All posts tagged: activism

Rendering Swastikas Inert on Berlin Walls

Rendering Swastikas Inert on Berlin Walls

The past couple of weeks (months, years) have seen the seeds of racism and fascism grow in western societies, taking to the streets as free-speech demonstrations, then menacing marches, then sometimes devolving into marauding nests of hate and physical violence.

Graffiti has been a tool for  communicating these sentiments more often than in recent years as well, including this weekends’ anti-Muslim graffiti on Spanish mosques in Seville and Granada. And while swastikas appeared on flags in Charlottesville last weekend, Berlin teens had already given their own response to the Nazi symbol on walls by converting them to something more playful.

Imo Omari, who owns a paint store started a small program last year to combat the swastikas popping up on German walls, even co-creating with Victoria Tschirch a youth graffiti workshop called Die kulturellen Erben e.V. (“The Cultural Heritage”), where graffiti writers and Street Artists gather to come up with creative ways to convert them into animals, geometric shapes, even dancing Egyptians.

This D.I.Y. activist approach to personal interventions in the public space is perfectly in alignment with the traditional graffiti vandal roots, but it also looks like it is empowering young artists to retake the conversation on the street with something proactive, effectively rendering symbols of hatred inert. In Berlin, a city where Far-right groups have been seizing and fomenting anti-immigrant sentiment against an influx of a million Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghanis into German since 2015 and where Germany’s anti-immigrant AfD party are trying to capitalize on it in September elections, this small individual-powered art project has much larger implications than more common street beef.

For more about the grassroots project check out #paintback on Twitter and Instagram.

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Chip Thomas’ New Mural, Indigenous People, and #NoDAPL

Chip Thomas’ New Mural, Indigenous People, and #NoDAPL

Street Artist and activist Jetsonorama (Chip Thomas) saw his work pull together a number of people in Durango, Colorado on October 10th as the city and the college celebrated their first ever “Indigenous People’s Day”. His photograph of an indigenous youth named JC Morningstar swinging and kissing her dog was chosen by a group of students from Fort Lewis College, where 24% of the population is indigenous.

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Chip Thomas. Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College. Durango, CO. (photo © Chip Thomas)

The unveiling ceremony for the mural began with a traditional pow wow prayer by a drum circle and Chip says “the highlight of the day for me was having JC, her dog and her family travel 4 hours to Durango to attend the unveiling before going to the Tribe Called Red show that evening.”

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Chip Thomas. The original photograph of JC Morningstar holding her dog on a swing. Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College. Durango, CO. (photo © Chip Thomas)

Included in the days’ events were speeches, poetry readings and a demonstration addressing social and indigenous issues including police brutality and solidarity with #NoDAPL in Standing Rock, North Dakota. In fact so many small and large communities and demonstrations have been showing their support with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its battle against the $3.78 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, that on a recent September day a map showed 100 demonstrations in 35 states and 5 countries.

Clearly Indigenous communities are eager to have their voices heard and their issues addressed. Jetsonorama says he hopes his mural helps.

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A real pow wow, and a prayer. Chip Thomas. Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College. Durango, CO. (photo © Chip Thomas)

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Chip Thomas’ mural of JC and her dog on the wall with JC’s family on the stage to take a bow. Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College. Durango, CO. (photo © Chip Thomas)

 

 

 

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Vermibus Dissolves Narratives of Beauty, Illuminating His Critique

Vermibus Dissolves Narratives of Beauty, Illuminating His Critique

Media literacy could be a required course for an entire semester at college today, yet most people would still feel unprepared to sift through the cleverly crafted messages of our media landscape and to discern truth. The complexity and sophistication that marketers, media and advertisers are employing today to sell products, lifestyles, ideas, and wars far outstrips our average abilities of critical thinking or meaningful evaluation of messages.

