Archive for the ‘Street’ Category

Where Have You Been?

This blog isn’t dead. It’s just got a limp.

I’ve been struck down by a glut of work, a flat move and the inveterate ‘no internet’ problem (which may or may not be resolved soon – I can’t tell if Virgin Media are serious or jus’ playin’).

A more important question: where are you going?

Here are some ideas if you’re in London this weekend.

Friday Night – Hayward Gallery (FREE)

According to @LDN, the Hayward Gallery‘s current exhibition – Walking In My Mind – is free tonight at the Southbank Centre (normally £10).

Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre: Exclusive on YouTube.

If you’ve been anywhere near the Southbank lately you won’t have missed a plethora of polka dots – courtesy of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

She’s one of the exhibitors offering a glimpse into the inner workings of her imagination through “immersive, large-scale installation art”.

Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre: Tour and Interviews on YouTube.

Saturday Night – Sambatralia @ The Egg (£10 with flyer)

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I’ll be at The Egg on Saturday night – VJing all night with the Jungle Drums Sambatralia crew and Movimientos.

Beach, palm trees, a voyage through the video vaults of Latin America…? In the words of Diplo, Lesss gooooo!

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Sunday Afternoon – Dominoes 09, East London (FREE)

The highlight of the CREATE09 arts festival is happening across East London on Sunday – all the way from Mile End to Greenwich.

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Turn up at 3.30pm if you want to see the start of Dominoes 2009.

Thousands of breezeblocks tumbling across town…

Geek aside: the Dominoes 2009 website has a couple of teaser videos – the images above are screengrabs. But the organisers seem to have made a point of not letting you embed or share the clips, as the file names showed:

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So whatever you do – DON’T tell anyone about this event.

It would obviously be a disaster if people knew about it.

Kehinde Wiley: Ghetto Grandeur

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All image cred: SuperTouch.

Spotted this fresh series by Kehinde Wiley on SuperTouch.

If you live in LA you can catch Wiley’s exhibition, The World Stage – Brazil, at Roberts & Tilton Gallery.

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Wiley got his favela models to recreate the poses of key statues in the city.

In assuming the role the of the western colonizer, they challenge their status as socially invisible – so he explains:

Kehinde Wiley – The World Stage by PGrizzy on YouTube.

I found it strange there were no women in this series, but the artist has a logic:

“By enlarge, the absence of women is the normal state within the history of art. The reasons having to do with misogyny, empire, construction of power – being the sole territory of powerful men.”

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The detail on these paintings is spectacular. Get in up-close on the website and you’ll see how grandiose they are.

As hyperrealism goes, they deliver loud and clear. It’s like the opposite of, and complement to, JR’s industrialised photocopies of black and white photo-portraits.

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Previous favela:

– Diplo’s first feature film: Favela on Blast.

JR’s Women Are Heroes: the other face of ghetto grandeur.

Where the Social Bandits Gone?

Some 70 years ago, Michael Curtiz got all the Technicolor cameras in existence to make The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The US had just been hit by a second wave of recession in its Great Depression.

Movies matter in a recession. Stories and big, bold escapes.

The Adventures of Robin Hood Trailer by hollywoodclassics on YouTube.

Whichever version of Robin Hood folklore you follow, two things seem to be broadly accepted:

1. He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (i.e. he was an outlaw).

2. He was a common man – a regular Joe.

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Cordel literature found in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian folklore has its own, more recent Robin Hood.

The most legendary bandit (cangaçeiro) was Lampião. He was shot dead in 1938. The same year The Adventures of Robin Hood came out on general release.

He was not a clear-cut hero. He was often violent and perverse, as accounts in film and literature have shown:

“He used to put a man’s nuts in a drawer, lock it, throw the key out and set fire to the house. Not without first leaving a knife within reach of the wretch. The way I see it, it’s better to burn to death than to lose your nuts.”

Sergeant Getulio (1971) by João Ibaldo Ribeiro.

Lampião in Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) – Dir. Glauber Rocha.

Just as the desperate north eastern climes of Brazil spawned its own Robin Hood, national interest in the tales of Lampião peak during times of economic trouble.

Artists, writers and filmmakers of the 1960s lavished him with attention.

But today?

Today in London there will be riots outside the Bank of England. There’s growing malaise in most corners of the world.

So I ask: where’s the social bandit gone?

