Interviews

Vox Graffiti Roars in Berlin with New Fanakapan x 1UP Collabo

Vox Graffiti Roars in Berlin with New Fanakapan x 1UP Collabo

Berlin streets are regularly teeming with the Vox Graffiti in shouting chaotic profusion – and have been for decades. The bubbling laughing raging hordes proffer a visual conversation that often roars, and you’ll have to yell to get your voice above the rest.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

1UP and Berlin Kidz are two of the graffiti crews who reliably blast out their viewpoint, each with a uniquely unmistakable cadence and flair. This week one gilded the urban stage while the other was transformed upon it by British guest star Fanakapan with a ringing whoop, and with the angelic welcome of Alanis at the entrance, the Frühling party of Berlin is in full bloom.

Set upon a newly opened urban arena in Kreuzberg (thanks to the demolishing of a building adjacent to it) the actual bubble letters that distinguish the guileful Londoners’ letter style now rise above the rubble with multi-colored glee. Spelling out the 1UP letters in a way they never could, his interpretative take is framed by two runners of Berlin Kidz translation of Pichaçao-style colored cryptic tagging.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“As one can imagine this was just to good to be true,” says Sam Walter of YAP Productions, the organizers and facilitators of the lift and permissions. “Yes we did have problems with a security and also police since we had no official paper which gave us permission for the wall – but we got a couple of confirmations via phone calls,” he says with all the reassuring confidence of a Cheshire cat .

Together with the rest of the steel-spined-velvet-clad YAP posse, the 1UP crew and Fanakapan were celebrating on this vast muddy lot ringed in concertina wire as the sun set one night this week. Word spread quickly and the reunion at the wall felt like 50% Graffiti God magic mixed with 110% adrenaline helping everyone ignore the psychotic spring weather that warms you one minute and converts you into a popsicle the next.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The original motivation for the collaboration is based on an one-year-old idea between 1UP and Fanakapan, says Sam, “bringing those beautiful, shiny, giant 7-meter “1UP’ letters. These are young artists who take on a lot of risk to push the graffiti culture beyond its boundaries.”

“No animals, plants or 1UPs were harmed during this production,” quips the charismatic cultural curator and YAP team member Denis Leo Hegic as he texts process shots of the wall to the squad as the secret/public wall goes up.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“1UP carries the zeitgeist of Berlin out into the world like no other contemporary collective. The DNA of the crew is rooted in the streets of Kreuzberg, but the group also developed into a global family,” he says. The statement is only partial bravado, as a serious graffiti head in many cities will be able to tell you a rooftop, elevator, or train line that they’ve seen hit by the amorphous and amazingly anonymous crew that seems to shape shift and reconstitute itself – evidenced here where their enormous tag is painted by another artist entirely.

BSA: Is this a tribute piece to 1UP or is it a collaboration?
Denis Leo Hegic: It’s gravity graffiti. Collaborative and collective work is already included in their spirit “one united power”. Fanakapan managed to portray it in such a powerful and gravity defying way and gave us the largest 1UP letters hovering weightlessly over Berlin. 1UP is a ubiquitous tag in Berlin. You can’t help but be aware of it.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo

BSA: Did the authorities take any interest in visiting the site when Fanakapan was painting the tag, perhaps thinking that it was actually 1UP painting?
Denis Leo Hegic: We had quite an interaction with the local law enforcement. However, all the officers that appeared on site were being alarmed by other people and did not come on their own initiative.

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: How did you get permission to paint on this wall?
Denis Leo Hegic: Through the intelligence of many. We managed to thrill lots of good, curious and courageous people who made everything possible: from a large wall in the center of Kreuzberg to the entire production. Fanakapan was extremely motivated and he literally blew those balloons up the wall.

BSA: Previously there was a building in front of the current wall. Now the whole wall is fully exposed, showing fully the long-running Alanis angel piece. Was any consideration given to the Alanis piece while planning the 1UP piece?

Denis Leo Hegic: Absolutely. I hate when some people say “curating a wall” or “curating a mural” – that’s such utter nonsense! How can one person possibly “curate” one single painting on one single wall? However, this wall succeeded to curate itself naturally. It’s a great composition with the two vertical stripes by Berlin Kidz on each side of the piece and being held by the Alanis angel from the ground. With Fanakapan’s addition of the 1UP bubble tag it became a marvelous “Kreuzberger Mischung” (Kreuzberg Mixture).

Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Fanakapan x 1UP Crew adding to the wonderful and long running Alanis’ angel and the classic Berlin Kidz columns. Berlin. March, 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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“MARTHA: A Picture Story” Premieres at Tribeca. A Film By Selina Miles.

“MARTHA: A Picture Story” Premieres at Tribeca. A Film By Selina Miles.


BSA Exclusive Announcement
and interview with the director and the star of


MARTHA

A Picture Story

A Documentary by Selina Miles

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA is proud to announce the world premiere of Selina Miles’ new full-length documentary on the life and career of New York photographer Martha Cooper at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.  Separated by four decades and an ocean or two, the Australian film director and the American photographer – each of whom has garnered serious respect in the myriad subcultures of art-in-the-streets with phenomenal storytelling abilities and an innate sense of timing – together land a remarkable film capturing life as a street-shooter, making the multi-chaptered story sing.

