Who are these revered men cast in iron, carved in marble, poured in bronze? What great lengths have they traveled to achieve what high aims, and who decided they were worthy of statuary? Also, how long should these figures stay up, remain relevant, remain revered?
History is written by the victors,
not the morally sound. Some get elevated because of the cult of personality, or
a campaign of suppression. So whether they are soaring, sublime, or ridiculous,
most statues represent the values and goals of the society – or at least the
dominant culture. But when values and social mores change, so do these
character’s relevance and appropriateness.
Street artist Vlady
questions whether we really know everything we should about these people
hoisted above us at City Hall, in the center of the fountain at the park, at
the entrance to the library. Have you done your due diligence?
In fact, Vlady believes
that “despite our memorable achievements, we are all despicable people.”
“Morality, ethics, fashion,
taste and even religion can change profoundly over time. Nothing remains
constant, and neither good nor bad are defined exactly the same way.”
Helpfully, he has drawn up
a number of “Accusation checklist” signs for Swedish city-dwellers to
learn truthful or bogus facts about their statues.
“I have targeted random
statues in Stockholm, assuming that each of these celebrated individuals of the
past had despicable moral conduct, according to today’s ethics,” he tells us. “My
accusations are on the funny side, but quite frankly, probably close to real.”
Writing large messages with sticky post notes is part of the visual lengua oficina* for many whose career ladder has been in corporate offices for years, decades.
Stockholm based street artist Vlady shares with us a public application under a bridge that also triggers your memories of early pixelated video games with its digitally inspired message “temporary files”.
The meaning of the term “temporary files” is not familiar to the casual user of consumer-class computers. More likely your local IT professional can tell you dryly. As you think about it, you may see how it takes on a rather existential realm to the poet, as a temporary file is created to temporarily store information in order to free memory for other purposes. Mention “memory” and we realize that the vocabulary for man and machine are braiding together more daily before our eyes.
Here we are
at the dawn of Artificial Intelligence and our memories are at full capacity,
needing temporary files to store them.
“Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.”
The many shades of racism and classism in society are out in the open, but the signs are also easily, conveniently, overlooked. We do so at our peril.
“Native Residents ONLY”
A new street signage campaign in Stockholm by Street Artivist Vlady that addresses obvious segregation plays just under the radar of the everyday. That’s also the location of our subterranean feelings, opinions, and motivations – so truly he treads on a minefield in doing so.
“Stay Within the Premises”
By posting these unwritten rules in the official street nomenclature of the state, with its implied weight of authority and its underlying subtle threat of enforcement, Vlady may be poking at Sweden’s self-image as a welcoming society by drawing attention to its institutionalized demarcation of zones that are allocated to some, but not to others.
“Sweden is a competitive mixed economythat relies on export,” he says, “featuring a generous universal welfare statefinanced through relatively high income taxes that ensures that income is distributed across the entire society, a model sometimes called the Nordic model,” explains the artist by way of background.
He tells us that, despite what appears to have been the best and most sincere intentions of the society to open the doors of opportunity to immigrants over the previous century, newer shadings of right-wing sentiments in recent year have caused him to examine the attitudes of his neighbors.
“Invisible yet perceptible borders today divide the capital: while the city center is economically off-limits for the newcomers, the ghettos are perceived as a “no-go zone” for the most of the white Swedish population,” he says. “This situation might not represent a unique case in Europe, nevertheless comes as a shocking fact for any visitor, as it’s taking place in the least expected country, like a bolt out of the blue.”
European and American racism and classism presents a very complicated history to say the least – a typical way that writers describe stories containing completely uncomfortable realities. But who better to draw our attention to social and political situations than an artist who lives amongst us, and who does installations on the street for the populous to encounter? As is the case historically, we are smart to heed such messages – as the artist on the street frequently function as a canary in the coalmine.
While so-called developed countries worldwide sometimes like to depict themselves as virtuous when encouraging immigration, economists say that demographics tell an additional aspect of the story. In the case of the US, like many “western democracies”, real GDP is increased by immigration.
