Talented urban planning that has sufficient vision for the future will anticipate the needs and behaviors of a city, looking forward to its growth and reconfigurations over time. In L’Hospitalet, Spain the Street Artist Ampparito gathered plenty of evidence that sometimes old solutions in the built environment have to be destroyed in order for the new needs of an evolving city.
The resulting new mural is a humorous merging of digital and mortar, a conceptual piece that imagines the erasing of walls of an urban design/engineering mess in the way a Photoshop designer may do it – without heavy equipment, traffic disruption and no environmentally toxic by-products.
Esteban Marin tells us of the 10 day residency that the Spanish urban interventionist took part in with Contorno Urbano to study the mural site, work with neighbors and students from the area to discuss the needs of the people, and the bold outcome that Marin ironically calls “ground-breaking.”
The meeting place of a rail line and a road that once served the communities that grew up around it, everyone agrees that it now divides it and impedes a freeflow of traffic and people. It is something that a practitioner of Chinese medicine or its various healing modalities (acupuncture, Qigong, Tai Chi) may describe as an interruption of energetic pathways, a blockage of Qi energy. In the parlance of urban designers and civil engineers it would be similar; rebalancing urban mobility.
“The wall must be destroyed and rail tracks moved underground to facilitate the flow between districts,” says Marin. “Right now the road where the wall is cuts the city in two, same as the rail track. This is a crossroad point on the city with a lot of obstacles for the people living nearby to move around freely.”
“The spot where I had to work was a concrete wall that works as a base for the railway,” explains Ampparito. “Sometime ago this track was perpendicularly crossed by other trains. At some point this old transport disappeared and a road was built in order to connect the two main parts of Hospitalet. It is poetic how this tracks and roads split the village in several parts, making hard to connect two adjoining places.”
Although he may have liked to create an image that provided an emotional healing or comfort, the artist says that a decorative or aesthetically pleasing design wouldn’t have answered the calls from the community.
“I didn’t want to sweeten this place,” he says, remarking that most people simply drive past it. “It’s so hard to appreciate anything in this non place,” he says. “No one stops here. “Cars go through quite fast and there is no way to hang out here.”
Why not simply select your Photoshop tool from the toolbox and erase the obstruction? That’s what students helped Amparitto decide during his workshops with them to study the issue and devise solutions. An ingenious solution that speaks to the difference between digital work and actual labor, it also may not translate as clearly to older generations or those not familiar with design software, but it packs a visual punch that makes you crack a smile regardless.
“While you stand there in between cars going fast so close,” says Ampparito, “it all will make a bit of sense.”
Today we have an opportunity to see some of the Street Art and gallery-related works on show in Madrid. Our sincere thanks to photographer and avid observer Fer Alcalá, who shares his findings with BSA readers today.
I was lucky enough to meet and walk the streets of Madrid with Guillermo from MadridStreetArtProject a veteran actor in the local scene. His way of seeing and understanding the urban landscape is outstanding. He is one of the best hosts that you can find in Madrid.
Espacio SOLO is an EXPERIENCE, not only because of the mystery associated with the project, but for the feelings that you have once you are there. Surrounded by astonishing pieces of fine art, getting lost through alleys and rooms and at the same time, having the sensation of invading someone’s coolest home on Earth.
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. ONO’U Tahiti 2017. A video re-cap by Selina Miles
2. Private View: Ian Strange via Nowness
3. Desprestigio by Pejac
4. Bonus Video. What the hell is a “Bomb Cyclone”?
BSA Special Feature: ONO’U Tahiti 2017. A video re-cap by Selina Miles
There is so much going on that you might miss during a mural festival. Aside from the progress of the artists at different rates in various locations around a city, which is a standard expectation, each festival is so unique in its personality and people that you cannot predict what you are likely to see next.
In Tahiti you can expect gorgeous natural beauty, and with ONO’U you can also expect a fashion show, a live projection mapping with the community, a panel discussion, a museum opening, delicious foods, flowers in your hair, and stories about the native people, wildlife, religious customs, colonialism, the value of the currency, and face painting. That’s before the weekend.
