Hamburg-based Lapiz is lamenting the current state of vaccines and Covid-19 limitations on the average German’s ability to travel. As spring is on the cusp, and Easter holidays are only a couple weeks from now, he admits to suffering from “Reisefieber”, or travel fever.
A global citizen, Lapiz also highlights the hypocrisy of so-called “western” developed economies worrying about taking vacations while other countries haven’t even seen the vaccine.
“Rich countries, which count for ~ 14 % of the world’s population, have bought 54 % of the global available vaccine doses while many countries like Nigeria, with a population of 200 Million, do not get any,” he says. “In January this year, 25 people in all of Africa had been vaccinated compared to 39 million in rich countries. While we are getting back to normal life including travel to exotic locations, these countries will not get any glimpse of it in the years to come.”
As ever Lapiz is using his street art to critique gently his society, and possibly himself. This new intervention takes a plaintive look at a “typical” traveler transfixed with a trifle of wanderlust.
What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
This grouchy-looking elf by Lapiz in this shopping district in the Sankt Pauli district in Hamburg Germany doesn’t look like he wants to be helpful. The stenciled piece is only in a t-shirt and a grimace in this normally busy area. His T-shirt lists the cultural items that are all restricted because of Covid.
But shopping? That is allowed.
“What really matters to society, what really counts – and what defines the system – is the ever-growing economy,” Lapiz opines. “We shall reduce our social contacts so we can consume. Restaurants and Bars need to close, socialising and eating is not important anymore, neither is culture. Even worse it is punishable.”
“All hail the GDP,” says Lapiz, “Who needs to be happy anyway?”
Corona has killed off the street art
festivals in many ways. These days we think that all street art is local, and
the nature of the graffiti street scene is changed by it as well. Additionally
with so many people out of work, many artists have more time, we see more
thoughtfully considered pieces and perhaps better executed pieces. Just a theory.
Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic,
Lapiz says that he has gone back to his earlier days more than a decade ago: posters
and wheatpaste. Living in Hamburg, Germany now, he has travelled to places like
New Zealand and parts of Africa and South America in the past, but right now he’s
more focused on developing work with a message – partly as a way to communicate
ideas to passersby but partly as a way to contemplate complex modern matters.
Today Lapiz tells BSA readers in his own words about three recent
socio-political issues, with his own approach to critique.
Again, time has passed, restrictions
have further been lifted, travel is possible again, so are services at church,
the museums are open again. Protests are possible if the rules of social
distancing and wearing a mask are observed. Rightfully, people started to
protest against the restrictions implemented by the government, but a small
group took the stage. The Covidiot, according to the urban dictionary, is a
person ignoring the warnings regarding public health and safety.
On top of that all kinds of wild
stories are spun to explain the virus in ways that can be interpreted as
anti-Semitic. The challenge for me to address this was to not resort to the
obvious and paint a mask; but here it had to be done. But here the black-white-red
mask is covering the eyes. The colours are taken from the Reichs-flag, a symbol
of all those rejecting the legitimacy of the modern German state. Here it was
used as a metaphor for people blinded by anti-Semitic propaganda something all
Corona-deniers around the world have in common,
So far, the Covidiot is the last
entry in this body of work. However, the pandemic is not over and it is just
days since the best-known Covidiot in the world tested positive. We will see
what other challenges lay ahead.
The feeling of loneliness did not go
away, but it felt as if the people adapted to it, the new normal, this is what
life is now. Since the first intervention of this piece on the street some
time has passed and the second installment was glued up on the same poster
board a few weeks after the restriction of the lockdown were loosened. While
supermarkets, shops and restaurants were allowed to open again, most other
things are strictly forbidden and many liberties granted in the constitution are
“temporarily” suspended in favour of safety and security.
So, while shopping was possible,
protest wasn’t, religious groups could not gather, access to playgrounds was
restricted and culture was declared obsolete. A new feeling came about,
disbelief: how easy it is to take human rights away. These printed big sheets are
of the first articles of the German constitution, crossing the articles that
are now deemed to be irrelevant to the system. Onto this changed constitution is
painted the universal symbol of freedom, Miss Liberty, wrapped in banner tape
used by police to mark restricted areas.
A girl hugging herself, surrounded
by a yellow social-distancing hoola-hoop was the first piece – it is glued on a
poster stand that is normally reserved for local politicians. It was right in
front one of the biggest supermarkets in Hamburg, one of the only shops open in
the first weeks. Instead of focusing on the mask, I wanted to concentrate on
what it would mean to be locked away in a city without having contact with
anyone, not even your neighbours or friends.
