Innovative artist in the public sphere, Daniel Weissbach aka DTAGNO aka COST88 has charted new territory many times with his hand made experimentation that makes graffiti and street art search themselves for new definitions.
Creating new tools and techniques for applying the traditional aerosol spray to the wall, he inspired many imitators and redefines the artists’ relationship to art in public space. Rooted in graffiti culture but scaling a number of disciplines, he has trail-blazed his own idiosyncratic routes and aesthetics full of humor, discovery, and contradiction for more than two decades at work, and in the process he’s created new paths for us to explore.
Beginning next week with a special showcase of works by admiring peers in the graffiti/ Street Art/ Urban Art/ public art Berlin family, a large number of works will be auctioned to benefit the 44-year old artist as he lives with a medical diagnosis that is a great challenge. Since 2016 he has faced the challenge bravely and will need to have greater care as time moves forward, so the community is reaching out to help.
Following on the heels of a successful campaign on GoFundme last month, this multi-stage online auction of works donated by many local and international artists will assist him and his family during this time, so that he can spend it “in his familiar surroundings, at home, with his 8-year-old daughter and with us,” says artist Christian Hundertmark in his GoFundme essay.
“Get Well Daniel” is the charity auction initiative begun by Steffen Köhler, Markus Mai and Matthias Wermke with the support of many others.
BSA invites you to join with the family of admirers, companions, and friends and to participate at the opening exhibition this Friday, February 21 in Berlin to see many of the works donated Friday night and all day Saturday. If you cannot attend the exhibition please look online beginning Sunday night February 23 at 8 pm for the first group of 30 items.
The benefit auction, which gives 100% of the proceeds to Mr. Weissbach, will continue throughout the month of March and will be updated with new works March 2, 9, and 16, with the final group being unveiled March 23rd.
“Get Well Daniel” Exhibition
21.02.2020, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. // 22.02.2020 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. @ Salon am Moritzplatz (Oranienstrasse 58, 10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg)
Participating artists include: Adams & E.B. Itso, Adrian Nabi, AKIM, AMIGO, André Simonow, Angabe noch zu klären, Anna Herms, Antwan Horfee, ARIS ONER, BARTO, Beerbird Press, Bernhard Uhlig, BIO, Brad Downey, BUNY, CHEERIO, Christian Falsnaes, Christian Schellenberger, Clemens Behr, Coco Bergholm, Conny Maier, CREAM – 247/MAD, CYOP & KAF, Dan Murphy, DEJOE, DELTA (Boris Tellegen), DEON, DES78, Dmitry Ilko, DRIK, DTAGNO & TRYONE & Jürgen Große, Dumar Novy, EGS, Emmett Edelstein, Enzo Ricordo & Mr.Z, Eric Winkler, ERUPTION (JB. Institute), ESHER, EXOT, Fabian Treiber, Felix Amerbacher, FISTER, Flatliners & Tuff City Kids, GATE, Gambette, Graffitimuseum (Joachim Spurloser, Stefan Wartenberg), HuskMitNavn, ICOS, IDEE, IMOS, Jakob Traxlmayr, Jan Kaláb, Jeremias Böttcher, Jeroen Erosie, Jeroen Jongeleen / influenza, JOLIE, Julien Fargetton, Kaos (VIM), Katdog Wartenberg, Kevin Kemter, Kiddo Oh, KingOfVoid / NICK, Konsens Berlin, KROK, LOFKER, Louise Drubigny, LOVER, LuluGazel, Markus Mai & Markus Butkereit, Matthias Wermke, Max Schaffer, Max Stocklosa, Mischa Leinkauf, MISERABLES, Mister Adam & Gijs Weijer, MONKEY, MOSES & TAPS™, Norman Behrendt, OLABO & AKAY, Olivier Stak / O.K-T, Pablo Tomek, Paul du Bois-Reymond, Paul Simon Krüger, Philip Emde, Philipp Clasen, Philipp König, Possible Books, RACHE, REACT, REVOK, REW KREUZBERG, ROY1st, ROZER, Ruohan Wang, SEEK, SOME SOScrew, SPAIR, Stefan Haehnel, Stefan Marx, Stefan Strumbel, Steve Paul Steven Paul, Streetfiles, SWOON, The WA, Thomas Bratzke, Thomas Korn, Tony Savas, VELI & AMOS, Velo Tramp, Vincent Grunwald, Wilhelm Klotzek & Konrad Mühe, 1UP Crew and φαντομας!
For further press information, please contact Katia Hermann // email@example.com
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “Melania”, Directed by Brad Downey 2. Said Dokins. “Runaway Writings” Solo Show 3. “Who’s the Daddy?” A film by Wong Ping
BSA Special Feature: “Melania”, Directed by Brad Downey
Street Artist/Interventionist Brad Downey widens his oeuvre with a
documentary, and his exquisite critiques of hypocrisy – and his appreciation of
life’s beautiful ironies are still fully intact.
Here in a grassy area between a dirt service road and the Sava
River Mr. Maxi Z
creates his ode to Melania, a girl born in the same hospital and year as he.
Using his chainsaw to coax the immigrant/model/First Lady Melania from this
tree whose roots go deep into her Slovenian homeland, the sculptor creates a
painted tribute and a direct connection between art and life for all to see
publicly. Hearing him describe his work is important, as is appreciating the
struggle and sacrifice he speaks of. Hearing a traditional song and reading its
lyrics, well crafted with nostalgia and heartache, buttresses the storytelling
For us Mr. Downey’s brilliance is his examination of the assumed, his
breakdown of folly, his ability to see. Here he shares his view with us, with
warmth and satire. Among his targets, implied at least, may be the art world,
the Street Art world, social anachronisms, international power structures, craven
corruption. Among his tributes are the creative spirit, individual ingenuity,
and the will to overcome. Long live Melania.
“Melania” 2019, Sevenica, Slovenia A film by Brad Downey Featuring Maxi Z. Production Miha Erjavec Camera Aljaž Celarc Editing Eva Pavlič Seifert Song pevskizbor Bunkarji Sound Editing Simon Kavsek Translation Ana Bohte Assitance Jaka Erjavec Thanks to Son of Maxi Z, wife Jožica, Graveks d.o.o
Said Dokins. “Runaway Writings” Solo Show
artist, contemporary artist, calligrapher and curator Said Dokins organizes
images, objects and personal questions in his new exhibition at Centro Nacional
de las Artes in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
With works on paper, on canvas, video, light, and photograph,
the show speaks of conflict, community, the empire to the north, and his
expansive practice with calligraphy. With each letter, each word, Said Dokins’
strokes free the steps of those who lived between these walls.
“Who’s the Daddy?” A film by Wong Ping
Hong Kong film director/animator/artist Wong Ping creates with the excesses and superficiality of non-stop consumer culture – humorously mixed and mingled with a young man’s insecurities, search for identity, and desire to get laid. His social, racial, cultural, political observations resonate beneath the eye candy. His sense of humor makes the formerly difficult easier to contemplate, the questions now tempered with the colorful absurdity of the world. Consider here, his ruminations on the length and curvature of the penis, among other things one might write in an online public diary.