The Wire (Season 1): Omar – “It’s all in the game” by hoodpolitics.

You could argue that Omar Little in The Wire represents a new form of fictional Robin Hood.

He robs drug dealers in a city (Baltimore) where 10% of landowners possess 58% of the land value; and the bottom 10% own less than 1%.

Can we call that social banditry?

If not, who are the Robin Hoods in today’s global meltdown?

And who would they even loot?

Decay, Racoons and Detroit

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Packard Motors Plant by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography.

“Perhaps no major city in the U.S. today looks more beleaguered than Detroit, where in October the average home price was $18,513, and some 45,000 properties were in some form of foreclosure…

… I’d certainly expect it to shrink faster in the next few years than it has in the past few. But more than likely, many people will stay—those with no means and few obvious prospects elsewhere, those with close family ties nearby, some number of young professionals and creative types looking to take advantage of the city’s low housing prices.”

‘How the Crash Will Reshape America’ by Richard Florida, The Atlantic Magazine

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Farwell Building by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography.

So I see a story pop up in the New York Times about a $100 dollar house and ‘Detroit Unreal Estate Agency’.

Over at PSFK they’re asking if Detroit is “the next Berlin”.

You might be wondering where the racoons come in?

Well, there’s a 69 year-old blues musician called Glemie Dell Beasley living over on the west-side.

He sells raccoons for $15 each, or 2 for $25 – cleaned, skinned and wrapped in plastic grocery bags. Meat for a Southern country dish.

Detroitblogger John – House of Blues by metrotimes on YouTube.

Just one story behind the rusted face of this vast city.

On the surface of it, the soothsayers appear to be right. Artists have entered the home of motors and Motown.

A fleet of doors will open up shop floors long since abandoned by the daily grime of industry. Joyless theatres. Peopleless hotels.

Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre explored those spaces, and many others, in the series featured here (‘The ruins of Detroit’).

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Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography.

There is an epic grandeur to this vision. In the photographers’ words, we can witness the “remnants of the passing of a great civilization”. Stunning.

But I can’t look at images of Detroit without a soundtrack in my mind. Styles of soul, rock and techno that were distinctly their own. A cycle of birth and rebirth with pain, heart and expression.

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United Artists Theater by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography.

To an outsiders’ eyes (my two included), Detroit is decaying. Fragile and beautiful.

To Glemie Dell Beasley, it must be that some things don’t change.

Can’t help but hope this city survives. And lives to tell its stories.

More on Detroit:

– Thick slices of Motor City life on detroit blog.

– Art and DIY crafts at Hand Made Detroit.

– Punk attitude and the new indie scene at Detour.

– Bike-and-pedestrian lanes: a less auto-dependent future?

– The sad sight of Detroit’s vandalised schools.

– Sweet Juniper’s Detroit collection on Flickr.

A Stencil Saved My Life

Did you know that Shepard Fairey’s first ‘Obey’ stencils happened by accident?

Haphazard, random and roving. You can see why detractors still think of street art in terms of anarchy and vandalism. But stencils can stop accidents.

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Crosswalk memorial by DraftFCB Lisbon for Associação de Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados.

These zebra crossing stencils ran in Lisbon 2 years ago.

Part memorial, part cautionary tale, they list the names of 137 pedestrians killed by cars with the line “1/4 of the victims of automoboile accidents are pedestrians”.

Zebra Crossing by thedlab on YouTube.

This feels pretty unique to me. There may be more and more cleanvertising spots popping up around cities these days, but you won’t get many clients to sponsor a sprayed stencil.

Wilder still that they could tamper with public signage. I like it.

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DIY bicycle lanes by Urban Repair Squad, Toronto.

The Urban Repair Squad didn’t wait for their corporate handshake.

Taking guerilla action in response to Toronto’s sluggish municipal authorities, they’ve been creating bike lanes since 2005.  6 kilometres of bike lanes.

le depart by NewKingsMJ on YouTube.

So hands up. Most of these get scrubbed by authorities before long. But surely we can recognise the noble gesture?

If you read this blog much you’ll know I like this kinda artivism sh*t. And I believe it’s getting better. More utilitarian. More involved. It’s producing solutions in a way that 2.0 does. Hit and miss, but unabashed and devotedly social.

Take a peek at the CCA Tools for Action site for more inspiration.