How would you feel if everyone else is
regarded as a potential threat – when hugging would be hazardous and close ones
would not be allowed to be close anymore? Would you hug yourself, close your
eyes and pretend it was someone else?
new joint mural from LAPIZ and Elmar Karla as the newly formed “Thealang
Collective”. Both formerly living in Argentina, the two artists have
distinctly different styles to combine here in a scene from a fever dream in
what a hot steamy shape-shifting surrealist diarama this is on a backyard wall
in St. Pauli, full of fire and raging destruction and ultimately, deception,
with the main character called EL CUCO.
combination of cut stencils and fluidly brushed paint, the two say that El Cuco
is a mystical creature who steals the souls of innocent children. The Wikipedia entry says “El Cuco is a
mythical ghost–monster, equivalent to the bogeyman, found in many Hispanophone and Lusophone countries.”
“The mural portrays the impact of today’s society,” they tell us as we gaze upon these exclusive shots, “the eternally growing economy is symbolized by the donations for the partially destroyed Notre Dame, and its effect is one of constantly destroying the environment, here symbolized by the burning green lung – the Amazon Rainforest.”
It’s fearfully treacherous, this adventurous scene mixing childhood myths and fun-loving characters who appear out of context under a sky of flames, Its an amalgam of the imaginations and experiences of the two –Elmar Karla’s painted characters from the comic world and the stencil techniques of Lapiz, who often likes to take a jab at socio-political themes.
Both members of Thealang have painted extensively internationally and have participated in festivals and exhibitions such as the Ibug, Meeting of Styles, Grenoble Street Art Fest and at the Street Art Museum Amsterdam.
The intervention “Life in Time of Corona” is Lapiz’s attempt
to fight the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
“I created and glued it up a day before the first phase of
lockdown happened here in Hamburg, just in front of one of the biggest
supermarkets in town,” he tells us.
The young woman exists with a margin of danger following her
– a buffer band of gold that prevents any other person from getting to close.
Of course, the hermit-like among the human family have been practicing social distancing
for years, but for most people it’s new and unusual.
For most of us the time of self-isolation, quarantine, and
illness is ahead of us and we have no idea how long this might take. We can
stay in contact with loved-ones, family, friends, and almost forgotten
acquaintances on the other side of the planet via email, skype or video link.
This might also be a great moment of solidarity and an
opportunity for empathy, but the minimum safety distance of 6 feet also
excludes affection, warmth and closeness.
Lapiz quotes Karl Marx; “Die
Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes” when he talks about the new ‘Opium
Den’ stencil he has completed on a street in Munich, Germany.
“Religion is the
opium of the people” is a close translation, and here he refers to the recently
burned Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. With it he questions the priorities of
people and what they do with their money.
caught fire and within a few weeks 800 million euros were donated to rebuild
it,” he says. “It was more than a church – it was a symbol for Western Society.
But just imagine what social projects you could have supported with this kind
Welcome to Images of the Week! Go outside! Take your recycled bag with you because New York just outlawed plastic bags as of March 2020, so you can get in the habit now. This week most of our images come from the Urban Art holy city of Berlin, which we visited for a few days. Next stop, Querétaro, Mexico! Vamos!
So here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Berlin Kidz, Herakut, Homo Punk Action, Lapiz, Lister, Marina Zumi, Mr. June, Nafir, Nespoon, Nils Westergardt, Ostap, Pink Pony, 1UP Crew and Snik.
As upbeat as celebrations like today’s LGBTQ Pride events are here in NYC, they are rooted in defiance of the suffocating unjust norms that entrapped people in this city and across the country for generations – newly emancipating broad groups of people over the last 50 years or so. As New York City led the way with the Stonewall riots for sexual minorities, it sends this message today to people across the globe that you will be free too, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now in your country.
But LGBTQ folks needed straight allies to get their rights over five decades. Today we have to speak up loud and proud for immigrants. If you need to punch, figuratively, don’t punch downward. These people have done nothing to hurt you and are bringing a the identical aspirations your parents, grandparents, great grandparents did. Don’t believe the hype of the traumatizer who blames the traumatized.