Artmossphere is the only Russian biennale that focuses primarily on Street Art and its corollary practices, with the first two launching in 2014 and 2016. You may remember the full coverage BSA had in 2016 at the Moscow Manege;
Among the artists participating on previous editions of Artmossphere have been people like The London Police, Brad Downey, Claudio Ethos, Agostino Iocurci Miss Van, L’Atlas, Sickboy, Jaz, Nespoon, Martha Cooper, Remi Rough, Alexey Luka, Remed, Li Hill, Jessie and Katey, Moneyless, El Tono, and many others – but clearly you can see that the quality and diversity in practices and backgrounds is well represented here.
For the 2018 edition of the biennale we will be curating the program along with some of our respected peers internationally in this field and collectively we are asking artists to consider what it means to be “Offline”. So much of graffiti and Street Art’s roots extend back to a practice of making work for a largely local audience that is limited to geography.
Today much work in public space is conceived of, at least in part, for its ability to traverse to audiences on social media, blogs, video, and all manner of digital platforms. As we constantly are flooded with online Street Art, is it possible to be ‘Offline”?
The 2018 main exhibition will take place in the Excise Storehouse of Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow from August 30th to October 17th. Additional special exhibitions will be held in the Red and White Halls, as well as in the art cluster outdoor territory.
The open call is open to Russian and international artists and applications with projects exploring this year’s theme will be reviewed by an international jury consisting of Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo, co-founders of BrooklynStreetArt.com and curators at Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art (UN), Peter Ernst Coolen, curator of the Amsterdam Street Art Museum, Cedar Lewisohn, curator of the Street Art project in Tate Modern,Ethel Seno, researcher of street art and curator, Anna Dimitrova, curator of Adda Gallery, Paris and MTN Gallery, Barcelona, and Nikolay Palazhchenko, the founder of the Winzavod Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow.
To take part in the biennale, Artmossphere artists should submit their portfolio and their project application for the biennale before June 18th, 2018. All the projects should be made exclusively for the biennale. Click here for all details.
Happy Autumn New York! To our readers south of the Equator, the spring birds must be singing by now, right? Meanwhile in dirty old New York there is a lot of new stuff – including two new walls going up by OsGemeos and UK artist Lakwena’s turn at the Houston/Bowery Wall.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Anagard, Anthony Lister, Banksy, Brad Downey, D7606, Kai, Licuado, Martin Whatson, Mr. DiMaggio, Nafir, Nespoon, OsGemeos, Peter Phobia, Ron English, Silvio Alino, Voxx, and Zezao.
An unusual amalgam of the interactivity of the street combined with the formality of a gallery environment, Magic City opened this fall in a converted factory in Dresden, Germany with an eclectic selection of 40+ artists spanning the current and past practices of art in the street.
With revered culture critic and curator Carlo McCormick at the helm alongside curator Ethel Seno, the richly marbled show runs a gamut from 70’s subway train writers and photographers like Americans Daze, Henry Chalfant, and Martha Cooper to the Egyptian activist Ganzeer, Italian interventionist Biancoshock, popagandist Ron English, and the eye-tricking anamorphic artist from the Netherlands, Leon Keer.
Veering from the hedonistic to the satiric to head-scratching illusions, the collection allows you to go as deep into your education about this multifaceted practice of intervening public space as you like, including just staying on the surface.
It’s not an easy balance to strike – some of these artists have heavy hearts and withering critiques of human behaviors and institutional hypocrisies ranging from 1st World treatment of refugees to celebrity culture to encroaching surveillance on individual rights, government oppression, and urban blight.
Magic City doesn’t try to shield you from the difficult topics, but the exhibition also contains enough mystery, fanboy cheer, eye candy and child-like delight that the kids still have plenty of fun discoveries to take selfies with. We also saw a few kissing couples, so apparently there is room for some romance as well.
“We believe that even the typical city is uncommon, and that the idiosyncrasies that make each city unique are collectively something they all have in common,” says McCormick in his text describing the exhibition. “This is then a celebration of the universal character of cities as well as a love letter to their infinite diversity. The special magic that comes from our cities is germinated in the mad sum of their improbable juxtapositions and impossible contradictions.”
Of particular note is the sound design throughout the exhibition by Sebastian Purfürst and Hendrick Neumerkel of LEM Studios that frequently evokes an experiential atmosphere of incidental city sounds like sirens, rumbling trains, snatches of conversations and musical interludes. Played at varying volumes, locations, and textures throughout the exhibition, the evocative city soundscape all adds to a feeling of unexpected possibilities and an increased probability for new discovery.
Obviously this Magic City cannot be all things to all people, and some will criticize the crisp presentation of a notably gritty series of subcultures, or perhaps the omission of one genre or technique or important artist. It’s not meant to be encyclopedic, rather a series of insights into a grassroots art and activism practice that continues to evolve in cities before our eyes.
For full disclosure, we curated the accompanying BSA Film Program for Magic City by 12 artists and collectives which runs at one end of the vast hall – and Mr. Rojo is on the artist roster with 15 photographs of his throughout the exhibition, so our view of this show is somewhat skewed.
Here we share photographs from the exhibition taken recently inside the exhibition for you to have a look for yourself.
Aiko, AKRylonumérik, Andy K, Asbestos, Benus, Jens Besser, Biancoshock, Mark Bode, Bordalo II, Ori Carino & Benjamin Armas, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Isaac Cordal, Daze, Brad Downey, Tristan Eaton, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Fino’91, Ganzeer, Anders Gjennestad, Ben Heine, Herakut, Icy & Sot, Leon Keer, Loomit, MadC, OakOak, Odeith, Olek, Qi Xinghua, Replete, Roa, Jaime Rojo, Skewville, SpY, Truly, Juandres Vera, WENU, Dan Witz, Yok & Sheryo, Ernest Zacharevic.
The Artmossphere Biennale jump-starts the debate for many about how to best present the work of Street Artists and organizers here in Moscow chose a broad selection of curators from across a spectrum of private, commercial, academic and civically-inspired perspectives to present a solid range of artists from the graffiti and Street Art world inside a formal hall.
To be clear, unless it is illegal and on the street, it is not graffiti nor Street Art. That is the prevailing opinion about these terms among experts and scholars of various stripes and it is one we’re comfortable with. But then there are the commercial and cultural influences of the art world and the design industries, with their power to reshape and loosen terms from their moorings. Probably because these associated art movements are happening and taking shape before our eyes and not ensconced in centuries of scholarship we can expect that we will continue to witness the morphing our language and terminologies, sometimes changing things in translation.
Definitions aside, when you think of more organic Street Art scenes which are always re-generating themselves in the run-down abandoned sectors of cities like Sao Paulo, New York, Melbourne, Paris, Mexico City, London, and Berlin, it is interesting to consider that this event takes place nearly on the grounds of the Kremlin under museum like security.
An international capital that ensures cleanly buffed walls within hours of the appearance of any unapproved Street Art or graffiti, Moscow also boasts a growing contingent of art collectors who are young enough to appreciate the cultural currency of this continuously mutating hybrid of graffiti, hip hop, DIY, muralism, and art-school headiness. The night clubs and fashionable kids here are fans of events like hip-hop and graffiti jams, sometimes presented as theater and other times as “learning workshops” and the like.
