The concept album was born in the Stoned Age when TV was black and white, back when disaffected teens had to trudge for blocks and blocks outside on the sidewalk to the record store and carry their rock and roll home on large heavy vinyl platters called albums, sometimes double albums.
Rewarded for their hard work and sacrifice, these pioneering music fans opened those two record concept albums and used the big flat surface to pick the seeds out from their marijuana stash and roll a reefer.
Then they dropped the needle, turned up the dial, and lied on their back on their single beds surrounded by the two speaker stereophonic sound that gently vibrated their black-light posters on the wall, reading the song lyrics and metaphorically taking a wild and magical trip inside the cover art of the album.
By pairing one musician/group with one visual artist/group, Young, the director of UN, wants to re-create the concept album where the eyes have a newly created entryway into the music. Of course its only one interpretation but countless stories can be evoked from this intercultural exchange.
It’s the second year for the program, and we are very lucky to have these exclusive shots from Nikka Kramer of some of the first walls going up in advance of the festival, which this year features over 200 bands. Check out the stunning atmospheric images featuring northern lights; a poetry of their own.
He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he tells me I’m an idiot because I trust scientists about climate change and that actually it is a hoax created by the Chinese.
Sorry, everything reminds us of Donald J. Trump and his outlandish claim for the presidency. Even when we are looking at the new Faile mural in Greenpoint, Brooklyn called Love Me, Love Me Not.
The Greenest Pointis an initiative that wants to raise awareness of Climate Change and three Street Artists have just completed two murals here in Brooklyn to support it. The organization says that they hope to gather “together people from different backgrounds, professions and skill-sets who are bonded by aligned values and a common vision.” By integrating Street Art with technology, film, sound and voice, they hope that we’ll be more capable of piecing together the climate change puzzle as a collective.
We don’t pretend to be scientists, but we trust the ones we have and we decided that this week we would dedicate BSA Images of the Week just to this new project and this topic. We also know that it is now well-documented that tobacco companies fought us citizens with disinformation and legislative trickery for decades before they finally admitted that smoking was killing us and our families, so there is reason to believe that oil companies and related industries who flood our media and politicians with money are possibly buying time while we’re all heating up the atmosphere.
Here are new images of the two new murals in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn and an interview with the three artists who participated; Vexta, Askew, and long time Greenpoint studio residents, Faile.
BSA:Why do you think art is an important vehicle to highlight climate issues? Faile: We feel it’s important to create work that can resonate with people on an emotional level. Something that we can live with everyday and that has a place in our lives that brings meaning to our experience. This is how we think people must learn to connect to climate change. It’s not something you can just think about, it’s something that you have to do everyday. It has to become part of you. We hope art has the power to be that wink and nod that you are on the right track. That the little things you do are meaningful and that change starts with you in the most simple of ways.
BSA:Greenpoint has a history of blue collar communities who worked in factories producing goods for the both the merchant marine and the USA Navy. Those factories are all gone and only a few of the original settlers remain in the neighborhood such as the Polish community. How do you think the murals painted for the festival relate to them? Vexta: Our collaborative mural hopefully offers a voice to people directly to people who will become a part of the history of Greenpoint and its legacy. We will have QR codes installed that link to video pieces that physically give Askew’s subjects a voice as well as linking to the birds calls and information about their situation. Faile: We tried to be aware of the history of Greenpoint. The communities that make this neighborhood what it is. We tried to incorporate some nods to them through the work, specifically with the traditional Polish pattern in the socks. Unfortunately, Greenpoint is also home to some of the worst ecological disasters this country has ever experienced, the effects of which are still present. We wanted to bring something positive and something beautiful to the neighborhood that spoke to everyone. There are other historical murals in the neighborhood so it didn’t feel like it required another.
The neighborhood is also quickly changing. It’s home to many young families and has a vibrant creative class, not to mention our studio for the last 12 years. When creating an artwork in a public space, especially a park, there’s always that balance of trying to make something that people can connect with on a visceral, then psychological level in an immediate way–once that connection is made you hope they can dig a little deeper into the more subversive side of the meaning.
