When it comes to the methodology of transgressive art in the streets you can take over a whole subway car with screaming bubble letters and animated characters in eye-popping color to get your message out, or you can subtly mess with public accommodation signage. In an unconscious way, the minimalist and subversive one can have as powerful an impact. It could also just confuse you.
Sweden’s Vlady Art says that he calls this installation “White, Male, Supremacy.”
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.
A couple of years ago Vlady discovered that the back of these advertising kiosks looked very much like the shape of a popsicle and his imagination took flight. Now for the third year since 2017 he goes to Turku in Finland to add “6 more Ice Lolly”, he says.
The humor of turning advertising into frozen desert is probably obvious . What we find more laudable is the artist’s ability to re-frame what is quotidian and transform it to something that alights one imagination.
Ibiza is that place where you appreciate beauty and youth and hedonistic forays into western values of free will and free love. Or at least that’s what we’ve heard.
While Street Art was probably not initially part of the brief of this island when it transformed its reputation as a destination for fog-machine laser glow-stick dancing and poolside debauchery, initiatives like the BLOOP International Proactive Art Festival have extended the creative range of expression that is celebrated for almost a decade now. With the theme of “Art is for Everybody”, BLOOP has welcomed more than 60 murals and installations so far – about 30 of which are currently on view throughout the year on the isle known as an adult playground.
Today we look as a more conceptual/situational installation in the Balearic
Sea that surrounds the Spanish islands, a la Brad Downey or Fra. Biancoshock.
Here laying on the bottom of the quivering, wiggling and enticing blue sea you
are invited by VLADY to play hopscotch. As if to channel the mindset of many a
party animal, he is labeling the installation “Whenever, Everywhere, Anyway”.
“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.”
The annual Welling Court Community Festival in L.I.C. in Queens took place yesterday. BSA was there on Friday to photograph the completed walls while a bevy of enthusiastic artists were busy at work on their walls and getting ready for yesterday’s block party. We wanted to bring you Part I of our coverage of this year’s festival on this Sunday’s edition of BSA Images Of The Week. Sit tight, Part II will come later next week as we wait for a few artists to complete their walls.
The 7th year for this eclectic homegrown collecting of graffiti and Street Artists for communal mural-making has not diverged much from its original character. You are still entirely welcomed. There are no corporate sponsors or sales of T-Shirts or silly app-designer types striking poses or stroking beards or like, privileged like, verbally challenged, like, young professionals looking for like brunch? nearby? Er whatever.
Wellington Court still feels like real people, and hard working families, with plenty of kids and community and homemade foods. At least for now. Thanks to organizers Garrison and Alison Buxton for pulling this off once again.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Billy Mode, Cern, Chris Stain, Depoe, Drsc0, FKDL, Icy & Sot, John Fekner, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Myth, OX, REPO, Skewville, Stikman, Vlady, and Voxx.
Street Artist LMNOPI lends her voice to the growing calls for stores to boycott the world’s largest supplier of berries until they treat their employees fairly after being accused of abuses, among them child labor. Learn more about the worldwide boycott of Driscoll’s here.