One important chapter of the Street Art textbook reaching back decades is the one that recounts the earliest billboard jammers who coopted the language of marketing and advertising and turned it upon itself to reveal its conceits. Even today there are those who have made it their sphere of operations to undercut or ameliorate the power of advertising manipulation.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

New York City has something like 3,500 bus shelters, each containing two spaces for advertising posters. Periodically commandeered for art by individual artists, the new contents in these displays may run for weeks without being replaced by paid ads, or may be replaced the following day.

Depending on the individual, or sometimes a campaign of individuals, the rationale for replacing ads with art ranges from being a direct rebuttal to visual pollution and insulting narratives to reclaiming public space for public messages or perhaps just something beautiful to meditate upon. Owned by global conglomerates, these “street furniture” kiosks display posters in sizes that are nearly entirely standardized, making it easier for Street Artists like Vermibus to take ads from a city on one continent and replace ads in another, with some aesthetic alterations.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Vermibus says that his work of dissolving the ink with a solvent on posters and using it to paint is his critique of the corrosiveness of a commercial beauty culture that tears down and divides, glorifies consumerism for its own sake, belittles and relentlessly attacks self esteem, and plays on negative emotions to enforce normative values about appearance. He takes the posters back to a studio and selectively eliminates words, logos, facial features, even entire faces – and then carries them to another city to repost on new streets. Sometimes he also takes them to an art framer. Not surprisingly, his posters are collected and sold in galleries as well.

Since beginning this work across Europe with hundreds of posters a handful of years ago, Vermibus has developed a style and uniquely ghoulish aesthetic that recalls horror films and works by British figurative painter Francis Bacon. Recently in New York, we witnessed new Vermibus creations as they dissolved the facades of models, which when they were illuminated from behind appeared as something resembling the diagrams of musculature in a medical manual, except with nice shoes and a designer bag.

With a moniker that is derived from the Latin translation of cadaver, Vermibus cuts deep and looks at high-fashion models as little more than bones and skin transformed by makeup and lighting; perhaps a dark view for such well-lighted work. Somewhat ironically, he calls the entire process “Unveiling Beauty”.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We spoke with the artist about his work on the streets, public space, advertising and how his efforts as acts of civil disobedience.

Brooklyn Street Art: Would you say your bus shelter works are about culture jamming, ad busting, or creating art for the streets? Or all of the above.
Vermibus: I think there’s a little bit of each of these in my work. On the one hand you’ll find the activist angle with a focus on the topic of public space. Then there’s the social angle that questions the culturally imposed social canons of what beauty should be. Finally there is what I consider to be the most interesting aspect of my work, which is the artistic and personal part of it.

BSA: Sometimes your dissolved images highlight or accentuate features and bone structure of the model. Other times they completely eradicate detail and transform them into blunt shapes – a brutal plastic surgery. How do you decide the treatment you will use?
Vermibus: My decision while in the moment of creating is not a conscious one. I try to become fluid and let the image and how I’m feeling in that particular moment guide me. In a way, the act of painting for me becomes a personal cleansing.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Can you comment on this idea of creation via destruction? You have opened so many display cases in cities across the world – is this vandalism masked as something more noble?
Vermibus: There’s a big difference between creating through destruction, vandalism and civil disobedience.

I don’t consider my work to be vandalism under any concept — but rather civil disobedience. I don’t destroy urban furniture to install my work.

Creating through destruction, without a doubt, is intrinsically a key part of making art. Like making an error, both are underappreciated and at the same time both are integrated into the way in which I work.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: The magician Rene Lavand said, “Someone creates a trick, many people perfect it, but its final success in front of an audience depends on the person who presents it.” What do you bring to the art of billboard takeovers that differentiates the work from others?
Vermibus: René Lavand is a great source of inspiration for me and I agree with what he said.

I haven’t invented any thing. There have been people before me who have taken over advertising, people who have questioned the pre-ordained standards of beauty. Similarly, solvents have always been in painters’ ateliers in one way or another.

