This week in Berlin we had the chance to meet so many great folks as a result of the final Urban Nation events before September’s opening of the museum. All the curators were in attendance, including your BSA friends here, for the “We Broke Night” show along with the artistic director, managing director, architect, and about 40 artists in the 225 person party that featured breakers on pedestals dancing with flourescent tape, Shepard Fairey as DJ, and plenty of new artworks created just for this event.
Along with the main museum space show, across the street was another exhibition, the Project M/12 show called “What in the World” with mainly European former graff writers/now-fine-artists curated by Evan Pricco from Juxtapoz. Overflowing from the main space, the sidewalks were a parade of aesthetes, fans, business people, graff writers, archivists, politicians, and sex workers… It’s a wild mix and it gets very rowdy and everyone is reacting to the dynamics at play and wondering aloud how a museum like this will pull this off.
We’re not wondering, however. The sheer volume and variety of interested artists and related art lovers and community supporters tells us that this museum is a success before it has even opened. Here are a few images from the last few days for you to take a look at from outside and inside.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring: Besonders, BustArt, Cranio, Daniel Van Nes, Fin DAC, Herakut, Lora Zombie, Millo, Nasca, Nuno Vegas, Sebastian Wandl, Shepard Fairey, Stikki Peaches, Snik, Tank Patrol.
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.”
Urban Exchange: Crossing Over 2014 is a brand new street art festival in George Town, Penang in Malaysia. In November they hosted 16 artists to paint walls throughout this city of two and a half million on the Strait of Malacca.
It is not a city that has hosted Street Art traditionally and one that frowns strongly on graffiti, but ever since Lithuanian Street Artist Ernest Zacharevic did some very successful installations here in 2012 which drew crowds and cameras, the citizenry and elected officials have become very hospitable to the idea — and have even enacted a formalized process for approving public art.
Today we travel to Penang to see the brand new pieces for this first-year show, co-curated by Gabija Grusaite and Eeyan Chuah, who run Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, a creative space in the ruins of a bus depot that hosted a corollary gallery show. Alongside Berlin based Urban Nation’s director and curator, Yasha Young, the two invited a mixture of local and international artists to complete murals and to host some community workshops.
“There’s never a dull moment at Urban Nation’s exchange program,” says Young, “after a year in the planning we were excited to finally make the journey.”
Among the various murals you’ll see a selection of figurative, realistic, and illustration styles that carefully walk a community moderated fine line, hoping to bring locals to be more actively engaged in the program. As a novelty outlier, you’ll also see Brooklyn’s Mr. Toll installing his colorful hand formed clay sculptures in unusual spots if you keep your head up.
In an interview with Malay Mail Online, Ms. Grusaite says, “We want to create an artistic international cultural exchange so that local artists can learn from international artists who will be here for the project while the international artists will get exposure to the local culture and art scene.”
As is the case more often, with Urban Exchange we are again seeing a new model of public art developing where at the forefront are artists who have laid their groundwork in graffiti rather than university exclusively. We’ve been using a term we’re calling the “New Muralism” to indicate the grassroots nature and populist generation of these works and we still think its definition is evolving. Not quite community murals in the strictest sense, and not seeking the approval of gate-keeping institutions either, these artists are looking for and finding new ways to challenge themselves creatively in the public sphere while being responsive to needs of the public. Huh!
Included in the Urban Exchange project are Antanas Dubra (Lithuania), Bibichun (Malaysia), Don John (Denmark), Donald Abraham (Malaysia), Elle (United States), Ernest Zacharevic (Lithuania), Fauzan Faud (Malaysia), Karl Addison (Germany), Kenji Chai (Malaysia), Rone (Australia), Sk10 (Singapore), TankPetrol (United Kingdom), Black Fritilldea (Malaysia), 4Some (a crew from Kuala Lumpur consisting of Donald, Black, Fauzan and Jojo), Mr Toll (New York) and Vexta (New York)
Our heartfelt thank you to Henrik Haven, who took a trip from Copenhagen which took 31 hours (and four different flights) for sharing his excellent photographs here with BSA readers.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Aiko, City Kitty, Clet, Dain, Deekers, JB Rock, KCIN, LUC, Mr. One Teas, Obey, Peros, PX$H6XD, Shepard Fairey, Smells, Specter, Tank Petrol, and Tom Fruin.