“There is broad agreement among researchers and analysts that immigration raises total economic output (Borjas 2013; Congressional Budget Office [CBO] 2013),” says a report published by the Brookings Institution last fall.
Vladys says that “This country needed foreigners, but to sound sexier, it declared its motivation was to take ’em onboard for love, not because of necessity. To me it seems like it may be love, but under certain conditions: we love you as long as you stay subordinate. It’s also helping us to lower our blue-collar wages, to fill the positions that we do not wish to fill, to fill those spaces that we have left behind, where we wish no longer to be.” His subtle and revealing signage campaign may prove to be instructive to some, inflaming to others. It may also be misinterpreted.
Aside from his own status as a Street Artist in Stockholm, why does he feel this is an appropriate time for this campaign?
“I think that Sweden today is becoming the battlegroundfor the world’s left and right-wing parties, with persons arguing that our immigration practices are an example of a successful story – or a model not to replicate.” He also says that there is a taboo in the country about discussing such things as racism or inequality and people would prefer to limit strong opinions. But he thinks that is potentially dangerous and may lead to sentiments that are more harsh in the long run.
For those who may think he is Sweden-bashing, it appears from here that the critique itself is out of concern and is motivated by a hope for solutions before there is a deepening of divisions.
“I would put it this way: Sweden forbids itself to be discriminatory, however discrimination does persist at every level. Sweden is a country where anybody is welcome, but where not everyone can afford to stay. Migrants can still have access to many things relatively easily, but they can find themselves trapped in bureaucracy and without a job or money at all. As no one can stay in the country unless they can support themselves, migrants are forced to leave.”
He says that he hopes the “Segregation” campaign can raise awareness about the topic and push for a more open dialogue, although he acknowledges that it may be a “straightforward and unpolitically-correct project” of road signs. The two areas selected are very specific as well for their audiences; the wealthy-white-western folks in the quarter of Östermalm, where all the luxury shops are, and the populous detached suburbs of Flemingsberg, Rinkeby, Kista, Tensta, Akalla, Tureberg, Helelund – “where the residents can find, at most, a supermarket and a few dodgy shops.”
It will be interesting to see if these signs are discovered quickly or slowly, if they provoke discussion, if they are allowed to stay or are removed by neighbors or officials.
“The key point of this action is to raise awareness on this topic,” Vlady says, before giving a litany of questions that he would like passersby to address together: “Can integration come out of segregation? Are we really all equal, or is someone is more equal than others? For how long can we keep the cages closed and hope that no disaster will ever hit the downtown streets? Does anybody see this division, this invisible borderline?”
“I have my own answers to that, but I don’t typically offer answers, I raise issues.”
We made it! But it was a rough few days just finished with storms and rain and snow and high winds and flooding and downed trees around New York and its environs. Similarly, as one surveys the chaos reigning in Washington, one must not be blinded by the sound and fury and has to measure what foundations are being broken and what soil is being eroded during this deliberate and man-made storm. Also Tax Payers, You’ve Been Scammed.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring Below Key, Bond TruLuv, Bunny M, Combo, Crash, Eleonora Arosio, Faith XVVII, Free the Bunny, Imraan Christian, Jaeraymie, Lamkat, Little Ricky, Manyoly, Olek, Ollio, PAM, Paper Skaters, RAD, SK, Specter, and UFO907.
For about seven years (2007-14) the city of Stockholm practiced a so-called “zero tolerance” policy against graffiti and Street Art, following the exalted/derided ‘broken windows’ theory (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). As recently as 2011 the touring national theatre company named Riksteartern ran into serious trouble with city leaders when promoting an international Street Art convention called “Art of the Streets” because it violated the spirit of the policy.
The loosening of the strict approach in 2014 coincided with the dawn of Snösätra, a bastion of urban art practice in a rough and industrial part of southern Stockholm. Landowners there gave permission for the painting of pieces, burners, productions, and murals by graffiti writers and Street Artists all along the streets of this sector in the suburb of Rågsved where about 30 businesses cater to construction, recycling, and mechanics. A new annual festival has popped up there with DJs and live painting and various shows and celebrations throughout the summer.