I suppose that with my work I have applied everything done before me but I have developed my own personal way of doing things. In the same vein there are others who will play the same tricks as René Lavand, but nobody will achieve exactly what he did. They could possibly improve on those tricks.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: In a way it appears that you are setting these models free from the rigid commercial restrictions they are trapped inside – many times you obliterate all branding and text that could identify the image as an ad. How do you see it?
Vermibus: In order to reduce the impact of the advertising and to avoid any association with my work and the intention or look of the ad I try to erase both the brand and the message. That’s also why I change the locations of the advertising from one city to another. Often times the brands run different campaigns in each city.

The conceptual aspect of my work is diametrically opposed to the message that the advertising campaigns are offering so therefore neither their message nor their logo have any place in my work.

BSA: Can you comment on the ease (or difficulty) of moving this street practice into the gallery environment?
Vermibus: In both cases, the message and the technique are the same. I didn’t have to develop different work for the gallery. In my case the process to go from the street to the gallery was organic.

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Vermibus. Unveiling Beauty. New York City. September 2015. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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This article is also published on The Huffington Post

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“Slaves ‘R’ Us” : Advertising, Propaganda, and SEBS in Lisbon

“Slaves ‘R’ Us” : Advertising, Propaganda, and SEBS in Lisbon

The power of advertising and propaganda is undisputed, whether it is for toothpaste or war. We are being acted upon daily by people who would like us to do (or not do) something.  Usually it is to give money for a product or service, but more than ever it is to stand by and allow bombs to fall or laws to be eroded.

Artists have been parodying the methods of advertisement and our willingness to be swayed by it almost since it began, perhaps as a way of alerting us of the deleterious effects of unthinking consumerism in general, or to give us the tools to comprehend and analyze the methods that are effectively driving our behavior.  Invariably, our actions as individuals, citizens, and consumers are all folded into the critique.

 
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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

But whether it is the illustrated stickers of Wacky Packages  or the cereal killers and billboard takeovers of Ron English, many artists have found that humor and irony are effective ways to sweeten the lampoon of advertisers and our complicity – a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins sang.

Street Artist Mauro Carmelino, who writes SEBS as his moniker, recently completed an entire campaign of his own that questions many things we do and wonders if we are even aware of the lines between citizenry and consumerism we traverse these days.

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

Entitled “Slaves ‘R’ Us”, this series of handmade works are on the walls of Ajuda, a civil parish in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal. Bright and simple designs that are cheerful enough, even if they belie a less pleasant series of questions for pondering.

“Democracy, the environment, freedom, security, employment and corporatism are all portrayed as products of a ‘Progress’ that seems to reach the expiration date,” he says as he describes the various elements in the campaign. In Carmelino’s view, our free will is seriously in question today.  “We look back to past societies and feel we came a long way. Did we? Are we free when all our lives can be crunched into zeros and ones, somewhere on a server in California?”

The work looks welcoming and cartoonish on these aged walls and buildings, and if the artists intentions are realized, his greater messages will have an affect on the mind of the viewer. It helps that some of the locations of the walls provides a bit of context, like the silo-shaped building that has a warning about cow milk, “Some of these are inspired by the personal stories of people or are somehow related to the intervened walls,” says the artist.

Special thanks to the artist for providing these exclusive photos for BSA readers.

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

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SEBS, or Mauro Carmelino in Lisbon, Portugal. (photo © Mauro Carmelino)

 

 

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“Decolonizing Street Art” Gives Voice to More than the Usual

“Decolonizing Street Art” Gives Voice to More than the Usual

Politically themed Street Art or murals have a long tradition – as long as people have had something to advocate for or against. The modern Street Art movement may trace its roots to political postering that came with the printing press or 20th century Mexican muralism or the 1968 student demonstrations around the world, especially in Paris – but artists have used and been used to communicate ideas and opinions in the public sphere much longer than this.

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Decolonize History.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Zola)

Today, whether it is the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement or simply a personal campaign to combat harassment by cat-callers or the economic violence of local gentrification, politically charged speech of one sort or another takes place on the street when artists give it voice.

“Decolonizing Street Art”, a festival an project that took place in August in Canada, convened with the idea that carrying issues directly to the public can affect opinions and possibly produce positive change for people whom the organizers would like to give voice to.