Plugging into this idea of street and youth culture is not a singular fascination – there is perhaps an association with the rebellious anti-authoritarian nature of unregulated art in the streets that fuels the interest of many. With graffiti and hip-hop culture adoption as a template, newer expressions of Street Art culture are attractive as well with high profile artists with rebel reputations are as familiar in name here as in many cities. New festivals and events sometimes leverage this renegade free-spirit currency for selling tourism and brands and real estate, but here there also appears to be an acute appreciation for its fine art expression – urban contemporary art.
MOSCOW’S MANEGE AND “DEGENERATE ART”
So ardent is the support for Artmossphere here that a combination of public and private endorsements and financial backing have brought it to be showcased in a place associated with high-culture and counter-culture known as the Moscow Manege (Мане́ж). The location somehow fits the rebellious spirit that launched these artists even if its appearance wouldn’t lead you to think that.
The 19th century neo-classical exhibition hall stands grandly adjacent to Red Square and was built as an indoor riding school large enough to house a battalion of 2,000 soldiers during the 1800s. It later became host to many art exhibitions in the 20th century including a famous avant-garde show in 1962 that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev famously derided as displaying ‘degenerate’ art.
One of the artists whose work was criticized, painter and sculptor Ernst Neizvestny, challenged the label defiantly and won accolades afterward during his five decade career that followed, including receiving many awards and his work being collected worldwide by museums. Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted as calling him “a recognised master and one of the best contemporary sculptors”. In January of this year at the age of 90, Neizvestny’s return to Menage featured an extensive exhibition. He passed away August 9th (The Moscow Times), only weeks before Artmossphere opened.
In some kindred spirit many of these artists at Artmossphere have done actual illegal work on the streets around the world during their respective creative evolutions, and graffiti and Street Art as a practice have both at various times been demonized, derided, dismissed and labeled by critics in terms synonymous with “degenerate”.
A CLEAN CITY
“Moscow is mostly very clean,” says Artmossphere co-founder and Creative Director Sabine Chagina, who walks with guests during a sunny afternoon in a busy downtown area just after the opening. “But we do have some good graffiti crews,” she says as we round the corner from the famous Bolshoi Theater and soon pass Givenchy and Chanel and high-end luxury fashion stores. Shortly we see a mural nearby by French artist Nelio, who painted a lateral abstracted geometric, possibly cubist, piece on the side of a building here in 2013 as part of the LGZ Festival.
If there was graffiti here in Moscow, it was not on full display very readily in this part of town. In driving tours, rides on the extensive metro train system, and in street hikes across the city a visitor may find that much of the illegal street art and graffiti common to other global capitals is illusive due to a general distaste for it and a dedicated adherence to buffing it out quickly.
For a pedestrian tourist Moscow appears in many ways as fully contemporary and architecturally rich as any international world-class metropolis. One of the cleanest places you’ll visit, the metro is almost museum-like in some instances; the historic districts spotless, public fountains, famed statues of important historical figures. All is efficiently ordered and – a welcome surprise – most public space is free of advertisements interrupting your view and your thoughts.
Come to think of it, the sense of commercial-celebrity media saturation that is present in other cities doesn’t appear to permeate the artists psyche here at the Biennale – so there’s not much of the ironic Disney-Marilyn-supermodel-Kardashian-skewering of consumerism and shallowness in this exhibition that you may find in other Urban Art events.
Also, unlike a Street Art-splattered show in London for example that may rudely mock Queen Elizabeth or art in New York streets that present Donald Trump styled as a pile of poo and Hillary Clinton as Heath Ledger’s Joker, we didn’t see over-the-top Putin satires either. So personality politics don’t seem directly addressed in this milieu. According to some residents there was an outcropping of huge festival murals by Street Artists here just a few years ago but more recently they have been painted over with patriotic or other inspiring murals, while others have been claimed for commercial interests.
Starved for some gritty street scenes, it is all the more interesting to see the one live mural painting that we were able to catch – a 6-story red-lined op-art tag by the French graffiti writer L’Atlas. Far from Manege, placed opposite a cineplex in what appears to be a shopping mall situated far from the city’s historical and modern centers, our guide tells us half-jokingly that he is not sure that we are still in Moscow.
Here L’Atlas says that he has painted his bar-code-like and cryptic nom-de-plume with an assistant on a cherry picker for a few days and he says that no one has stopped to ask him about it, neither to comment or criticize. Actually one man early one morning returning home from a disco did engage him briefly, but it was difficult to tell what he was talking about as he may have had a few drinks.
This lack of public commentary is mainly notable because in other cities the comments from passersby can be so ubiquitous that artists deliberately wear stereo headphones to prevent interruption and to be more productive. Sometimes the headphones are not actually playing music.
This Street Art Biennale nonetheless is gaining a higher profile among Urban Art collectors and its associated art dealers and the opening and later auction reaches directly to this audience. Included this year with the primary “Invisible Walls” exhibition are satellite events in association with local RuArts Gallery, Tsekh Belogo at Winzavod, and the Optika Pavilion (No. 64) at VDNKh.
The opening night event itself is wide and welcoming, a mostly youthful and populist affair with celebratory speeches and loosely organized group photos and an open bar. Added together with a press conference, a live DJ, virtual reality headsets, interactive artworks, major private business sponsors, government grants, ministers of culture, gallerists, and quirkily fashionable art fans, this is a polished presentation of a global culture that is filtered through the wide lense of the street.
Perhaps because the exhibition hall is a cavernous rectangle with exposed beams on the ceiling and many of the constructed white walls that mimic vendor booths, it has the air of an art fair. There are thankfully no salespeople pacing back and forth watching your level of interest. People tend to cluster before installations and talk, laugh, share a story, pose for a selfie.
The theme seems very appropriately topical as geopolitical, trade-related, social, digital, and actual walls appear to be falling down rapidly today while the foundations of new ones are taking shape. Catalyzed perhaps by the concept and practices of so-called “globalization” – with its easy flow of capital and restricted flow of humans, we are all examining the walls that are shaping our lives.
With 60+ international artists working simultaneously throughout this massive hall, newly built walls are the imperative for displaying art, supporting it, dividing it. These are the visible ones. With so many players and countries represented here, one can only imagine that there are a number of invisible walls present as well.
The theme has opened countless interpretations in flat and sculptural ways, often expressed in the vernacular of fine art with arguable nods to mid-20th century modernists, folk art, fantasy, representational art, abstract, conceptual, computer/digital art, and good old traditional graffiti tagging. Effectively it appears that when Street Art and graffiti artists pass the precipice into a multi-disciplinary exhibition such as this, one can reframe Urban/Street as important tributaries to contemporary art – but will they re-direct the flow or be subsumed within it?
The work often can be so far removed from street practice that you don’t recognize it as related.
Aside from putting work up in contested public space without permission and under cover, an average visitor may not see a common thread. These works run aesthetic to the conceptual, painterly to the sculptural, pure joy and pure politics. But then, that is we began to see in the streets as well when the century turned to the 21st and art students in large numbers in cities like New York and London and Berlin skipped the gatekeepers, taking their art directly to the public.
Perhaps beneath the surface or just above it, there is a certain anarchistic defiance, a critique of social, economic, political issues, a healthy skepticism toward everyone and everything that reeks of hypocritical patriarchal power structures. Perhaps we’re just projecting.
