It takes a Village to Build a Burning Village
Oh, it’s all good fun! Piles of tires on fire, people running in the streets, acts of desperation, pestilence, unending video surveillance; This is one vision of 2012 we hear these days.
Avoid, Bloke, and Faro have been holed up inside Factory Fresh building a destroyed urban scene in the front room for about three weeks to warn us of the impending cavalcade of calamity headed our way in only 3 short years.
And they haven’t been doing it alone. Ask the Factory Fresh interns, the woodworking engineer Garrett, or the curator and producer of the show Alex Emmert, “We are all working together on this. We are all learning from each other at all times.” In short, to create an end-of-times societal and environmental meltdown, you need everyone to collaborate.
Start placing your bets, neighbors, because you know it is definitely coming – the end of civilization as we know it. The end of civilization has been of course predicted for most of human civilization – Everyone from the Montanists to Nostradamus, Hippolytus to Pope Innocent III, to Jim and Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell; they have all claimed to have the inside special knowledge revealed only to a select few.
The year 2012 is being gazed upon by prophets and prognosticators as the next possible sunset to civilization and/or spiritual awakening. At your fingertips on the WWW is a swirling bubbling caldron of relevant indicators and evidence of this ominous date where a few of the worlds major religious belief systems and the Mayan Calendar neatly dovetail.
It’s not really clear whether Avoid, Bloke and Faro really believe that there will be a calamity that marks the end of civilization in 2012, or if they are just reacting to the ever-increasing pressures of economic insecurity, loss of personal liberties, and the threats of war and strife that exist in the modern world. If you are in the right audience and living under the right conditions, you may be convinced that it is very near the end of the world, and who could blame you?
“On the Eve of Armageddon : an Account of the Scriptural Teaching Relating to the War Among the Nations Which Will Engulf Civilization, and Immediately Precede the Universal and Eternal Kingdom of Peace.”, Haynes, Carlyle Boynton. Washington: Review and Herald Pub. Association, 1946.
Yo, What’s Good?
I clearly remember sitting on a hardwood church pew while a tall bearded Charismatic Pentacostal dude stood in front of an audience of 300 and revealed to the hushed and horrified crowd that the seven year “Tribulation” would begin in 1981 (as per messages from God that had been revealed to him and other elders of the church). Across the congregation, people’s knees weakened and stomachs grew nauseous with fear and hands jolted into the air, and voices raised in exultation and praise. At that moment, you could have convinced that crowd to impale live babies with spears or eat at Olive Garden or even vote for a B-list Hollywood actor to dismantle the middle class, so strong was the power of prophecy and fear. Thankfully, those days are safely behind us and people don’t use fear to manipulate crowds anymore.
But here we are and “2012” is nearly upon us. As you walk into the main gallery space you will be greeted by a burning city of plywood. Although it may be hard to be too frightened when the ominous clouds are in fact fluffy, and the licking fire that engulfs the cityscape reminds you of PeeWee Herman playtimes. Even the surveillance cameras are swervy and playful. “Yeah, we wanted it to be kind of ‘Adult Swim’, kind of absurd”, explains Faro.
Signs are painted brightly with a loose hand, and are covered with mixed symbols from scientific, religious, and graff influence. Avoid springs avidly over to the corner booth where a video will be visible through a rectangular viewer, and describes that visitors will see scenes of, “chaos, car crashes, people jumping off bridges”. As they happily describe the scene of urban apocalypse you could get the idea that “evil” might actually sport a tail and some pointy horns.
Alex Emmert explains the concept of the room, “My background is in exhibition design, I have a Masters degree in Museum Studies and I focus on exhibition design. So I’ve been wanting to have the freedom to put together an art show that uses some of the things I’ve learned as well as the ideas of the artists so that we can all kind of work together. It’s better than just having me be the curator.”
Avoid agrees that Alex is a real teammate, “You can do some things a lot better than we can. Otherwise, this show would just be some cardboard!”
“I think if Alex wasn’t willing to do this then none of this would have turned out,” says Faro
The scene in the gallery last weekend. A lot of building yet to do. (photo Steven P. Harrington)
Beyond the opening stage-setting scene room is a gallery where the three artists, variously from graffiti and street art backgrounds, display a series of smallish (9” square) wooden canvasses that spell out their tentative entry into the hallowed halls of fine art.
