Symbols and Signals: An Interview with Avoid Pi and “infinity”

brooklyn-street-art-infinit

“Babel Code <osmotic transmissions> Opens Tomorrow night at Mighty Tanaka

The Ozmotic Transmission Screen is luminescently iterative

The Ozmotic Transmission Screen is luminescently iterative. The artists stand behind the screen used for creating their show print. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

A visit to the studio with street artists “infinity” and Avoid Pi is much like a trip to a darkened pre-historic cave in the foothills of the Pyrenees with writings and symbols scratched into the wall. Main differences in this case are A. there was carpeting, and B. no archaeologists were there to help me decipher the markings on the walls, moldings, ceilings, tables, shelves, and art work.

Screening the new prints, the second series from Mighty Tanaka featuring a collaborative duo. 20 of the prints will be available. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Screening the new prints, the second series from Mighty Tanaka featuring a collaborative duo. 20 of the prints will be available. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

 

But I know a silkscreening when I see it, and one was in progress for the bi-color print created by both artists for their show opening tomorrow. The excited art scientists/ laboratory technicians/ secular shamans pulled art out of large zip-locked bags, pointed to pieces in progress on the wall, and hung new screen prints on a makeshift clothesline, – all while talking in great depth about their new collaborative show, and how much they have enjoyed preparing for it.

Hanging out the prints to dry (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Hanging the prints to dry after the first color is screened on. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

 

You will be hard pressed to find a more organized and intellectually charged approach to art-making in the street art milieu; the signs and exegesis and calendars – all handwritten – are helpfully displayed everywhere in the studio. If these methodic mad artfessors are not completely ready at showtime with a beaker of martini in hand, I’ll eat my pad of graph-paper.

The two artists took time to answer some questions for Brooklyn Street Art below:

The finished collabo print ready to fly out the window (photo Steven P. Harrington)

The finished collabo print ready to fly out the window (photo Steven P. Harrington)

 

Brooklyn Street Art: Is this your first collaboration in a show? AVOID pi : In 2009, we both painted the ceiling for the “Work To Do” group show at 112 Greene St . infinity: Later in the year, Avoid collaborated on a duo performance of my day-long composition, SPOOL: DRAWING IN SPACE .

An splash of collaborative inspiration from infinity and Avoid Pi (photo Steven P. Harrington)

An controlled explosion of collaborative inspiration from infinity and Avoid Pi (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: Who had the idea that your styles would compliment one another? infinity: The first time i saw AVOID’s pi symbol in 2007, I posted a picture to Flickr with the title “Kindred Spirits.” Eventually we met, hit it off due to a surprising amount of shared interests, started including each other in group shows, and painting together. Specifically though, AVOID hooked up this exhibition last fall with Alex Emmart from The Mighty Tanaka Gallery. Alex used to work at AdHoc and has now started his own gallery in DUMBO.

Avoid's series of re "These were just secondary products made from the creative process. They are highly inspired by DarkClouds stickerboard pieces from his show with GoreB and Armer, where he used the leftover results from the sticker making process - and the incidental marks created.

Curtains from a Fung Wa Chinatown bus – I am not kidding. Avoid Pi sewed them together for this canvass and stretched it. DONE! Smells like cigarettes and Moo Goo Gai Pan. Kidding! (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the significance of symbols to you as an artist? AVOID pi : Symbols simplify complex concepts into easily and quickly understood images. The single or two-word street tag name can be isolated into a series of symbols or letters to allow for abstraction and reinterpretation while remaining in the graffiti tradition. Bronze and Peyote ADHD are currently leading the streets in symbolic tag innovation.

infinity: Culture is a semiotic haze of signs stratified and codified in the systems they inhabit, becoming an aura enshrouding, circumscribing, and permeating everything with a cerebral vibration, an osmotic transmission, signals mediating our interpretation of reality. From the tangible transmissions of fashion to the ethereal wraiths of language, symbols not only contain the consciously constructed messages of the sender, but also their cultural biases influence our comprehension of the world. The mentally-rendered shapes of symbols, these shadows of meaning, are ephemeral containers, historically maleable forms, constantly changing and evolving for many reasons, including the indefatigable imagination of the human spirit, the capitalist system’s need to feed its novelty engine, and for the anti-status quo’s mission to challenge and break down prevailing systems. Once a symbol is emitted as street art or graffiti into our culture, it becomes imbued with a subversive power that may irrupt into and infiltrate the dominant system through it’s demiurge circuitry, hopefully creating aspirational sparks that resonate on an immanent level, a DNA depth charge, uplifting and inspiring a positive trajectory for human kind’s next level mutation.

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Avoid’s series of re “These were just secondary products made from the creative process. They are highly inspired by DarkClouds stickerboard pieces from his show with GoreB and Armer, where he used the leftover results from the sticker making process – and the incidental marks created. “Incidental Abstractions”. In layman’s terms, the canvasses are clothing that Avoid Pi wore making art. It’s kind of like when Elvis used to mop his brow with a towel onstage and throw it into the audience. Avoid Pi does not have sideburns however. (photo Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: When you think about the art you both have done on the street, it appears to be a form of communication but the messages are not necessarily obvious. How would you like people to be affected by your work? AVOID pi : Whether it’s white out tags, scratchies, drip tags, spraypaint, stickers, wheatpaste, rollers, blasters, zines, videos, music or fine art; ALL MY SONGS ARE PROTEST SONGS. All of my artistic techniques and methods are DIY: accessible & reproducable by the public at large. I want the viewer to feel empowered to interact and participate in the public discussion.

infinity: Unlike many street artists, I am not a populist. More like a pure research scientist. The best form for visual or textual communication is not always the simplest and clearest presentation. In order to express some subjects or challenge prevailing forms, a new alien language may need to develop. Epiphany can’t always be expressed or understood through archaic or prosaic aesthetics. As time passes, new ideas become slogans and singular expressions become cultural cliches. Rallying the masses is one thing; Enlightenment is another. Mystification as cerebral provocation. Babel code.