Looking over the 60+ list of names, it may be striking to some that very few are people of color, especially in view of the origins of the graffiti scene. Similarly, the percentage of women represented is quite small. We are familiar with this observation about Urban Art in general today, and this show mirrors the European and American scene primarily, with notable exceptions such as Instagrafite’s home-based Brazilian crew of 4 artists. As only one such sampling of a wide and dispersed scene, it is not perhaps fair to judge it by artists race, gender, or background, but while we speak of invisible walls it is worth keeping our eyes on as this “scene” is adopted into galleries, museums, and private collections.
Following are some of the artists on view at Artmossphere:
Certainly Moscow native ASKE is gently mocking our mutated modern practices of communicating with his outsized blocked abstraction of a close couple riveted to their respective electronic devices, even unaware of one another.
Warsaw based NeSpoon creates a sculpture of another couple. Heroically presenting her vision of what she calls the iconic “Graffiti Writer” and “Street Art Girl”, they face the future with art instruments in hand ready to make their respective marks. She says her work is emblematic of a permanent financial insecurity for a generation she calls the “PRECARIAT”.
“ ‘Precariat’ is the name of the new emerging social class,” says curator, organizer, and NeSpoon’s partner Marcin Rutkiewicz when talking about the piece during the press conference. “These are young people living without a predictable future, without good jobs, without social security. It’s a class in the making and probably these people don’t have any consciousness or global unity of interest. But they are the engines of protest for people all over the world – like Occupy Wall Street, Gezi Park in Turkey, or the Arab Spring.”
The artist developed the sculpture specifically for this exhibition and planned it over the course of a year or so. Born of a social movement in Poland by the same name, the sculpture and its sticker campaign on the street represent “a kind of protest against building walls between people who are under the same economical and social situation all over the world,” says Rutkiewicz.
Artist Li-Hill says his piece “Guns, Germs, and Steel” directly relates to the divisions between civilizations due to a completely uneven playing field perpetuated through generations. Inspired by the 1997 trans-disciplinary non-fiction book by Jared Diamond, Li-Hill says the Russian sculptural group called “The Horse Tamers” represents mankind’s “ability to harness power of the natural world and to be able to manipulate it for its advantage.”
“The horse is one of the largest signifiers and is a catalyst for advancement in society because it has been for military use, for agriculture, for transportation,” he says. “It was the most versatile of the animals and the most powerful.” Here he painted a mirror image, balanced over a potential microbial disaster symbol, and he and the team are building a mirrored floor to “give it this kind of infinite emblem status.”
Afloat in the middle of some of these walled areas M-City from Poland is choosing to be more direct thematically in his three dimensional installation of plywood, plaster, aerosol and bucket paint, and machine blown insulation.
“It is an anti-war piece,” he says, and he speaks about the walls between nations and a losing battle of dominance that ensures everyone will be victim.”
“It’s kind of a monster who destroys arms,” he says of this temporary sculpture with a lording figure crushing tanks below.
“He is destroying the tanks but at the same time he is also a destroyer – so it’s a big circle. Nothing is positive that can come out of this. There is always someone bigger.” He says the piece is inspired by the political situations in Europe today and the world at large.
Minneapolis based HOTTEA usually does very colorful yarn installations transforming a huge public space, but for Artmossphere he is taking the conceptual route. The walk-in room based on the Whack-A-Mole game presents holes which a visitor can walk under and rise above.
Visitors/participants will experience the physical separation of space, and perhaps contemplate facing one another and interacting or ignoring one another. It is something he says he hopes will draw attention to how many walls we have allowed ourselves to distract from human interactions.
Englands’ Sick Boy calls his project The Rewards System, where guests are invited to climb a ladder over a brick wall and descend down a slide into a darkened house, setting off a series of sensors that activate a variety of multisensory lights and tantalizing patterns. After landing and being rewarded the visitor is forced to exit on hands and knees through a too-small square door.
“The concept of the show is about invisible walls so I was thinking about there being barriers in your life and I thought about the reward of endorphins one experiences for achieving a task – a small amount of endorphins. So I thought I would build a house that signifies the reward system,” he explains.
Atlanta/Seattle based Derek Bruno reached back to the Leonid Brezhnev years and into Moscow’s Gorky Park for his series of site specific installations based on Soviet Cement Fence type PO-2. The iconic fence was re-created in a nearby studio and Bruno shot photographs of his 10-15 minute “interventions” in the park itself, revisiting a field of design called “technical aesthetics.”
In a statement Bruno explains “Since the end of the Soviet Union, the iconic fence has become a persistent and ever present reminder of former delineations of space; while new forms of boundaries shape the digital and sociopolitical landscapes. “
Remi Rough is known for his smartly soaring abstract geometry in painted murals and smaller scale works, and for Moscow he wanted to strip it back to the basics, approaching a white box with one undulating graphic composition.
“My idea was that Moscow’s a bit ‘over the top’,” he says, and he decided to strip back the audacity and go for simplicity, which actually takes courage.
“I said ‘you know what?’ – I want to do something with the cheapest materials you can possibly get. These two pieces literally cost 3000 rubles ($50). It’s made of felt, it’s like a lambs wool. I think they use it for flooring for construction.” Depending on the angle, the pink blotted material may translate as a swath of otherworldly terrain or a metaphorical bold vision with all the hot air let out.
“I wanted to do something peaceful and calming and use natural materials – something that’s different from what I usually do – but I use the folds in the fabric and the pink color – two things that I usually use a lot.”
Moscow’s Alexey Luka is also challenging himself to stretch creatively by taking his wall collage installations of found wood and converting them into free-standing sculptures.
“For this biennale I tried to make something different so now I am going from the assemblages to 3-D.” The constructed media is warm and ordered, reserved but not without whimsy.
“My work is made from found wood – I use it with what I found on the street and my shapes and my graphics – so it’s kind of an experiment with three dimensions,” and he confirms that most of this wood is sourced here in Moscow.
We ask him about the number of eyes that peer out from his installation. Perhaps these eyes are those of Muscovites? “They are just like observers,” he says.
Torino’s Mimmo recreated the Moscow Olympic Village from the 1980 games in miniature presented as on a plainly brutalist platform. The sculpture is austere in detail on the hulking towers save for the tiny graffiti tags, throwies, rollers, extinguisher tags, and the like at the bases and on the roofs.
Curator Christian Omodeo tells us that Mimmo recreated the massive village based on his direct study of the site as it stands today; a housing project that has hundreds of families — and a hip-hop / graffiti scene as well.
It is striking that the scale reduces the impact of the graffiti – yet when experienced at eye-level it retains a potency. Even so, by recasting the relationship between viewer and mark-making, this graffiti actually seems “cute” because of its relative size to the viewer.
Brad Downey and Alexander Petrelli hi-jacked the opening of the Biennale by circulating within the exhibit as a gallery with artworks for sale. With Downey performing as a street-huckster pushing his own art products, Mr. Patrelli showcased new Downey photo collages and drawings inside his mobile “Overcoat Gallery”
A charming Moscow art star / gallerist / performance artist, Mr. Patrelli is also a perennial character at openings and events in the city, by one account having appeared at 460 or so events since 1992 with his flashing overcoat. The artworks also feature Patrelli, completing a self-referential meta cycle that continued to circle the guests at the exhibition.