Since the high profile and increasingly moneyed version of the current Street Art festival scene is populated worldwide primarily by men with characteristics of the dominant culture, the organizers and participants of “Decolonizing Street Art” may also be commenting on that backdrop as well. Whatever the motivation, these are voices that not many hear or see.

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Decolonize History.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ ThiênViệt)

Hosted in and programmed “on unceded territory, in so-called Montreal”, this handful of artists speak of the indigenous people of the planet and the history of colonialism, the Arab/Israeli conflict, the poisoning of the environment and its effect on humans and animals, and the rights of many marginalized categories of people.

With a concentrated effort this first entry into a still-forming circuit of Street Art festivals and programs worldwide, Decolonizing Street Art makes a formal statement about making space for more radical views comparatively than one typically sees. Whether it is native communities or disenfranchised poor or disappeared women, this effort aims to bring more voices to the street to speak their truth.

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Zola.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Zola)

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LMNOPI.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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LMNOPI.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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LMNOPI.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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LMNOPI . Red Bandit . Swarm.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Red Bandit.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Swarm. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Swarm. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Pyramid Oracle. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Jessica Sabogal.  Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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David Rotten. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Chris Bose. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Võ Thiên Việt)

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Chris Bose. Decolonizing Street Art festival. Montreal, Canada. August 2014. (photo © Zola)

To learn more about Decolonizing Street Art click HERE.

See videos from five of the participating artists on BSA Film Friday 10.10.14.

 

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Andreco Explores Italian Coast and Leads a “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE”

Andreco Explores Italian Coast and Leads a “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE”

Geologist, public artist, visual artist, earth activist, political activist, anthropologist, researcher, costume designer, environmental engineer PhD. Andrecco is all of these. Add performance artist to the list.

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

Leading his troupe of volunteers along the easternmost coast of Italy between Santa Maria di Leuca and Otranto, the Rome-born Andrecco says he worked with residents, particularly musicians, to form this merry earth spectacle along a three mile route.

“We are sort of an imaginary tribe ready to march in defense of the environment and in the name of the local geology,” he explains as you watch them carrying fluttering flags representing cliff rocks across the city of Santa Maria di Leuca. “The parade is a reflection on Leuca’s landscape and its natural environment,” he says, “on the meaning of natural boundaries, of political borders, and of public space in Leuca.”

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

Talking with him you realize that his work is a an admirable integration of his many interests, which if looked upon separately would never have the psychological and emotional impact that this weaving together produces.  Add the element of weather, theater and performance – and thinking about rocks has never been quite so sexy. Collective action as advocacy gains relevancy in a way that it had not before.

“The project is possible with the participation of many persons from the local community,” he says of his public artwork called “Parade for the Landscape”. Inspired by the work of geographer Élisée Reclus, he would like this collective action by a group of citizens to help people reevaluate boundaries of landscape. “I aim to reflect on the meaning of limits, finding contradiction and differences between the idea of a natural boundaries (represented by the rocks of the cliffs that plunge into the sea) and political borders.”

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

It is not clear that an uniformed passerby who is just taking his kids to the cinema or the store will understand the fuller implications of Andreco’s plan or performance as the parade passes by, but the spectacle may yet spark an inquiry.

All you can hope for as your parade winds through critical zones of the city – abandoned areas, treacherous cliffs, challenging terrain – is that you have stimulated thoughts by merging local traditions and imaginative symbolism from the landscape. It can begin a conversation – or at the very least, proffer a question.

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

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Andreco. “PARADE FOR THE LANDSCAPE” Leuca, Italy. June, 2014. (photo © Yacine Benseddik)

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Andreco presents drawings of formations that inspire him. (photo © Andreco)

Learn more about Andreco HERE.

 

 

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Stovington23 Hi-Jacks the Sofa Store (and a few more)

Stovington23 Hi-Jacks the Sofa Store (and a few more)

Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?