BSA:Do you think art and in particular the murals painted for this festival have the power to change the conversation on climate change and positively move and engage the people who either are indifferent to the issue or just refuse to believe that climate change is a real issue caused by humans? Faile:Whether you believe it or not there are basic things that people can do in their everyday lives to create a more beautiful environment around them. Picking up trash, recycling, being mindful that our resources are precious – none of these really imply that you have to have an opinion about climate change. Just the fact that we have a green space now in Transmitter Park is progress towards an environment that we can fall in love with.
We think that’s ultimately what the idea of Love Me, Love Me Not is asking. What kind of environment do you want? Do you want renewable green spaces that offer future generations beauty and room to reflect within nature? Or do you want to pave over the toxic soil and oil spills with the risk of repeating the past? If people can even ask themselves that question then we are at least engaging them into the dialogue where the seeds of action can be planted.
BSA:Why do you think art is an important vehicle to highlight climate issues? Vexta: For me as an artist it is the means that I have to talk about what I know to be important. Art also stands as this symbolic, most often visual, gesture that can bring people together, ignite debate and shine a light towards a new way of thinking that is perhaps still in the shadows of the mainstream. There is no more pressing issue right now than Climate Change.
There was a famous piece of graffiti up for a long time in my home city of Melbourne that read “No Jobs on a Dead Planet” in a beautiful font running down a power plant chimney. This work spurred my thinking back before I had begun making art professionally. That simple creative action out in public space was powerful and it spoke a simple truth and showed me that you can do a lot with a little. Art and art out in the streets is a great vehicle for talking about issues like climate change, because its a gesture in a shared space, it provides something to meditate on or think about that ultimately is a shared reality, this makes sense to me as climate change is a problem we need to work together to address.
Askew: I think that in particular art in the public space can be a very powerful way to put messaging on issues that matter right out in front of people who may not otherwise engage with it. Also an artist has the freedom to make the image captivating in a way that perhaps other platforms for speaking about serious issues don’t. People get bombarded with so much conflicting information every day especially via the mainstream media, art can put people in the contemplative space to engage differently.
BSA:You have participated in at least one other art festival whose principal mission is to highlight the well being of our ecology and our planet. What would you say is unique characteristic of The Greenest Point that differentiates it from other festivals with equal goals? Askew: Well I think this is different because it’s so focused on a specific place whereas the scope of other events I’ve painted look more generally at global issues. I think it’s great for communities to narrow their focus to directly around them to tackle very tangible local change. If every neighborhood did that globally, imagine the impact. Vexta: I agree with Askew, What is special about The Greenest Point is that it’s very locally based yet has a global focus. The Greenest Point has brought so many different parts of our local community together, from creatives to government to business. It has shown us that people in our neighborhood really care about Climate Change.
BSA:Your collaborative mural with Askew represents the current and future generations of children. What do you think is the principal message to send to the children so they are more aware of the problems facing our planet? Vexta: My mural with Askew represents a coming together of numerous ideas. The future belongs to the youth and the world’s children will be the ones most impacted by Climate Change. I think they are really aware of this problem and it’s a very scary prospect. Our mural brought together not only representations of young people but also birds found in the NY state area that are currently climate threatened & endangered (according to Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report) as well as icebergs made of my shapes that represent the particles that make up all matter.
I would hope that we can inspire them to feel empowered to make small changes that they see as being possible whilst also acknowledging that all the other parts of our world – the birds, animals, water, air and land are just as important as they are. We are all in this together.
Askew: For me personally, celebrating young local people who are giving their time to make change in Greenpoint around sustainability and community-building issues is immediately inspiring to other young people.
BSA:Do you think art and in particular the murals painted for this festival have the power to change the conversation on climate change and positively move and engage the people who either are indifferent to the issue or just refuse to believe that climate change is a real issue caused by humans?
Askew: Everything we do has impact, positive and negative – that’s the duality we deal with inhabiting this space. It’s a closed system, resources are finite and so we must respect them and do our best to live in harmony with this earth that supports us and live peacefully amongst each other and the various other creatures we share this planet with. No one thing is going to make pivotal change but everyone being mindful and keeping the conversation and action going is what will make a difference.
Our special thanks to the team at The Greenest Point and to the artists for sharing their time and talent with BSA readers.