Filmmaker Selina Miles takes you up above it and directly streetside, a clear-visioned romantic who sees the beauty and the eclectic nature of our nature. Today we’re pleased to show her wrap up of October’s events in French Polynesia on the islands of Tahiti and Raiatea.
Private View: Ian Strange via Nowness
Continuing the attack on sublime suburbia to gain vengeance on the evil within, former Street Artist Kid Zoom, now Ian Strange, has the funding to do large and elaborate decimations and capture them on film for exhibition. Here is a private view, as it were, of a series of private matters made public.
Desprestigio by Pejac
A riveting bit of documentary storytelling that leads you to his newest artwork, Pejac takes a glocal story and reveals the folly of man. It happened 15 years ago, and is happening every few days all over the globe while the Earth’s economy is still firmly in the grip of the oil industry.
“This piece talks about the tragedy (of Prestige) that covered the coast of my country (and my region) in black 15 years ago, and whose damages to nature are still visible today,” says Pejac. “I chose this particular case, but want to extend it to all the environmental tragedies that happen on our seas and oceans every few years. Desprestigio works as a dark souvenir of a fact that should not be forgotten: we must, and can, be much better guests on Earth. After all, this work is a message in a bottle.’’
Bonus Video. What the hell is a “Bomb Cyclone”?
We started this week’s Film Friday with Tahiti’s tropical weather and end it with our own Jaime Rojo wading through the snow in New York’s Central Park yesterday for what the news services informed us all was called a “bomb cyclone”. For most of us, it looked like a snowstorm. The blustery wind and the snow and rapidly dropping temperatures meant that many stayed inside and many took the opportunity to see the natural beauty of this whitewashing of the urban environment. Here are a few choice shots Rojo got yesterday for you from right in the middle of Manhattan.
Welcome to Sunday! This week we have a special edition of BSA Images of the Week; Dedicated to Nuart 2017.
Each year Nuart challenges itself as much as it challenges you, unwilling to fall into the beckoning arms of the ever more bodacious and titilating Street Art Festival siren that increasingly works the thoroughfare in cities globally, looking so enticing in your Saturday night drunken reverie but unable to string together complete sentences over pancakes and coffee in the morning. Not that these stencils, these tiles, these installations and projections will necessarily lead to a more thorough examination and evaluation of neoliberal economics, corporate hegemony, or the caveats of a generation of identity politics, but they might. At the very least the practice of weighing in on these and other topics in a public way, in an ardent or passive voice, means that the conversation can be sparked, possibly brought to its fullness. And you may be encouraged.
John Fekner, stalwart public artist since at least the Reagan Revolution, has finally personally had his say here on the streets and on the subconscious . We asked him to share his wisdom with us, to take the measure of the scene and the new voices and perspectives. Not surprisingly, Mr. Fekner shows why an active engaged mind and spirit is paramount to evolving your art practice, your participation in the public conversation.
“The potent vitality of the artists in this year’s ‘Rise Up’ Exhibition in Stavanger, Norway is striking, in its exploration, selection, and development of the ‘visual voice’ of street art and mural making in 2017. NuArt exists as a ‘community commune of communication’ for artists, writers, musicians and guest speakers with an enthusiastic and participatory audience,” John tells us.
“Personally, I see a little bit of myself mirrored in some of the works- in the process, but not in the unexpected end results. Heralding from various countries, this younger generation represent new beginnings for outdoor art that combine social concern, expressive beauty and hope, urgency and manifesto, for a new future that includes and engages everyone to experience.”
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring ± Maismenos ±, Ampparito, Bahia Shebab, Carrie Reichardt, Ian Strange, Igor Posonov, John Fekner, Ricky Lee Gordon, Slava Ptrk, and Vermibus.
See our conversation with Vermibus about his work here at Nuart below.