Magic City, the traveling exhibition celebrating 50+ years of a wide swath of urban art practice globally, has been successfully drawing audiences here down in the industrial docks of Stockholm since last year as well, a sign of the evolving perspective on the topic. We’ve had the honor of being in both of these venues inside and outside this week and can tell you that the results in many cases are spectacular.
In addition to exploring the current works in Snösätra with local artist Vegan Flava, we hit some of the larger commissioned murals in the more bohemian streets of Stockholm and helped celebrate Magic City’s HUGE weekend, named after the local graffiti writer who specializes in photorealistic lettering in the style of helium balloons.
Both of our BSA Film Weekend programs Friday and Saturday night were a lot of fun – complete with families and kids and a few scholars and graff historians sprinkled in for flavor. We thank everyone who came up to introduce themselves and even the shy ones whom we saw from a distance.
Our sincere thanks to Vegan Flava, whose work is on the streets and in Magic City, all of the artists, curators Carlo McCormick and Ethel Seno, and director Christoph Scholz with the whole Magic City team.
Here are some of the images from our travels during this quick visit to Stockholm.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring 1Up, Alkie,Amara Por Dios, Arrow, Biesk, Disk, BrasilSuecia, Frankie Strand, Holem, Hop Louie, Mark Bode, Mnek, Os Gemeos, Peter Birk, RCW, Sweet Toof, Sibylla Nohrborh, Tear, Tonk, Vegan Flava, Vickan Art, Yash, CAS Crew,Cheat,Poker One,Kiss, and Ziggy.
Magic City has a HUGE plan this weekend, the last great hurrah in Stockholm before it packs up and moves to the next city. Along with special programming and guests and late nights at the museum, Daniel Fahlström aka “Huge”, created a new signature helium balloon wall inside the space to mark the events.
A graffiti writer since age ten who grew up from north of the city, HUGE painted inside the exhibition as we all say goodbye to this wide-ranging educational, entertaining, and insightful take on a vast global graffiti and Street Art scene that continues to grow and change.
Luckily for us, BSA received some great tips about where to check out the local scene and even a tour yesterday with Street Artist Vegan Flava through some of the cuttier slices of the Stockholm margins – complete with mean barking junkyard dogs and really friendly scrap metal recyclers – AND we caught this HUGE piece in the wild, so to speak.
With both of these piece to post, it’s a perfect circuit of indoor/outdoor art practice to end this Magic City note on.
Here we are in Stockholm, Sweden peering in at the microcosm of the street art/graffiti/urban art scene that is Magic City and we realize that this huge warehouse out by the docks delivers one refinement of the global scene, followed by another and another.
Walking through this Nordic expression of an wide ranging traveling exhibition, one realizes that it has matured and strengthened since its first iteration in Dresden and later Munich. More about this later, as we will be in town a couple of days for our BSA Film Weekend and we are sure to be touring the wrong side of town shortly with local vandals and/or artists.
But the small world we struck by this afternoon was the exhibited pieces by a master of “Miniaturesque” since 2006, the creator and photographer Slinkachu. Since his earliest days as a street installation artist his work has made him a phenomenon for focusing on hidden, dare we say magic, worlds inside the larger one that most of us inhabit.
Exhibited in galleries and museums around the world and appearing in books and online and social sites, these images give you an idea of the carefully choreographed petite whimsy that he has become known for.
Here’s our weekly interview of the street, this week featuring Ai WeiWei, B.D. White, Billy Mode, Bishop 203, BR1, Chris Stain, Duke A. Barnstable, Free Humanity, Ice & Sot, Indigo, JM, Mataruda, Meres, Billy Mode, NARD, ND’A, Os Gemeos, Palladino, PTV, Ryan McGinley, Shai Dahan, Shin Shin, and Specter.