Urban Nation (UN) and Iceland Airwaves Festival Create Mural Program
Sound and vision are inextricably bound in the modern music canon, with inspired visuals leading our auditory imaginations at least since Toulouse-Lautrec’s depictions of Moulin Rouge orchestral and singing talents. Later illustrators were important for ushering us into the jazz era with snappy collage and geometrics for album covers and the birth of rock and roll expanded and shaped popular album-oriented daydreams. With every subsequent genre and subgenre of music from pop to rap to metal to disco and EDM, static and video artists continue to visually augment, interpret, define, and expand upon the music that we listen to.
This autumn in Iceland an equally inspired program pairing of 10 Street Artists with 10 musicians for the Airwaves music festival brought Reykjavik new murals from a mix of local and international artists. Since Iceland is the new Brooklyn, you’ll like to see how Berlin’s Urban Nation (UN) is precisely on top of something hot and icy with these eye-popping murals inspired by pace-setting modern sounds.
“I love music,” says UN Director Yasha Young as she describes the process that she and Iceland Airwaves’ Grímur Atlason and Henny Frímannsdottír went through to select music for their 1st edition of Wall Poetry. “We started to play our favorite bands from the lineup to each other, researched their album art, read their lyrics in great depth and watched all the video footage we could find,” she explains. “After that we decided who we thought would be interesting to approach for such a creative adventure. I know the artists I work with very well so it was more about listening to them and defining in more detail what the their individual ideas were for this project. The main goal for me was to pair them with the right collaborative partner musically and visually.”
“With paintings in and around Reykjavik the artists had time to complete their walls in time for the 10 day music festival in November, drawing the attention of fans and locals who were interested in the artwork that is impacting their daily experience of the city. The musicians were asked to provide the street artists with a song, lyrics or poetry especially chosen or written for this project,” says curator Frímannsdottír on the site. “The visual artists were provided a city wall as surface for the large scale work.”
Artist and musician collaborations for Wall Poetry include:
We spoke to Yasha Young about the first year of Wall Poetry and the challenges of mounting a project like this:
Brooklyn Street Art:How important is the visual aspect of music to you? Many people may not always make that connection. Yasha Young: To me it is so very important. I am a visual person to begin with but I think that it is vital as an individual who works with and for artists to work across genres and with as many different creative aspects as possible to be able to create one lasting and meaningful overall experience.
I remember buying LP’s for their cover art and the stickers and zines that came with them. I remember Buzzocks’s and The Ramones buttons and the silk printed posters by the Sex Pistols that came with the LP if memory serves me correctly. I think about The Rolling Stones “Some Girls” sliding cover and the art for Pink Floyds ‘The Wall’ and the “Led Zeppelin III” album with its rotating cover art that you could interact with.
And of course music videos became huge productions; actually they are little films that often connect with you on an even deeper level and enhance your experience of the music. Videos were launch pads for creative careers and massive innovations; for example Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, ‘Cry’ by Godley and Crème, Gorillaz’ ‘Clint Eastwood’, Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’, and my all-time favorite song and visuals combination was Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’. Of course as we speak I’m thinking also about Iceland’s Björk and her video for ‘ Human Behaviour” and John Grant and Tate Shots collaboration… I could go on and on.
(Young, continued) In my career I’ve had the great pleasure to be part of making album art happen for bands, such as KORN’s ‘Untitled’ for example. I worked with many bands on that creative level and it only deepened my connection and convictions when it came to art and music. Today we have a one-click behavior for experiencing streaming music that almost reminds me a little of when video killed the radio star. There is an essential part of the experience that is fading and we feed it with the “instant buy”.
I believe that we are losing more than ‘just’ the record store and the poster art or album cover. We are losing an essential and lasting connection that came with the purchase of the record or CD but was established long before; the multi-faceted creation of the entire visual aspect. You became part of a creative baseline and connected to the music through the visual work. Reading the lyrics as audio poetry on the back sleeve or the LP or interacting with the music and the art made it a much more lasting and impressive experience in my view. This is just the surface of what I think and would like to explore even further and on a deeper level next year when we return for the 2nd edition of Wall Poetry.