International artists participating in the Artmossphere Biennale 2016 include: Akacorleone, Alex Senna, Brad Downey, Chu (Doma), Orilo (Doma), Claudio Ethos, Demsky, Christopher Derek Bruno, Filippo Minelli, Finok, Galo, Gola Hundun, Hot Tea, Jaz, Jessie and Katey, Johannes Mundinger, L’Atlas, LiHill, LX One, M-city, TC, Mario Mankey, Martha Cooper, Miss Van, Nespoon, Millo, Pablo Benzo, Pastel, Paulo Ito, Proembrion, Remed, Remi Rough, Rub Kandy, Run, Sepe, Sickboy, Smash 137, Sozyone Gonsales, SpY, The London Police, Trek Matthews, Wes 21.
Rafael Schacter Takes a More Nuanced Approach to the Migration Crisis
Commerce and technology have been eroding traditional constructs of the borders and boundaries, especially in the age of the Internet, satellites, transnational banking and trade agreements that create governing bodies that openly dismiss national sovereignty, integrity, identity, aspirations. Borders and boundaries are contested, guarded, or disregarded at will; open to international capital, porous to immigration, hardened by armies.
Daily they are in the headlines: Trump’s plans to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, Syrian war refugees immigrating across European borders, Israel and Palestine’s ongoing land and settlement disputes, even maritime territorial claims of China and the Phillipines in the South China Sea that were ruled upon yesterday – all reveal clues to our historically complicated relationships and geo-political perspectives.
Sorry, we’re using terms interchangeably, which Schacter will correct us on. Toward that end, we are pleased today to present Mr. Schacter, an anthropologist, researcher of street art, author, and lecturer, here on BSA to share observations and experiences from his most recent project, a fascinating show at the Street Art Museum (SAM) called Crossing Borders /Crossing Boundaries. Our thanks to the artists, only a small number of whom we are able to present here, as well as to the museum for sharing their talent and resources. A full list of the participating artists is at the end of the article.
~ from Rafael Schacter
In May of this year, I spent nearly four weeks in Saint Petersburg curating a large scale exhibition at the Street Art Museum (SAM). The Museum, set in a functioning factory on the edge of the city, is a mammoth site. The first plastics factory in the Soviet Union, the site became partially abandoned in the 1990s after the collapse of communism, and has since been taken over and partly given over to this new museum. Containing huge outdoor and indoor spaces, the museum is truly a dream location to work.
For the summer exhibition this year, we decided to focus on what has been termed the Migration Crisis. Rather than tackling this head on, however, something that I feel can often be crass and exploitative, something that I feel can often be seen to be utilizing peoples’ hardships for artistic ‘gain’, I sought to provide a concept that could explore the theme from a more nuanced angle.
The title of the exhibition, Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, thus attempted to explore the differences between these two terms; words which are often used interchangeably, but are in fact quite distinct.
Utilizing the work of renowned sociologist Richard Sennett, borders were hence posited as zones of high organic interactivity and development, engaged, permeable spaces such as the zones between the land and the sea in which different species thrive, intermix and exchange. In contrast however, boundaries were understood as guarded, impenetrable locations, locations, for example, like the territorial perimeters of creatures such as lions or wolves.
Focusing on these differences, on the fertility and vibrancy of the border compared to the sterility and aridity of the boundary, we then commissioned 20 artists from around the world to produce works on this theme.
Working with artists from a background of street art as well as contemporary art, with video artists and photographers, muralists and artivists, the exhibition is thus truly multi-media and multidisciplinary. I was beyond impressed with the results, all the artists bringing an amazing set of ideas to the table and delivering them in the most fantastic of ways.
We had over 5,000 people come to our launch on May 14th, as well as a huge international conference on the topic of migration taking place in the museum on the same day. Living, working, eating and sleeping in the factory with all of the artists over the entire period of production was tough, to say the least. However the energy was unrelenting, with the artists and the whole team at SAM working without rest to deliver this incredible project.
I’m super proud of what we achieved, to both sensitively and critically explore this theme, to not just provide the traditional liberal consensus positionality but rather to challenge people’s thoughts and ideas on this topic. Who knows what effect it will have, if any. But I hope that the project can push people to think about the topic in a more nuanced rather than binary way.
Following the video are a few of the artists and their work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries
Printed banner on chimney / Acrylic paint on oil barrels / Basketball hoop and backboard on containers, acrylic paint on asphalt
SpY’s deceptively simple yet conceptually ingenious interventions focus on the upturning of spatial and societal norms. Using irony and humour to create a dialogue with the viewer, SpY attempts to impress multiple readings onto a space, re-presenting it as a “frame of endless possibilities”.
His set of works here follow this method precisely. In particular, his giant work Go Home, at first an apparently aggressive, deeply antagonistic phrase (to put it mildly), plays with the variety of meanings that this expression can contain: the very ability to go home, for example, to return back to the place of one’s family, one’s birth, one’s life, is the very thing that most immigrants desire but simply cannot undertake (whether due to war or famine, economic or ecological pressures). To be able to go home is thus a privilege that not all of us have.
As with his famous method of renegotiating the set rules of sporting activities, provoking, as he says “disorder and chaos through context and content”, SpY’s works do not simply invert or subvert their spaces but playfully distort them. They “misuse” their environments to show the latent possibilities that lie within.
Scaffold, laminate photographic prints, flags, and spray paint and acrylic on containers / Acrylic paint on wall
Fillipo’s installation for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries explores different border zones throughout the globe. From the sea border of North and South Korea to that of Mexico and California; from Morocco and Mauritania to Cambodia and Vietnam; from the invisible border between Northern Mali and the disputed territories of the Azawad; to abandoned NATO bunkers at the Belgian Dutch border, these images present us with some of the most politically fraught locations on the planet which, somehow, contain a strangely alluring beauty. Alongside this, Filippo presents a series of Whatsapp conversations documenting his personal struggle to gain entry into Russia for this exhibition: a series of Kafkaesque scenarios in which he was sent from location to location in a seeming test of his resistance. The installation as a whole can be seen to bring together Filippo’s joint obsession with political, industrial and internet aesthetics.
His mural, A Revolution Nobody Cares About / Nobody Cares About a Revolution speaks, quite loudly, for itself.
Kirill’s work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries arose through his correspondence with curator Rafael Schacter. Focusing on the barrier of language and the complexity of translation, the work is about the impossibility of understanding and the unwillingness to understand. As KIRILL says “I understood only a small percentage of what we discussed and so decided to make this the heart of the work”. It is thus the borders and boundaries of language that KIRILL takes aim. As he continues “there are two borders of misunderstanding: you see unfamiliar letters and you do not understand everything completely. Signifier and signified become equally incomprehensible. Or even it’s a familiar language, but still it is not clear”. Kirill’s work, although colourful and bright, is in fact the image of alienation. The image of the migratory and the incomprehensible.
Gaia and Mata Ruda have produced a monumental work for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, a work which functions in the classical tradition of political muralism. Using imagery from the filmmaker Marc Silver and photographers Jonathan Hollingsworth and Alex Kurunis (both of whom show other work within the exhibition itself), Gaia and Ruda present us with an assemblage of figures and artefacts which together convey a dense narrative about contemporary migration. Including individuals and stories from the borders of the USA and Latin America as well as Africa and Europe, the artists also produced a group portrait of three Uzbekistani employees at the factory who work and live in the very site where the mural exists.