Uh-Oh, should I be wearing a necklace of garlic today? It might not be too cool to wear it indoors. Oh snap it’s only a movie. Happy Friday the 13th everybody!
1. “Vice & Virtue” Shai Dahan (Stockholm)
2. “It Felt Like a Kiss”, Alexandros Vasmoulakis at Gallery Nosco (London)
3. “The Birds & The Bees” with H. Veng Smith and Gigi Chen (BKLN)
4. Isaac Cordal Solo tonight in Barcelona
5. Hellbent at C.A.V.E. Saturday (LA)
6. Buff Monster at Corey Helford Saturday (LA)
7. Sowat and Lek present: “Mausolee”
8. Arabic Graffiti and Egyptian Street Art in Frankfurt
9. John Crash Matos’ “Study In Watercolors” at the Addict Galerie in Paris
10. ARMO and his world of color, shapes and textures. (VIDEO)
11. Ana Peru Peru Ana “meanwhile, in new york city (VII)” (VIDEO)
“Vice & Virtue” Shai Dahan (Stockholm)
Shai Dahan’s solo show “Vice & Virtue” opened last night at the Scarlett Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden and is open today to the public. Are your virtues bigger than your vices?
For further information regarding this show click here.
“It Felt Like a Kiss”, Alexandros Vasmoulakis at Gallery Nosco (London)
An exploration of the seductive kiss and the female power of attraction – sounds like a valiant pursuit, doesn’t it? Alexandros Vasmoulakis’s solo show is open to the general public at Gallery Nosco in London today.
For further information regarding this show click here.
“The Birds & The Bees” with H. Veng Smith and Gigi Chen (BKLN)
A perfect theme for a show right now as the temperatures rise and skirts rise and shirts come off on the grassy knolls in Prospect Park. “The Birds & The Bees” H. Veng Smith show with Gigi Chen at the Mighty Tanaka Gallery opens today in Brooklyn as Spring time’s gallant breeze calls you hither to Dumbo.
For further information regarding this show click here.
Isaac Cordal Solo tonight in Barcelona
Curated by Street Art author Maximiliano Ruiz, this solo show gives platform to Isaac Cordal, a small-scale sculptor who has thus far used the street as the only necessary stage. Mr. Cordal’s little cement characters at RAS Gallery will stop you in your tracks and reconsider your giant self.
For further information regarding this show click here.
Buff Monster at Corey Helford Saturday (LA)
Buff Monster is back at his most mischievous at the Corey Helford Gallery this time all covered in delicious pink. His solo show “Legend of the Pink” opens tomorrow in Culver City as the monster celebrates 10 years of work on the street.
Peru Ana Ana Peru are Street Artists, jokesters, and film makers in New York. Here is their new mini-movie of unscripted New York scenes, sounds and soliloquies collected together for your amusement and befuddlement.
The Scarlett Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Shai Dahan.
The former New Yorker, now residing in Sweden, will be presenting a body of new work in his first solo Stockholm show.
The artist is known for his iconic realistic rendition of the Swedish Dala Horses. Shai uses them as a metaphor for urban art to create a dialogue between the conformity and foundation of Royal history and the scorned graffiti culture that authoritative leaders have tried to prevent from advancement. VICE & VIRTUE is a symbolic alteration of Swedish Royal figures and sovereignty ripped apart by unbound graffiti impressions. In vivid forms of graffiti tags, Swedish Royal and monarch names dating back centuries, are placed in almost an architectural manner to decorate figures to poetically carry vandalism into art.
Shai’s work is captivating, thought provoking and yet emotionally positive. His gallery work is an expressive way of bringing this urban artistry into a more delicate environment while still maintaining its attractive elegance. Shai has been featured in magazines and books worldwide, and has taken part in multiple urban art projects around the world including New York, Los Angeles, Canada, Madrid and Sweden. He has exhibited internationally and has also painted murals across the U.S. and Europe
Currently, residing in Borås, Sweden with his wife and two dogs where he continues to paint and exhibit internationally.