BSA: Can you tell us about your new piece and what it is about and how you are feeling about the progress? Vermibus: I brought two original pieces for the festival, both are part of one artwork that is the installation itself, and even if each artwork has its own personality they need from the rest of the room to express what I want to say with the installation.
The tunnels from Nuart Festival are huge and very interesting, so I thought I could use all this space to create an atmosphere instead of trying to fill the whole space with artworks or with a massive piece.
With this installation I want to bring to the viewer to its more hidden part of its personality, there where you don’t usually allow others to go in, where all the fears and traumas survive.
I want the viewer to have some intimacy with it’s inner self through my work.
The way the viewer will see my work is completely different from other occasions.
BSA: Can you give us your impressions of Nuart and Stavanger and the environment you are working in? Vermibus: It’s the first time that I participate in a festival, so for me everything is new, but I have the strong sensation that this place is special.
The whole team is friendly, incredibly talented, surprisingly humble and completely ready to help the artists to express themselves without limitations, it’s kind of a paradise.
The lineup is so well curated that I cannot be happier to participate around all this amazing artists.
Ricky Lee Gordon is painting a mural of Finnish transgender activist Sakris Kupila for the launch of the BRAVE campaign with Amnesty International, raising awareness of human rights defenders and their work all over the world.
In Stavanger, Norway the Nuart Festival, in all its firey activist rebellious street-smart community-powered glory, is well underway; a chain-reaction of events and actions that ignite throughout the streets, in the gallery halls, and in neglected margins of this seaside town. In our 10th year bringing you the art and ideas from Nuart, BSA is ecstatic to show you works in process right now, courtesy of photographer Tor Ståle Moen.
The news out of Nuart 2017 is splendiforous and we are feeling celebratorious. These irregularly formed adjectives are in good company with the mismatched yet harmoniously woven characters who together have again selected and summoned artists, academics, kooks and cultural workers to Stavanger for a September synergy of Street Art, public art, and myriad interventionist ideas. It is a highly particular hybrid germinated, conjured, emancipated perhaps, by the free-form and analytical mind of its Founder and Director Martyn Reed. While sowing Nuart seeds spectacularly on the shores of Aberdeen earlier this spring, it is here in Stavanger where the new ideas germinate, are nurtured and given latitude. It is also where the tortoises of conventional thinking are happily rolled onto their backs, little webbed feet waving. We’re pleased today on BSA to publish Martyn’s new manifesto in preparation for Nuart’s festival this autumn in Norway so one might better appreciate the ruminations behind and development of this year’s theme.
Nuart produces both temporary and long-term public artworks as well as facilitates dialogue and action between a global network of artists, academics, journalists and policy makers surrounding street art practice. Our core goal is to help redefine how we experience both contemporary and public art practice: to bring art out of museums, galleries and public institutions onto the city streets and to use emerging technologies, to activate a sense of public agency in the shaping of our cities.
Outside of Nuart Festival, our growing portfolio of projects represents an on-going art and education program that seeks to improve the conditions for, and skills to produce, new forms of public art both in Stavanger and further afield. For us, public spaces outside conventional arts venues offer one of the richest, most diverse and rewarding contexts in which this can happen.
Our work is guided by our belief in the capacity for the arts to positively change, enhance and inform the way we think about and interact with each other and the City.
The Real Power of Street Art
Nuart festival presents an annual paradigm of hybridity in global sanctioned and unsanctioned street art practice. Through a series of large and human scale public artworks, murals, performances, art tours, workshops, academic debates, education programs, film screenings and urban interventions, supported by a month long exhibition of installations, Nuart explores the convergence points between art, public space and the emergent technologies that are giving voice and agency to a new and more creative civilian identity, an identity that exists somewhere between citizen, artist and activist.