A canvas too tall for the studio is merely accordion-folded up the wall onto the ceiling for "infinity".

A canvas too tall for the studio is merely accordion-folded up the wall onto the ceiling for “infinity”. Infinity, “Yeah, I like the way this started turning out, once I figured out how the materials worked. I got here because I enjoyed DeKooning so much and I like the way he tends to put a lot of lines down and then erase and like the palimpsest creates a lot of layers. I think the mistakes that you leave or the parts that maybe look unfinished create a certain tension that is more interesting than a piece that looks so completed and perfect” BSA: “There looks like a lot of nesting of your lines that create a tension.” Infinity: “Right. And also the grid between the more organic shapes. There is a lot of ‘going back-and-forth’. I end up erasing and re-drawing more than actually laying down the first lines. Some of my other pieces are totally improvised, which I like also. It’s very exciting, very primal.”

Street artists are such slackers, aren't they? (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Street artists are such slackers, aren’t they? Here are some “Notes To Self” from “infinity” on the completion of his piece. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: When you think of public art or street art, is the dialogue between artists only, or is it meant to create a dialogue with the public? I ask this because frequently the graffiti tradition was more about dialogue between writers as peers. This seems to have been dismantled with the opening up of “street art”.

AVOID pi: All public mark-making from modern graffiti, to advertisments and memorials functions simultainously on both the industry and layperson perspectives. Advertising insiders think about campaigns in a different way than their prospective customers. The average pedestrian sees public art differently than the artists themselves. Street Art has opened the dialogue between the artist and the viewer through placing the artists in the context of the gallery and museum; the understood cultural signifiers of artistic value.

infinity: I’m not intentionally out to create dialogue with anyone in particular. it’s more about the idea of a subtle influence, a homeopathic injection, an osmotic transmission of the sign through the walls of our buildings, our culture, our cell walls, our DNA.

Avoid in High Definition: a selection of pieces framed from Avoid Pi will also be on display (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Avoid in High Definition: a selection of pieces framed from Avoid Pi will also be on display (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: After the challenge of creating pieces collaboratively, how do you think your individual work will change, if at all? AVOID pi: infinity has enhanced my abillity to see culture as multiple layers of systems and symbols that constantly mutate, combine and divide. This helps me understand how multiple contradiciting theories and practices can co-exist.

infinity: Collaboration is essential for me because of the challenge and inspiration of exploring someone else’s aesthetic vocabulary in relation to my own. Burroughs and Gysin’s THIRD MIND is an interesting theory about the phenomenon of a “third mind” being created when artists collaborate. Our collaborative pieces were an experiment in this kind of supportive, complementary, and recombinant atmosphere. AVOID and I probably differ most in terms of composition. He tends towards a calmer, spacious feel, whereas I always want to fill every spot on the page with marks, creating a busy, frenetic space. So it was interesting attempting to leave the negative spaces alone or guide them into taking on a graphic quality. Also, more specifically, I bought a wood burning pen and carving set which I used in our collaborations, and plan to use more in the future.

A piece on the wall in the studio that will not be in the show but was obviously consulted in the planning. A table top from the studio that 'infinity' and Avoid and other visiting artists have added to over the last few years will be on sale as a canvas however. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

A piece on the wall in the studio that will not be in the show but was obviously consulted in the planning. A table top from the studio that ‘infinity’ and Avoid and other visiting artists have added to over the last few years will be on sale as a canvas however. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the cool zine you’ve made for the show? infinity: the zine is a collage of images and texts by current compatriots (Factory Fresh, ELC, ADHD, Pandemic, etc), historical aesthetic influences (McGee, Panter, Revs, Doury, etc), quotes from revolutionary readings of street art and graffiti (Baudrillard, Mailer, etc), and images of the art from BABEL CODE. Kind of a catalog in the format of a zine. It was inspired by AVOID’s zine series called PERMANENT INK *****************)(&)(^)*%*&_)(*_)*)(^(*%$(^(&**_)*(_)&)(^(^&$&^#!^$#*%* Avoid pi and infinity would like to give thanks to Skewville for preparing the silkscreens to print the cover, Royce Bannon for PR and marketing, Devon Groomes for PR and silkscreening, and Kat Amchentseva for photographing the art and the opening. And of course Alex Emmart at Mighty Tanaka Gallery, Brooklyn Street Art and Chashama, the arts organization. ………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA………….BSA

Babel Code : osmotic transmissions, Art from the minds of AVOID & Infinity – details

Location: Mighty Tanaka Studio in D.U.M.B.O Duration: May 21st – Jun 11th, 2010 Cost: FREE Contact: Mighty Tanaka , alex@mightytanaka.com MIGHYTANAKA.com

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