The story Gaia and Mata tell is one of inequality and injustice, a story of the imbalance of our contemporary global system. Yet within this it contains hope and strength, the strength of the individuals who strive to fight these inequities on a daily basis.
Nano4814’s half-abstract, half-figurative mural for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries demonstrates the strangely discomforting yet visually arresting style which we can now instantly recognize as his own. Frequently focusing upon the apprehension he has with his own work, Nano’s characters can often be seen to be in states of tension or strain (both literally and metaphorically), an angst reinforced by their compressed captivity within their sites. Moreover, his use of brick-walls, barriers, and wooden shards, symbols that act as leitmotifs throughout his work, play with the idea of boundaries as objects that encourage intrusion and trespass: Like masks, these borders both suggest and occlude a veiled truth, hinting whilst hiding, implying yet escaping. It is thus the very limitation that enables us to venture beyond.
Slides, DIA projector, flags, photographs, socks, coins, drawings in collaboration with Clemens Behr, SPY, Paco, and Fillipo Minelli, computer guts, digital prints, plastic, wood, plexi-glass, mounting hardware, sound installation, radio, headphones, cables, paint, chess set, soviet fabric, and industrial spools.
Double Yippie Hollow Super Power is a joint project between artists Brad Downey from the USA and Igor Ponosov from Russia. Taking inspiration from the parlor game “cadavre exquis” or “exquisite corpse” (a method by which a collection of words or images is collaboratively assembled), the pair have sought to combine the varying national symbols of their home nations into a new, exquisite set of iconic forms. The “unity of the opposites” that they have created – utilizing objects such as flags, coins, and anthems – plays with the sacrality of these national symbols, the almost divine status that they contain. Moreover, it alludes to the strangely intimate relationship that the two countries are entwined in. Whilst apparent opposites, common enemies, both locations create their identity through their connection with the other: the objects Downey and Ponosov have thus created contain both a critical and playful edge. They ridicule the stereotypes of both themselves and each other in the same moment.
2016, Korean ink on wall / Found objects, cement, and acrylic paint on wooden palletes
Jazoo Yang’s Dots series originates from her work in her native Korea, in particular within areas of the city going through the process of redevelopment. Using traditional Korean ink, and solely using her thumbprint (a marking used as a signature on important documents), Yang’s work sought to bring focus on the increasing amount of “redevelopment refugees” in the city
For Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, Yang has expanded her Dots Series to incorporate the issue of refugees and migrants in Europe and further beyond. Working mainly on her own but also with immigrant workers from the factory itself, Yang discusses their stories, their histories, their existence with these individuals as they mark the wall together. These imprints act as a record of this moment whilst remaining entirely silent.
In Yang’s Painting Block Works, this theme of memory and regeneration continues. Exploring the violent so central to the contemporary city, Yang wants to ask how much we perceive our lives and make independent decisions within these oppressive environments. She aims to bring these problems to the surface through rebuilding them with the materials we so readily abandon, in Korea using objects from deserted houses and buildings, here in Russia using the detritus and ephemera of the factory itself.
The Final Frontier (Space) / Our House (In the Middle of the Street)
Laminate doors, wooden pallets, wooden battons, hinges, and acrylic paint / Acrylic and spray paint on wall
Mimicking and playing with their settings through a process of transformative deconstruction, Clemens Behr’s geometric shapes and abstract forms come to distort the viewers’ perspective, merging two and three dimensional spaces in a single plane.
His installation for Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries acts as what he terms a “social maze”. Utilising one of the most classic example of borders/boundaries, the common doorway, the work explores the potentially empowering or inhibiting abilities of these structures: as one door opens, another closes, enabling some and disabling others in the same moment. As a participatory sculpture, its visual possibilities become endless. However conceptually it demonstrates how every decision we take effects those around us. Like many of Behr’s installations, this work was produced with what was at hand, in this case the products and detritus of the factory site itself.
Behr’s mural tackles another question however. Playing with the shadows and design of the adjacent fence, with the actuality of space (and time) versus the potentiality of painting, he questions the boundaries of art itself: Can it go beyond reflection to truly generate the new?
Acrylic paint on wall / Barbed wire, steel poles, metal fence, laminate warning signs
Eltono’s mural is a reaction to the absurd rationality of national boundaries. As opposed to the natural flow of borders (as can be seen in perhaps the world’s only natural country, Chile), the carving up of the planet’s boundaries happens at right angles: diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines cutting up the planet into a perfectly linear patchwork.
As such, Eltono has created his own world map using a generative art technique; using a basic randomizer to choose a digit between 1 and 7, the numbers which emerge then come to define both the color of the country and its borders, indicating the direction that each color, and each boundary will thus take.
Unlike his mural, for his fence installation, Eltono presents us with the opposite of the rationality as seen within maps. Rather, he displays a perfectly irrational object, an upside-down fence. For Eltono, however, the inversion of the fence makes it something lighter, not an object that prevents our movement, but a compact object that can be upended “as if the wind had blown it upside down”. As he continues, “it’s not a massive obstacle anymore. A fence that can be flipped is a territory that can be freed.”
Merijn’s mural has a simple, yet vitally important message. His five globes show us the development from a basic binary of black and white to a densely colored, intricate, heterogeneous space. The final image thus shows us a planet in which, as Merijn says, “everything harmonizes. All the colors are there together and they all work and flow seamlessly with each other. Of course borders exist in many ways, but if we take it a step further and forget about the rules and just go with our feeling this is what I think can be understood as the ideal. That we should not be limited by the rationality of borders. Probably a bit of a cliché. But that’s how I see it and feel it”.
SUPERPROJECT, a two-man design operation spearheaded by visual artist Jasper Niens and industrial designer Thijs Ewalts, focus on computational design and digital fabrication, embracing art, architecture, engineering and technology. For Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries, they have created Four Zero, a space within a space, a location only accessible through four, tunnel-like entrances. Due to the curvature of the entrances, the visitor is not immediately sure where they will end up. As such, the work is about revealing and concealing, possibility and difficulty; once people enter the space they can either feel locked up and exposed or protected and safe within its embrace.
1001th Island: The Most Sustainable Island in Archipelago
2015/2016. Video, trash, fishing net and wood
Tita Salina’s 1001st Island is a work exploring the changing borders and boundaries of Jakarta. A city which is currently sinking between 2.9 and 6.7 inches per year, and which exists mainly below sea level, Jakarta is currently undertaking a huge land reclamation and producing a 32 kilometer sea wall to try and protect its boundaries, a project that will construct 17 new islands and take an estimated 30 years to complete. The installation presented here, a reproduction of an artificial island built by Salina and local fisherman using marine debris and litter, aims to highlight the negative impacts of the project, in particular the fact that the city refuses to fix the causes of its problems — namely, excessive groundwater extraction and inefficient waste management. Salina thus connects the reclamation and land issue with the human waste that plagues the ocean and the future of the traditional fishermen who live and work within this now perilous space.
ARTISTS Crossing Borders / Crossing Boundaries.
Alex Kurunis, Brad Downey, Igor Posonov, Clemens Behr, El Tono, Filippo Minelli, Gaia, Mata Ruda, James Bridle, Superproject ( Jasper Niens & Thijs Ewalts, Jazoo Yang, Jonathan Hollingworth, Kirill KTO, Martha Atienza, Merijn Hos, Nano4814, Rob Pinney, SpY, Tita Salina
They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.