Bloke presents a series of variations on his submarine-dirigibles in whimsical line-drawn variations. Each one is afloat, and looks like it could crash were it not for powerful propulsion mechanisms at work.
Stopping mid-circle to show his stuff, Avoid quickly shuffles through hand-painted Superman 3-D text-based gold leaf slogans; ringing ironic bells of recognition or standing quizzically on your tongue. Faro, with an illustrator’s hand, renders symbols and patterns with precision and lyric.
Each artist takes a crack at a larger scale canvas (40”x 60”), and that’s when their differences break out and the personal voice gets stronger. The backyard cinder block walls make their individual focuses even clearer. Collectively, it’s a multi-headed monster with many messages and developing storylines.
Brooklyn Street Art: Has Alex been directing you guys?
Faro: Yeah, I mean, he just got it.
Alex: Then we also brought in this guy named Garrett Wohnrade who is one of my business partner Caleb’s old friends, who is a wood worker and he just has been knocking sh*t out. Garrett has really embraced this project and it has given him the opportunity to show what he’s up to.
Avoid: His knowledge structurally of how things work is great … I mean this is a large structure we are building.
Faro: Yeah, actually I learned that some people can do certain things like sawing wood, that I cannot do. I’ve learned to stick to what I do, do what I do good. I paint and I draw.
Alex: This show gives us a chance to provide something that is real, something that is authentic. It’s not “street art”. It’s not grafitti. It’s fine art from artists otherwise known as a grafitti artist or street artist. That’s what makes it so special, you know, it’s like this is the fine art aspect of that rebellious side.
Brooklyn Street Art: So you are presenting both graff and street art in the show as part of a continuum…
Avoid: In some ways we are presenting neither as well, because it’s not on the street, it’s not grafitti. It’s the fine arts presentation of artists that also do graffiti and if you want to call it street art you can. “Street Art” is a label, I think, that was made to sell a product. And that is fine, if you want to do that.
Brooklyn Street Art: It’s probably worthwhile to try to differentiate between one type of expression so that people can understand what you are speaking about in a conversation. If you say “graff” then something specific pops into your mind. You say “street art” and you think “that could be a number of different things”.
Faro: That’s true.
Alex: I don’t know, I just feel like New York City has been in some ways years behind the rest of the world in terms of “Street Art” and graffiti. Because it seems like everybody else has just been meshing the two cultures. – You’ve got that in Barcelona, Tokyo, in Brazil. But New York City has this traditional graffiti culture and we can pay respect where respect is due, and that’s awesome. But something needs to happen to bring NYC on par with the whole resurgence and renaissance that is going on in the rest of the world. And that is what this show represents, it’s the culmination of street art and graffiti, regardless of what they mean externally to many people. We want to expand together.
Avoid: You approach each letter separately and you also approach the way that they relate to the next letter, and the balance of the overall piece, like in traditional graffiti. But also, each day I wake up and I feel different so I come up and take a different approach.
Brooklyn Street Art: Faro, do you feel different every day when you wake up to make stuff?
Faro: It’s phases for me. The way I look at my stuff is that it should somehow all make sense. And that’s how I draw and how I do everything. Somehow it has to all make sense, for me at least.
I do not care what you think of my artwork. You can call it graffiti, street art, call it whatever the hell you want. I’m just doing for myself and I just love it, I enjoy it, I like it, it’s just like my hobby, it’s what I do. What else am I going to do? Go steal something? Rob people, be a gangsta? No. I don’t want to be a gangster. I’d rather just sit and draw and stuff. And ride my bike. And I also meet a lot of people through it.
Brooklyn Street Art: What about the collaborative process you’ve experienced with these guys?
Faro: Beautiful. It opens my eyes to a lot more things, you know what I mean? I wasn’t really into abstract until I started seeing Avoid’s artwork, more and more. And I just understood it now for the first time.
Thanks to the “2012” team for taking a minute out of the preparations for this show, an undertaking they are taking quite seriously. These may be the “end days” and that is one of the themes expressed in this show. But from the excitement and industry, the volley of ideas and the spirit of collaboration surrounding this beehive at Factory Fresh, you may also see that these are the beginning days, days of promise and discovery when you can witness these artists finding new ways to express the creative spirit, even as they build a scene of destruction.
“2012” opens Friday June 5th, 2009 as part of Bushwick Open Studios at Factory Fresh
And because we can’t help ourselves, a couple more fear inducing visions of the FUTURE!!!!