progress in the way that a normal timelapse video clearly shows work “half-done” at some point. With ekg, the work is just progressing and each frame of the animation/timelapse could be considered a piece. The video is more an exploration of the format and an artwork than a promotional video for his show. Interestingly, Adam Void’s video has a similar shot to what ekg has done at about the 30-second mark.
Adam Void and Swampy’s videos are surprisingly similar: Both consisting of intentionally low-fi video-diary-like series of clips shot with handheld cameras. Yes, the videos show some graffiti, but they show a lot more than that too. These videos give context to the graffiti that the artists make. They give us a little bit more of a sense of their lives. It’s easy to say “Those guys write graffiti and make zines” and put them in a box, but videos like these complicate their perceived identities.
What is it about these artists that they have all turned to experimenting with video art after becoming known for a particular style of drawn, painted and printed work? Is it just a coincidence, or is there something about ekg, Swampy, Adam Void and possibly other artists doing similar things that draws them to video art? Are YouTube videos like these a logical transition from zines, graffiti or street art? I’m curious what people think. Let me know in the comments.
Photos by RJ Rushmore