Brooklyn Street Art:What inspired you to start the project? Yasha Young: I am always inspired by new opportunities to bring together different artistic genres and unusual or challenging – but always exciting – new venues. I had been visiting Iceland Airwaves for many years and finally decided last year to find walls and spaces and to connect with the Iceland Airwaves crew.
My idea was to visually prolong the reach of the music and bring it onto the walls through well-conceptualized and executed art pieces. In a way I wanted to re-connect two entities that have always been vital and necessary for each other in a public space, with music and art spilling out of the concert venues onto the streets and into the lives of people.
It was almost like we were going to extend the music, with the core idea being “We paint the music you love to hear”. Once that was established as the core of the project I very quickly had an idea of which visual artists would be not only be a great fit for the city and the project but also who would be able to work in rather unusual and unknown conditions – namely, the Icelandic weather, and I say this with great fondness for those wild and unpredictable skies.
Brooklyn Street Art:How did you choose the lyrics? Was it a difficult process? Yasha Young: Actually I only picked the bands and visual artists. It was more about creating and encouraging the connection between both of these groups to get their beautiful creative minds talking together. Once connected they picked songs and talked about their choices in depth. I was a bystander, a very curious fly on the wall and following the process was simply amazing. To read the exchanges and feel the moment the spark ignited – that moment to me is, and will always be, what marks true curatorial success and is key to all collaborative creative projects.
Brooklyn Street Art:Were there any challenges along the way? Specifically regarding logistics.. Yasha Young: ( laughs ) Yes! Many many many – but less in the actual execution of the vision and more in the daily production. For example the wind picks up and the mechanical lifts start swaying in the wind like a leaf. It was “Safety first” of course so we had to stop working immediately. Often the rain can be surprising and torrential and water runs down the walls like little waterfalls washing all the hard work from the night before off the wall again. But these artists are professionals and in my job the goal is to work as innovatively as possible – always finding or inventing new methods and finding other options.
It’s part of the journey and it can actually be fun. For my stubborn mind the only factor that will always be in way is time – we have not found a way to stop it or make more of it.
Lithuania’s Ernest Zacharevic transformed the shadow of an earlier building into a personal photo book.
“It’s inspired by the song ‘I Miss You’ by Dikta,” says Ernest. “The image has the same sadness and nostalgia in the photographs that I felt in the piano track song. The work is my imagining of all the past scenarios that could have happened in this old heritage house, physically and emotionally being taken down and rebuilt.
It’s more about memory because after I spoke to a lot of locals they were very nostalgic about how Reykjavik used to be, not so keen on how modernized it has become.”
Rafmögnuð Náttúra: The Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik, Iceland
It’s not that light artist Chris Jordan didn’t find the sweeping supersonic jet-shaped façade of the church inspiring. He just wanted to make it visible again to the people in town.
Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran church in the center of Reykjavík, with it’s soaring steeple and outstretched wings it has been an architectural icon since it’s completion in 1986 and anyone first laying eyes on the largest Icelandic church is usually impressed by it’s command and design. And yet, somehow even pivotal architecture can disappear before our eyes due to familiarity and it may take a visionary talent like Jordan to bring it back to our attention with animation, mapping, color, and pattern.
From his home in New Yorks’ Chinatown, Jordan, who teaches interactive design at Baruch College and New York University, talks about his work in the same way that Street Art is often credited in the urban environment: art as activation. “Activating is about changing people’s perceptions of overlooked or invisible spaces. A building can become an archetype, invisible, like for a New Yorker, for example, the Statue of Liberty. You look at it, and it disappears into the thousands of times you’ve already seen it. So for me, this light project was so exciting because here’s this massive landmark church that this whole town can’t see anymore.. made completely fresh and new. To see that reflected back at me through the faces of viewers was exhilarating.”
That observation perhaps was the pinnacle of his Icelandic experience in February when he camped out in front of the church over four days in the back of a box truck with his collaborator Marcos Zotes, a handful of computers, three projectors, and a low budget. Together they created a series of site-specific video performances that brought to life Zotes’ idea for a project called Rafmögnuð Náttúra.