Punch UP at the folks who shifted all the jobs away, just lowered their own taxes to their lowest rate in your entire lifetime, who are shredding the social safety net, who are creating jobs that pay so little you still have to get food stamps, who are trying to convince poor people that poor people are their enemy. It’s an old old trick and it appears to still work marvelously.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Anthony Lister, Bordalo II, Charles Williams, City Kitty, Danny Minnick, Etnik, FKDL, Lapiz, LMNOPI, Individual Activist, Niko, Nick Walker, Olivia Laita, Revaf, Sofles, Soten, and Strayones.
“The soccer world cup has begun and I took the opportunity to paint a mural about Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. It was painted during the FARBFLUT festival which took place last weekend where 200 artist painted a 1000 m wall. The mural itself measures 6 x 3.50 m.
The motive shows the Russian president Vladimir Putin kissing Vladimir Putin. The colours are those of the rainbow flag and it has the words ‘One Love’ written above it. The picture addresses Putin’s narcissism and even more the homophobic tendencies supported by the Russian government.”
In this private commission on a house in Hamburg, Lapiz pushes Edward Snowden front and center, under a quote from him saying, “The hero is you.” The NSA-whistle blower is flanked by Obama writing the word “terrori..” and Angela Merkel checking her phone.
Lapiz tells us that Snowden “is highly regarded as he revealed to what extent we are spied upon, how our every move, email and action is recorded – even including foreign heads of state. However, in his own words, he is not a hero, instead he acted because of his moral beliefs and insists that everyone can be a “hero” and do the right thing. For the government, however, he is a traitor that should be jailed for life.”
Blonde Women’s Lives Matter. Make America Salem Again. I am the Law.
The Donald didn’t let us down again this week – and for those of you who think we’re being partisan, we’re not. This dork has been doing this stuff in New York since the 80s – and we are all used to his grandiose claims and mid-speech reversals. But this week the RNC looked like it was going to devolve into Lord of the Fliescrossed with the Salem Witch trials. No wonder the Street Art we keep seeing is approximately 10 to 1 against him – and still he’s like a gushing geyser of humor, comedy gold! Except for the violent parts.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Alexandre Keto, Astro, Coloquix, Cyrcle, Dee Dee, Elle, Funquest, Lapiz, Leipzig, OverUnder, Patch Whisky, Uncut Tart, and You Go Girl!.
Woo hoo! Dip your toe in the ocean and the official beginning of summer in NYC. It’s Memorial Day Weekend and it is hot outside and Coney Island is already crowded and has new works this week from John Ahearn, Nina Chanel Abney, Tristan Eaton and more to come. Also you can hear that ice cream truck jingle in some neighborhoods, a welcome sound that will cause batty-ness in the brain after hearing it the 300th time.
Prospect Park and Central Park and hundreds of smaller parks around the city have barbecues and frisbees and refreshments and naps under trees. There is even the smell of marijuana wafting through the streets again. Also there’s a new Strokes album projected on the wall above Futura’s on Houston (soon to be refreshed), there’s a Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum, and international artists are showing up to paint at the Bushwick Collective street party next weekend. Until then, let’s go up on the roof – you may see Duke Riley’s LED lit birds over Wallabout Channel at dusk. It all kind of feels like the 1980’s, minus the hair spray.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Aiko, Jins, John Ahearn, Lapiz, Nether, Nick Walker, Nina Chanel Abney, Pose, TurtleCaps, Saone, Sipros, Stavro, Stikman, Stu, Such and Turtle Caps.
“Sigmar Gabriel (the German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy) is riding a Leopard 2 tank. The tank is for sale (a little price tag is showing a €) and is painted in the colors of the German Flag (black, red, yellow). Gabriel is holding up a sign that reads ‘Nie wieder Krieg *’ (‘No more war *’). Running away from the tank is a family of refugees.” – Lapiz
“A woman stands in water, half submerged, holding a withering lotus flower as the sky, lit by a rising sun and a setting moon, pans from darkness to light. The lotus in this setting symbolizes strength and courage when getting through life’s hardest obstacles such as addiction. The character is trying to save the lotus, which reflects her beauty and strength, as it is losing its pedals into the darkness. Her half-hidden face is slightly turned towards the light showing that she is turning towards help to revive her inner beauty and spirit. The obscured face speaks to the recovering addict’s battle with shame, anonymity, and pride for overcoming addiction due to public stigma. The 303 stars painted into the sky pay homage to the 303 people that died from overdoses in the last recorded year in Baltimore including a friend of mine.” – Nether