The real power of “street art” is being played out daily on walls, buildings, ad shelters and city squares the world over, and it’s now obvious that state institutions can neither contain nor adequately represent the fluidity of this transgressive new movement. As the rest of the world begins to accept the multiplicity of new public art genres, it is becoming more apparent, that street art resists both classification and containment. The question is, not how can this inherently public art movement be modified or replicated to fit within the confines of a civic institutional or gallery model, but how can the current model for contemporary art museums, galleries and formulaic public art programs, be re-examined to conform with the energy of this revolutionary new movement in visual art practice.
In the 1990’s, Situationist concepts developed by philosopher Guy Debord, surrounding the nature of “The City”, “Play” and the “Spectacle”, alongside sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s theories exploring the rights to shape our own public and mental space, came together to form an emergent adbusting “artivism”, which now forms the foundation of street art practice. Radical cultural geographer David Harvey has stated, “The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources, it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city”.
It is here, at the intersection between philosophy, geography, architecture, sociology, politics and urbanism, that Nuart situates itself, it exists as a critique of the colonization of everyday life by commodity and consumerism, whilst recognizing that one of the only radical responses left, is to jettison the hegemonic, discursive and gated institutional response to capitalism, and engage it directly where it breeds and infects the most, in our urban centers.
The challenge for a new and relevant public art isn’t to attempt to negate capitalisms neoliberal market logics with an ever more dominant liberal discourse, both are ultimately mired in a conflict that on the surface simply serves to feed the polarization and spectacle that we’re attempting to transcend. What we need is the active participation of citizens in the creation of their own holistically imagined environments, both physical and mental, a direct and collective response to space that leads to the shaping of place. A place in which the disengaged and passive citizens desired and ever more manipulated by market forces, are inspired to re-make themselves. Nuart proposes that the production of art in public spaces outside conventional arts venues offers the community, not only the most practical, but also the richest, most relevant and rewarding contexts in which this can happen.
It is in this “remaking” of self, this deep desire to engage with the world, to develop civic agency and purpose, that transcends identity, gender and class, and enables those locked out of the arts by a post-Adorno obscurant lexicon (eh?), that street art delivers. It offers an opportunity to reconnect, not only with art, but also with each other. Hundreds of people covering a vast swathe of demographics, from toddlers and single moms to refugees and property barons, on a street art tour conversing with each other, are testament to this.
We believe that when you want to challenge the powerful, you must change the story, it’s this DIY narrative embedded within street art practice, that forms the bonding agent for stronger social cohesion between citizens from a multiplicity of cultures, as our lead artist for 2017, Bahia Shehab will attest. It is this narrative, that is acting as the catalytic agent towards street art becoming a vehicle capable of generating changes in politics as well as urban consciousness.
The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from what kind of person we want to be. The transformation of urban space creates changes in urban life, the transformation of one, being bound to the transformation of the other. What social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies, art and aesthetic values we desire, are closely linked to the spaces we inhabit. The “banalization” of current city space, combined with the numbing effect of digital devices that guide us from A to B, have rendered us passive. Consumer cows sucking at the teat of capital trapped in a dichotomy between left and right, instead of right and wrong. And for the most, the hegemonic islands of sanitised cultural dissent we call Art Institutions, are either unable or uninterested, in engaging with the general public in any meaningful way.
In the early 2000’s, the evocative power of certain already existing and often crumbling industrial interzones, including that of Tou Scene, our main exhibition space, one that we were instrumental in establishing, gave rise to a new form of engagement with art in urban spaces that is only now being fully recognized and exploited. Street Art is at times of course co-opted and complicit with the “creative destruction” that the gentrification process engenders, but Capitalism’s continuous attempt to “instrumentalize” everything, including our relationship to art should be vigorously resisted. It is these “Stalker-esque” zones of poetic resistance, that initially gave shelter to one of the first truly democratic , non-hierarchical and anti-capitalist art forms, and unlike most cultural institutions, it is still, for the most, unafraid to voice this opinion, important in a time when even our art institutions are beginning to resemble houses of frenzied consumption. Street art exists to contest rather than bolster the prevailing status quo. As such, it is picking up as many enemies as friends within the field of public art.