It is a fascinating visual sweep that illustrates the unusually gratifying paths that this ever-curious ethnologist charts on the streets (and below them) worldwide since receiving her first camera from her father at age three. The film is a well illustrated collage of a remarkable 70 plus year span showcasing Coopers’ 6th sense for people, urban culture, and burgeoning subculture. Viewers get to see the huge variety of interests she has investigated with amiable warmth and academic rigor – from the Peace Corps in Thailand to tattoos in Japan to graffiti train writing in New York to the daily lives of people in her native Baltimore.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

With ample interviews and vintage video footage never seen before, “MARTHA: A Picture Story” follows Ms. Cooper across continents into the streets, through tunnels and over rooftops to provide illustrative background contexts for her decisions, her driving motivations, and her pure determination to succeed as a professional photographer – despite man-made and societal adversity.

We’ve been very fortunate to see this diamond of a documentary up close, and we can say that MARTHA is legitimate crowd-pleaser.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA spoke with Ms. Cooper and Ms. Miles for this auspicious announcement day about the new movie:

BSA: Your personal and professional history has often been about overcoming challenges and pushing aside barriers. Is there one new challenge you have gone beyond to participate fully in a documentary about you?
Martha Cooper: Well like most photographers, I’m more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it especially when speaking. I can’t say I’ve gotten good about overcoming being filmed, but I tried hard to give good footage.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: One of the challenges of being a doc filmmaker is the number of hats you have to wear – sometimes perhaps feeling like you have to do everything yourself.  What did you discover about your preferred role/s on a film?
Selina Miles: Making a documentary is certainly a dynamic job and requires a mix of technical, social and creative skills. Learning from a photojournalist with 50 years experience such as Martha has been a wonderful experience. I started my career in video making by mucking around with friends making graffiti videos and shooting street art festivals, and the DIY spirit of both of these art forms really gave me an advantage on this project.

Not all directors know how to shoot or how to edit, but thanks to these early experiences I do know a little about all of these disciplines. Being able to just grab a camera and shoot, or to edit my own little concept videos was very handy in getting the project off the ground. That being said, being able to employ an amazing editor like Simon Njoo and having the mentorship of producers like Jennifer Peedom has also been a dream come true and really helped take this film to the next level. 

BSA: With the new documentary many people will learn about a more dimensional photographer than the one they most frequently associate with the name Martha Cooper. Why is this important?
Martha Cooper: I’m often called a graffiti, street art, or hip hop photographer but I don’t put myself into those categories. I would like people to understand that the common denominator in my choice of subjects is art in everyday life. I’m always looking for examples of how people are creative in their everyday lives. Graffiti is just one of many different examples.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: Is there a special approach or formula that one tries to follow when making a story like this for a more general audience.
Selina Miles: I think that the interesting thing about this story, in particular, is that it explores a subculture that is so misunderstood by so many people. Everybody has seen graffiti and has an idea of what it is, but I still think that few people really understand why it exists and where it came from. There’s so many tropes and ideas about graffiti and those who practice it that are just plain wrong or oversimplify a very complex idea. It’s been an enjoyable and interesting challenge for me to unpack the facts and rules of this subculture as I see them, and step them out in a way that somebody completely new to the culture can understand and appreciate Martha’s story. 

BSA: Your photos capture a time and a moment and a technique of creation, but also often the more atmospheric and cultural energy of the street. What has drawn you time and again to capture this to share? Your own curiosity?
Martha Cooper: Not exactly. As you know, I like looking for things and collecting them. Photography is a challenging quest and taking a good photo is the reward. The nature of what I’m questing for can change according to time and place but in general, the world is more interesting to me if I have a camera. The possibility of photographing something makes me look at my surroundings with a keener eye than I would without a camera.

MARTHA: A Picture Story. A film by Selina Miles. (still from the movie)

BSA: Martha stood on the shoulders of feminists before her, yet blazed some paths that were very much her own – frequently without support. What is one lesson a younger person may take from Martha Cooper when they watch this movie?
Selina Miles: Marty often says that people today don’t understand what it took to survive as a freelancer in earlier decades, especially as a woman and I completely agree. It’s a common thing that you hear but it’s very true, we are lucky these days to live in a world so connected and relatively accepting of all kinds of races, ages and sexes. That being said, there’s always going to be a frontier, and I hope that young people watching Martha’s story will be inspired to push beyond that frontier in their own way, and not be held back by anybody’s expectations of who or what they should be. And do it all the time with a smile and a sense of humor! 


MARTHA: A Picture Story.

Premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place from April 24 – May 5th. Public tickets will go on sale on Tuesday March 26 at 11am ET. Tickets are extremely limited and we recommend purchasing tickets early.

https://www.tribecafilm.com/filmguide/

https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets

Hashtags: #marthathemovie

Film Instagram: @marthathemovie

Martha Cooper Instagram: @marthacoopergram

Director’s Instagram: @selinamiles

For screening dates and locations and to purchase tickets click HERE

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