The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils.
The project’s completion at the turn of the year culminated in one of the largest Street Art/Graffiti artists’ collective shows in Italy held in the city’s main public gallery Palazzo Platamone, entitled “Codici Sorgenti” (Source Code), which was curated by Stefano S. Antonelli and Francesca Mezzano from Rome’s 999 Contemporary Gallery.
There is talk about the possibility that this exhibition of about 60 artists work will tour throughout Europe with its message of the historic roots of modern graffiti and Street Art along with many of its most impactful practitioners pushing into the contemporary art world.
According to Arianna Ascione in Artsblog.it, the gallery exhibition was “divided into three sections that tell the birth, interactive development and consecration of the (graffiti/street art) phenomenon” Indeed, the list contains works by 108, A One, Augustine Iacurci, Alexis Diaz, Alexone, Bo 130, Boris Tellegen (aka Delta), Brad Downey, C215, Clemens Behr, Conor Harrington, Crash, Delta 2, Dondi White, Doze Green, El Seed, Ericailcane, Eron, Escif, Evol, Faile, Feitakis, Gaia, Herbert Baglione, Horfee, Interesni Kazki, Invader, Jaz, Jeff Aerosol, Mark Jenkins, Jonone, JR, Judith Supine, Kool Poor, The Atlas, Lek & Sowat, Lucy McLauchlan, Matt Small, Maya Hayuk, Mensanger, Miss Van, Momo, Moneyless, Peeta, Rammellzee, Retna, Roa, Seth, Philippe Baudelocque, Sharp, Shepard Fairey, StenLex, Swoon, The London Police, Todd James,Toxic, and the aforementioned Vhils.
Ironically the genre-melting inclination of so-called “urban art” has eroded the silo mentality of many who follow these art forms as they become known, followed, collected, and exhibited; As a metaphor “Art Silos” may more accurately refer to the past and the dogmatic separation of genres such as graffiti, tattoo, illustration, ad jamming, and Street Art for example.
Although not strictly what you might call public art either, the scale of “Art Silos”, with its major artworks that typically may take years to be approved in large cities elsewhere, is an occurrence routinely happening in cities around the world.
For us this is one more example of the “New Muralism” that is enabling Street Artists to do major works in public spaces via non-traditional routes. On par with a public art works of other committee-approved sorts, this silo project was a private/public collaboration that made selections, secured funding and permissions from the harbor authorities, city figures, politicians and the manager of the silos themselves, according to VladyArt, who along with Microbo is one of the artists and a resident of Catania.
He says the size of the project and the power of the imagery combined with the process of watching them go up has drawn a lot of attention to the area lately. “The people here were amazed by our speed and the large scale operation. Catania had no large murals like this… this was the very first time for Sicily. They can be seen from far away and even from taking off from and landing at the airport – or coming by cruise line on the sea. It seems that nobody really paid that much attention to this spot before, and everyone is talking about it now.”
To understand why a project of this nature can happen so quickly these days, look no further than the location. As we have recounted numerous times, often these efforts are deliberately programmed to draw attention to economically challenged areas as a way of encouraging tourism and investment.
In fact VladyArt says that this historic region and city that dates back many centuries before Christ is having a very challenging time economically and socially and could use positive attention from a crowd that appreciates art. “Catania is somehow the most dynamic city of Sicily, because of its industrial and commercial features,” he says.
“Having said that, please be aware that the south of Italy is no way wealthy or an easy place, despite its beauty and lucky location in the sun. Almost the whole city is rough, I can name a many neighborhoods where this is the case.”
So it is all the more remarkable that a multi-artist iconic installation can happen here in Catania and people are exposed to a grassroots-fueled art scene that is currently galloping across the globe.
“Regular people around here don’t know much about the whole thing, street art and stuff,” says Vlady Art. “So, quite frankly they wouldn’t care much about Okuda, Vhils or Interesni. They never heard of them before and probably people will find hard to spell their names. They cannot catch the meaning or the purpose of this. They simply like what they see – they like this energy. They do get the ‘message’, the power of art.”
D.I.Y. Cartography in the Rawest Section of Somerset
Street Art is intrinsically bound with its neighborhood and location in a city. Context and placement are key, establishing its relation to a place. So when a Street Artist is asked to create art about mapping a place, it is fascinating to see how they perceive it and with what manner and medium they present it.
In a new exhibition opening in London this month, the time honored study and practice of cartography ventures into the conceptual as well as the physical, and we find that for many artists the street is as much about poetry and perception as it is about aerosol and wheat-pasted paper.
“Mapping the City”, now going up at the Somerset House presents the work of 50 artists whose roots lie in creating work for the urban space, one defined by paved streets configured by planners and traversed by citizenry. More than this the artists here broaden the job description of cartographer to one who captures energy, movement, emotion, imagined storylines and life paths.
With ubiquitous smart phones at the ready we increasingly find that mapping the world has become a given, removing some of its mystery. The tracking of GPS is joined by the physically surveying Google machine and countless public/private war/profit apparatus that have been loosed across and above the skin of the globe to trace all roads and streets, quantify topography, measure depths – even gauge the volume of rivers and density of forests.
And then there are the people. “The city is a living entity,” says Rafael Schacter, curator of the show from the arts organization A(by)P, who sees the city as something far more than a clever configuration of lines. “The city changes every day, every hour of the day. It is constantly modifying itself. And it is fully alive in the way it reacts and responds to our actions. It is endlessly fascinating in the same way humans are. They can be exhausting, they can be destructive. But they contain endless possibilities too.”
It’s this same immersion into street life that draws artists to create in public, and knowing how to accept and embrace its evolution is what brings the veterans back. MOMO literally painted many streets in one continuous line that formed the letters of his nom de la rue in a 2006 tag that spread across the bottom of New York’s central island and it is presented as a map in this show.
Brooklyn Street Art:One of the artists in your show, MOMO, created an enormous tag in Manhattan – although it was only legible when the route was retraced upon a map. Is he crazy? Rafael Schacter: He is crazy. A crazy genius. Although you still can see the marks he made on the streets of Manhattan years after he painted it! He recently re-walked the route and re-mapped the existing line. As I said; Crazy. Genius.
“Retracing the tag line was cool,” MOMO tells us. “What I noticed is how much new sidewalk cement has gone in – a lot of the line was eaten up by that,” he says, observing that a city is anything but static and often regenerative. “It is interesting how quickly a city replaces all of its cells,” he remarks about the ongoing repaving that characterizes the city. Were there more changes MOMO noticed in the 7 years between tagging? Yes. “Other stuff, like all the shiny new developments that are making Manhattan look like a mall.”
While there are some commonalities among the selected artists who are participating in this project, there is quite a variety of approaches to the street, as Schacter invited Street Artists, graffiti artists, public artists, designers, painters, illustrators, and billboard jammers. He says the multiplicity of interpretation was an intentional decision.
“For us, the most important thing was to have the whole range of artists we love and who are producing work in the public sphere included in the exhibition. As such, and as you say, it really is a very wide variety of artists, from graffiti bombers to conceptual artists, from muralists to urban explorers. With all of them, however, the crucial element within their practice is the public sphere, the richness of the city and urban space. This is the line that goes through all of their work, even if they may at first seem widely different.”