By attempting to transform the city, street art attempts to transform life, and though by no means is all street art overtly political, it does, in it’s unsanctioned form at least, challenge norms and conventions regulating what is acceptable use of public space. In particular, it opposes commercial advertising’s dominion over urban surfaces, an area that Nuart are active in “taking over” throughout the year and in particular during the festival period. Our curating initiatives not only aim to encourage a re-evaluation of how we relate to our urban surroundings, but to also question our habitual modes of thinking and acting in those spaces. Street art is not just art using the streets as an artistic resource, but also an art that is questioning our habitual use of public space. Street art doesn’t simply take art out of the context of the museum, it does so whilst hacking spaces for art within our daily lives that encourage agency and direct participation from the public, “Everyone an artist” as Joseph Beuys would have it, and if it is accussed of being produced without academic rigour, we are reminded that he also asked, “Do we want a revolution without laughter?”.
Nuart’s programs are designed specifically to explore and silently challenge the mechanisms of power and politics in public space. Increasingly, we see the rights to the city falling into the hands of private and special interest groups, and yet, we have no real coherent opposition to the worst of it. The 20th Century was replete with radical Utopic manifestos calling for change, from Marinetti’s Futurist manifesto of 1909 to Murakami’s “Superflat” of 2000. Nuart’s annual academic symposium, Nuart Plus, acts as a platform for a resurgency in utopic thinking around both city development and public art practice, and whilst recognizing that street art is often co-opted and discredited by capital, it also recognises that even the most amateur work, is indispensable in stimulating debate and change in a Modern society that has developed bureaucracies resistant to seeing art, once more, as part of our everyday life.
As the Situationst graffiti scrawled on Parisian walls in 1968 stated, Beauty is in the streets, so Rise Up! and support those dedicated to unleashing one of the most powerful communicative practices known to mankind, there’s work for art to be done in the world amongst the living.
Martyn Reed, July 2017
Artists scheduled to participate in Nuart Festival 2017:
Ampparito (ES), Bahia Shehab (EG), Carrie Reichardt (UK), flyingleaps presents Derek Mawudoku (UK), Ian Strange (AU), John Fekner (US), Know Hope (IL), ±maismenos± (PT), Igor Ponosov (RU), Ricky Lee Gordon (ZA), Slava Ptrk (RU) and Vermibus (DE).
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening :
1. Jessie + Katey Cover a House Completely in Massachusetts
2. Fabio Petani in Kiev, Ukraine 3. Ampparito in Walthamstow, North London
4. Chris Wunderlich in Portland: Painting with an overcast sky 5. The Future of Cities
BSA Special Feature: Jessie + Katey Cover a House Completely
Bringing art to the public sphere is dicey when you have to be on the run – but that is how some vandals self-style. Others think of the work as a big open-air craft project and are happy to engage with the public. During their month long residency in Allston, Massachusetts in May, Jessie + Katey covered an entire building on Western Avenue with colorful geometries. They’ve been transforming large public spaces with their projects for six years, and each site-specific art installation redefines the relationship between you and the location – often making both more engaged.
Painting with Ampparito in Walthamstow, North London
Spanish Street Artist Ampparito sits with Doug from Fifth Wall to talk about his singular image of a typical Spanish napkin that would be recognizable to his countrymen and countrywomen but not necessarily to people in this neighborhood. See him soon here when we bring you the action at Nuart in Norway this September.
Chris Wunderlich in Portland: On how it is much better to paint with an overcast sky
A strangely named architectural creation called the Fair-Haired Dumbell in Portland, Oregon also has the distinction of being a radically patterned double full-building mural under creation this summer. A quick talk with muralist Chris Wunderlich gives you insight into some of the logistics.
The Future of Cities from Oscar Boyson
For urban planners and designers and, well, the rest of us: A quick paced and riveting examination of the urban environment and how it is likely to change in global locations as cities become the place where the majority of human populations live.