Hi-jacking of billboards and signage is part of the grand legacy of Street Art and one that we consider part of the daily conversation on the street. From the Billboard Liberation Front to the Situationists to Jenny Holzer and John Fekner, the simple act of re-framing public/private space and the messages within it began at least forty or fifty years ago, and the critiques continue apace today with various forms of culture jamming and high-minded/low brow hijinks.

 

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Stovington23. Bedford, England. March 2014. (photo © Stovington23)

It’s an ongoing struggle to claim what is called public space, physically as well as what advertisers claim as the real estate of our minds. These artists are thinking first, then hoping to short-circuit, questioning our learned acceptance of commercial ideas and views of the world. Some say that this activist form is successful only if it raises questions and awareness. If it falls short of those goals, it may be interpreted as a prank, a cryptic insider joke, or form of poetic conceptual art evoking feelings of ennui.

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Stovington23. Feltham, England. April 2014. (photo © Stovington23)

The Street Art collective Stovington23 from the UK engages the spirit of détournement by employing the simplest of forms, the stencil letter, in some of the most banal pseudo public spaces like shopping centers. In black and white photos that they provide here it appears that they add a well placed rejoinder or slogan very near the names and slogans that greet you as you enter the store, or see from the highway as you drive by.

“We want to take advertising techniques – the crafted slogan, the well-chosen billboard spot – and turn them against the admen’s corporate paymasters,” they tell BSA when describing the motivations for this conception.  As always, work like this is open to interpretation, and we would love to be in the parking lot with a sound recorder interviewing people about their impressions upon first seeing things like, “One Day This Will be a Bombsite,” or an earlier installment of the Johnny Rotten quote “Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?”

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Stovington23. Leeds, England. March 2014. (photo © Stovington23)

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Stovington23. Romford, England. April 2014. (photo © Stovington23)

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Stovington23. Staines, England. May 2014. (photo © Stovington23)

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

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#CheckYourSelfie, A New Online Project from Gilf!

#CheckYourSelfie, A New Online Project from Gilf!

Using Social and a Self-Pic to Start a Conversation with You

Street Artist Gilf! has been developing her work the last few months in a more conceptual direction and diversifying from straight paint on a wall. Her new online project incorporates photography, activism, online conversation, and the pinnacle of personal image promotion right now, the selfie.

And she’s hoping you’ll send her yours right now. It’s Saturday, what else is going on, laundry?

Also, you could change the world.

For Gilf! the heralded phone self portrait is more than just a way to show off your beauty mark or your biceps, it can be a way to open a conversation about a topic you care about. “This is an opportunity for people to connect with friends to discuss and brainstorm a cause or an important issue,” she says of the new art project she calls #Checkyourselfie.

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Gilf! submits her own #checkyourselfie (© Gilf!)

As if you weren’t already fixing your hair and getting ready to snap, she’s sweetening the deal by offering to give you one of her prints from her 5-selfie series that she’s releasing each day next week starting Monday.  “The winner will be decided on my perception of the image’s ability to facilitate dialog, its composition, and of course the level of creativity that went into it,” she says, and already she’s gotten a few that are stretching the selfie concept into personally artful directions.

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See a full discussion sparked by this image from xoaoart, “Okay, so I’m usually not one to do this but I love me some @gilfnyc and I’m always up for thought provoking discussion #checkyourselfie” (http://web.stagram.com/n/xoaoart/ )

Be extreme if you want to be, suggests Gilf!, and tell everybody what you care about, and this Street Artist who has always loved social, political, and environmental activism says she’ll promote you even more. “You’ll be surprised at how many people feel the same way you do, and how good it feels to get your opinion about something important out among like-minded people,” she says.

Check the end of this post for details on how to #Checkyourselfie, but first here’s Gilf! speaks with us about her project.

Brooklyn Street Art: Judy Pearshall from the Oxford Dictionary observed that the act of taking a selfie is an “essentially narcissistic enterprise.” Do you suppose the desire to share an image of your physical appearance is something more than that?