Chu, an Argentine Street Artist and muralist whose colorfully painted four paneled abstraction remixes and jumbles the lines and shapes and removes all text, his map is meant to communicate the kinetic nature of street life. “I tried to create a map of Buenos Aires marking my usual movements around the city. I am used to moving around it a lot, from one side to other, and sometimes it is really chaotic and stressful. However it is also really where I get a lot of inspiration.”
A viewer of Chu’s graphic representation may be reminded of map making software and apps – possibly because of his graphic design training and his work as an animation director and illustrator in the digital sphere. He says that his digital art experience has grafted onto his vision of the physical street, “especially because I am working with layers and some of my choices of shapes come from that experience.”
Even as a painter, you can see the influence of the digital design world in Chu’s map. He says that when he thinks of city streets, he does see in his mind an aerial view of them from up above, but there is much more.
“My artwork for the exhibition is a kind of aerial abstract view of the city,” says Chu, “When trying to understand the city street more mentally, I believe today, it is something more complex than it was before. It is like some kind of constellation or hypertext thing that grows up in all directions, with axis and tons of layers.”
Housed in a section of Somerset House that has been closed off from the public for 150 years, the new exhibit is also its first and most visitors will never have hiked through the still unpolished space. It seems like the perfectly shabby cream-colored raw environment that graff writers and Street Artists might feel comfortable making art for. “It’s in the process of happening,” says Schacter as the team moves around him and up ladders to place the maps and straddle patches of exposed wall. According to Rafael, even the ceilings of the 18th century rooms are being restored to their original splendor, “with Yak Hair in the plaster!”
Brooklyn Street Art:Will people need to follow a map to find this show in the new wing of the Somerset House? Rafael Schacter: Ha! Kind of. Our space hasn’t currently even got a name as it’s so new – and so old at the same time. We’re going to make big wooden arrows to make it clear but we kind of hope people get lost too, and then eventually find us!
Brooklyn Street Art:Not all participants strictly adhered to the realm of cartography in the conception or execution of their map. Brad Downey appears to have drawn a face. Imagine what you would have gotten if this was a show about clouds. Rafael Schacter: You’re right – the responses to our call for work has been super super varied. But that’s exactly what we wanted – that variety of work. We didn’t want just one understanding of the call, which was simply “map your space”. Brad’s work is about finding visuals within maps, whilst others have tried to find maps within visuals! It is all simply about a different appreciation of space from the one we see in the top down, topographic, scientific standard.
The Brooklyn Street Artist Swoon contributed one of her iconic images of a woman whose entire form is filled with what appears to be kutis and stilt houses along winding streets from top to bottom. Based on the Thai capital Bangkok, it is an example of the inner world Swoon is known for creating, reflective of a character’s history.
Brooklyn Street Art:It is always interesting to see a Swoon portrait that contains the city and the streets within the body of the subject, isn’t it? Rafael Schacter: There’s a great quote from Swoon about her work being about the desire to more carefully examine the “relationship of people to their built environment”. Her work here is a prime example of this, a work in which the body and the city become inexorably intertwined – the experience, as she says, “of becoming part of the fabric of the city” visually mapped out.
Brooklyn Street Art:Can you talk about the film/s you have discovered and will be showing that fall in with the theme of map-making? Rafael Schacter: The films we’re going to be showing are by a filmmaker named Marc Isaacs. They’re both set in London, both exploring the lives of “ordinary” Londoners. It is a very bottom-up, grass roots understanding of people’s lives. That is exactly what we’re looking to do in the show – to explore the subjective and the hidden nature of the city.
Brooklyn Street Art:Who will be doing an artist talk about the project? Rafael Schacter: We’re really excited about this. Our artist talk will be featuring Eltono, Filippo Minelli and Caleb Neelon. Again, a real diversity of artists and a diversity of backgrounds. Each of them have a great understanding of the public sphere and we’re excited to see what they will present.
Brooklyn Street Art:Given worldwide mapping and its ubiquity on devices we must ask this: In the future, will it be possible to get lost? Rafael Schacter: I hope so! As the artist Itso said, and I paraphrase, true places can never be mapped.
Until you get lost in a city, you really do not know its true nature. And possibly your own.
Only at the moment of realization that you really have lost your way, your bearings, your inner compass, however temporarily, do you get a genuine sense of a place and your place in it. What are these buildings, who are these people, what is that smell, why is that horn honking, is there a bathroom nearby, do I have any money, what do I do? Perhaps even “who am I?”. No, you’re too confident and self assured for that.
We’ve trekked through New York City thousands of miles by now, worn out many shoes, taken countless wrong turns, and been lost numerous times. It’s part of the adventure really. Especially in the 80s when it was all new to us; cacophonic and crazy and perplexing, unnerving, and seemingly neverending. Now, even with GPS on the phone it is completely possible to get lost. And if you are not lost, you know it is your responsibility to keep your eyes open for someone who is. It’ll happen.
This week we’re excited for London folks who get to look at a map, fifty of them actually. Curated by Rafael Schacter and his collaborative arts organization named A(by)P, Mapping the City is an ingenious little bit of inspiration and conceptualizing of our sense of place.
Who are these maps created by? Street Artists of course, as well as others from the graffiti art scene.
And these wildcats have taken many liberties with the assignment of “please make a map”. So many in fact that some of these maps would get you lost even further if you were to consult them. But there is plenty to be learned from them nonetheless. These maps may provide valuable insights into the highways and byways of some of these artist’s brains, now that you think of it, you beguiling detective.
The inaugural exhibition opens the New Wing of Somerset House – a wing that has been closed to the public for a century and a half, or roughly the time you have to wait for a cable repair person to come to your apartment. Rafael and his team are busy installing maps right now for the January 22nd opening, and we will have great “install” images and an interview with him next week for you to enjoy. But for right now, have a look at these examples of cartographic excellence from an international array of established and emerging artists for Mapping the City.
The month long 4th Edition of Bien Urbain just wrapped in Besançon, France and the results are predictably rather awesome due to the quality of the work, the site selections, and the integrated nature of the entire presentation. “It is not about designing an open-air art gallery or about decorating the town,” say the organizers, and maybe that is why each artist seems to consider the whole before devising his or her addition to it.
BSA has been tracking Bien Urbain since its introduction and each time the collection of artists is thoughtfully selected, with each helping to define and refine the measure of public art without the trite pleasantries of commercially sponsored festivals nor stultifyingly bland results of design by municipal committee.
Whether purely modernist (MOMO), cerebral (Brad Downey) or poetic (Pastel), the contributions to Bien Urbain are more edifying than edifice and enable one to experience “artistic routes through and with public spaces,” as the festivals’ motto intones.
We look forward to welcome you very soon at Palais Kinsky in Vienna!
Grand Opening: Thursday, May 16, 19:30.
Again we selected exciting artists from all over the world
Anthony Lister, Brad Downey, Dan Witz, Ellannah Sadkin (presented by Moniker Art Fair), Faith47 (presented by Moniker Art Fair), Max Wiedemann, Mode 2, Olivier Hölzl LIVIL, Ozmo, Stephen Tompkins, Vermibus (presented by Moniker Art Fair).