The two had met while Jordan was performing his 24 hour timelapse of Hurricane Irene inside an engineered cloud at New York’s Bring to Light Festival last October. Zotes asked if Jordan would like to collaborate on a project to illuminate the 150 foot wide façade of a church in for the Winter Lights Festival in Iceland. Since Jordan has over the last decade created installations appearing at MoMA, The New Museum, The Whitney, The Museum of Natural History, The Chelsea Museum, in Times Square, and many unusual places in between, he had a good idea what cool stuff he would like to do. With the free help of other artists, software designers, and even NASA, Jordan brought a mind-blowing façade to the church that Zotes had only imagined.
“We collaborated on how we could, with a very limited budget, create something spectacular for the festival,” explains Jordan. “We knew that the majority of the budget would be going for projectors so we called our friends up to help us with creating animation sequences that could be mapped to the facade, in triple-HD resolution.”
“We developed a workflow and a template for each animator to follow; then compiled the animations together into a final 15-minute composition. In addition, I contacted friends at NASA for solar imaging data, and created animations using graphic and solar elements. The dream was to have northern lights over the building with the accompanying solar data displayed. Although the solar and earth weather didn’t collaborate, the animations of the sun in a dark cold city on this Norse façade were very appropriate and powerful.”
Jordan’s work over the years has included explorations into memory, and elements of photography, film, interactivity, and projections. We talked with Jordan about traveling to Iceland, transparent ideas, the importance of community, and what a light artist has to go through to reactivate an icon.
Brooklyn Street Art:Can you talk about the trip to Iceland? Chris Jordan: We went to Iceland with just one day before the opening. The Icelandic people were incredibly accommodating, and set up three massive projectors inside a box truck, with a massive piece of glass mounted on it. The box truck became our projector-heated cabin in the center of Reykjavik for four days. Location is everything! It was a great setup. The projectors were aligned and from there I mapped the content using the software MadMapper by Garage Cube. Garage Cube are also friends of mine and they helped me troubleshoot the tech issues the day before. The opening event had the band For a Minor Reflection accompany us, right after the mayor of Reykjavik introduced the festival to the audience.
But the day before this we went through myriad technical issues. Many times I thought this was going to either look horrible, or crash altogether. There was no budget for a backup computer, or to test the entire setup beforehand. Luckily, Iceland has an early sunset, so we gleaned a couple crucial extra hours to configure everything. The mapping was completed literally seconds before the mayor spoke. It all went off smoothly and the people that braved the intense horizontal-downpour cheered.
Brooklyn Street Art:You managed to transform a landmark into a completely different light using your creativity. Doesn’t that feel pretty powerful? Chris Jordan: Yes. It was pretty fantastic we were able to do this on such a small budget. It absolutely required a community to make happen. When our main computer failed, the Icelandic underground came to the rescue. One person there offered graphics cards he’d had in a drawer. Another brought us snacks from a nearby cafe. That community effort is really what made this project powerful for me.
Brooklyn Street Art:You were given no budget whatsoever, aside from a plane ticket and 3 projectors. How do you plan for a live performance with the inevitable technical issues? Chris Jordan: Years and years of failure. I read an Edison quote the other day, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate”. I’m also a huge proponent of transparency, modularity, and scale. These tenets allow me to see unique solutions to problems, and find compelling solutions. Light art is still maturing as a public medium, as last November’s Occupy Wall Street “Bat-signal” projections attest. It’s a wide-open field for creative expression.
Brooklyn Street Art:Without revealing your trade secrets, is it true you plan to introduce more community interaction into your future work? Chris Jordan: Always. There’s an axiom I live by: “There is no art without politics”. You either choose to engage it, or you choose political apathy. This ties in with ideas around real-time performance and feedback. I hate the word “rendering”, as it equates to “pouring concrete” on ideas that demand continuing dialog. “Trade secrets” imply hoarding of knowledge. I only want to work with transparent ideas and accessible technologies that ‘spotlight’ the individual’s role in society through creativity. I try to live an open-source life.
Brooklyn Street Art:What role does community play in this project and in your philosophy? Chris Jordan: I love interacting with communities and to give them the control to create dialogue. This fascinates me, and informs my work constantly. My next long-term outdoor installation is on Governor’s Island, where I’ll be engaging the broadest spectrum of people on the planet (New York) in playing and building, using buckets and stop motion photography. For me it’s all about the community. Without it, we are making monoliths to our egos.