Gilf!: Absolutely. To share a selfie is a brave yet strategic move. Ultimately we don’t share things on social media if we are not seeking others’ opinions or approval. Often times I see selfies as requests for validation. As a society we are so inundated with the media telling us how we need to be thinner, hotter, and more stylish, so of course we’re all a bit insecure.

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A submission to #Checkyourselfie from @Halopigg on Instagram. “I wanted to challenge myself with this photo, which is why this photo and caption were made entirely by me using my feet and toes,” he says (image © Halopigg)

Every time we get a “like” on our photos we are rewarded with a jolt of dopamine. This can make us feel better about ourselves, but it’s short lived like any other drug. It doesn’t contribute to true self worth- but actually, in my opinion, creates further need for validation from our peers. I think the need for acceptance has become highly integrated in self esteem since the advent of social media. Maybe this isn’t new but it’s far more visible and intense than ever before.

Brooklyn Street Art: Television and advertising are often accused of defining beauty standards. Would you say that the “selfie” phenomenon is redefining those standards or otherwise altering them?

Gilf!: I see the selfie as an amazing tool that can redefine our understanding of beauty. The majority of the selfies I see are reinforcing the media’s beauty standards, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. I think it’s rare to see a selfie that blatantly shows and accepts a person’s flaws. We need more of these. It’s an incredible way to use the selfie as a source of empowerment. We can choose to hold ourselves up to the unrealistic, photoshopped version of beauty or accept and own our perceived flaws as part of what makes each of us unique and beautiful.

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“So #checkyourselfie is about using a selfie to create constructive dialog about things other than the self,” says Gilf!, “I don’t know how constructive this one is as an example- but it sure made me laugh!” (unattributed photo from Gilf!’s Tumblr on Jan 31)

Brooklyn Street Art: With more than 30 million Instagram photos carrying the hashtag #selfie, have we all become stars?

Gilf!: I think it’s gotten a little out of hand. It’s one thing to love ourselves, it’s another when we use social media to feed our egos. One of the questions I keep asking myself while working on #checkyourselfie is why do we have such a fascination with the self. Ultimately we can each only control our own self.

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A #checkyourselfie from freelance photographer and writer Nancy Musinguzi (© Nancy Musinguzi)

The world and all it’s problems can seem so daunting on an individual level. “What can one person really do?” is a question I often hear. It’s so scary to feel helpless and ineffective. We turn our focus inward, because the self is the one thing we can control. While heavily “connected” with social media, by focusing on the self we can become disempowered, isolated individuals. It has such potential to connect us and create dialog yet social media has largely become a tool to stoke our egos.

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Use your camera to create frehley: Street Artist Oh Captain My Captain (OCMC) submitted this image for #checkyourselfieOCMCPropaganda)

Brooklyn Street Art: You are using this project as a way to open a conversation – what do you hope we will all talk about?

Gilf!: Social media presents an incredible opportunity to create community and effect change, and I don’t think we’re harnessing its full potential yet. I want to use the selfie to create dialogs about greater issues. I’ll be using the project to discuss issues that I’m interested in like the environment, body image, and how we understand community. What I’m hoping participants will discuss are issues that are important to them. This can be a way to create new connections, bring people together, or motivate a group to actually organize or volunteer together, instead of just saying “someday”.

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Street Artist Cernesto’s selfie on Instagram for #checkyourselfie (photo © @Cernesto)

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How you can participate in #checkyourselfie right now:

To start a conversation, simply tag your image with #checkyourselfie. Your image will appear on Gilf!’s Instagramtumblr, and twitter under her handle @gilfnyc, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gilfnyc, and her website website: www.gilfnyc.com.  See her website for more details.

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To see Gilf’s five new images in print you’ll need to go to DUMBO, Brooklyn next Thursday night at Arcilesi Homberg Fine Art . Since the artist is planning to be in attendance you can continue your conversation in person.

 

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Please note: All content including images and text are © BrooklynStreetArt.com, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer’s name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!
 
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