Update & Related:

Urban Repair Squad on their latest intervention: bike-friendly signage.

Bike lanes on pedestrian crossings in Japan.

I Am Spartacus

So Poster Boy got caught. Then the New York times got told.

When 27-year-old Henry Matyjewicz was cuffed and punted out to Rikers Island, the newspaper received an email:

“Henry is one of many individuals who believe in the Poster Boy ‘movement’. Henry’s part is to do legal artwork while propagating the ideas behind Poster Boy. That’s why it was O.K. for him to take the fall the other night.”

I love the spirit of this. It’s unsurprising that coverage this week has honed in on the ‘I am Spartacus’ response of the ‘movement’. And it seems like the sentiment is a global – look at anti-advertising events in Paris last week.

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McDorse the World by Poster Boy on Flickr.

But I got more interested in the individual. Who is this Spartacus. Who is Henry Matyjewicz?

Google him and dodge the stories about Poster Boy. You’ll find a whole backlog of posts on automotiveforums.com by a 27-year-old with the same name:

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henry-matyjewicz-21Coincidence?

Could be. And I might be well off with this detective work.

But there’s something uncanny…

This Henry Matyjewicz quotes Gandhi and totes a profile pic of Che.

He’s obsessive about modifying his Honda Civic and unconventional in his tastes:

“Me, I’m picky, especially with exterior parts so it’s worth it. I also like the feeling of being original and creative.”

Weirdest of all, he’s cussed from forum to forum. He wants to mod his car and other posters accuse him of being a flamer and a ricer. He gets in arguments and spits fire:

“…all you guys ever have to say is why don’t go and buy the real thing [sic]. F^CK, why stop there, i should just buy three f^cking ferraris. you wanna know why you dipsh!ts, because not everyone has the money.”

Is this the Spartacus behind the Spartacus?

Previous street art:

The $57 cellphone film

Dust tagging & environmental graffiti

JR’s industrialised Xerox

16 Icy Men in Poladroid

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What a day to lose your umbrella. What a fine day for a snowman safari.

I stuck a carrot into Poladroid for the first time. Throwback fun!

Click the thumbs to see each East London snowman.

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Snowman related:

David Lynch’s Snowmen.

Interactive SNOWDRAW by Joshua Ott.

Where’s the Best Before?

Cracking concept by JWT London and some off-smelling comments on Ads of the World. One wit asks what topping the birds will add from their park tree perch.

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It’s obviously a tasty bit of work, whatever the weather. And the KitKat is a structurally sound snack.

But how long does an Oreo stay good once it’s touched the floor? It feels like a pretty sturdy biscuit. Though I wouldn’t fancy it under a winter boot. Bad news for 6emeia’s mural and any 30ft-tall painted snackers.

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These are all hazards of the ambient trade. Passers by will sit on your work. Stand on it. Maybe – in the absolute worse case scenario – take a good long look at it.

But you can beat nature at it’s own game.

The Glue Society saw the future of their outdoor ice cream. It was summer, it was Sydney, and it was a sticky mess of syrup goop. So they melted the van.

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Makes me wonder what became of that Havaiana tree

It bloomed in South African spring. Must be summer there now. I hope it still looks so fresh and radiant.

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Previous ambient:

Balloon graffiti from D.BILLY

Cuprocking from UPROCK

Cleanvertising from São Paulo via San Francisco and back to London

How to Shoot a Promo

The El Paso Police Department got it dead right with this 1992 promo.

“This is coming to you from El Paso PD and the homies from the hood.”

By starring in it themselves and using the medium of rap, they must have dissuaded hundreds from a life of gang-banging. Possibly thousands. (Hilarious link via Minivegas.)

Easy to forget in all this how a police promo could go wrong. Unless…

Let the public shoot it on their mobile phones. Spontaneously. While you’re killing an unarmed civilian on a public subway platform. (CAUTION: this video is not for the squirmish – and will leave you confused and angry.)

The BART police shooting of Oscar Grant on New Year’s day has triggered another sad episode in US race relations.

Since the video started circulating on YouTube, there have been riots in Oakland. Apparently with little coverage in the national media. Now that sounds familiar.

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This photo comes from a Flickr collection by Thomas Hawk. Very few pictures around at the moment, from what I can tell.

If the national media keeps their back turned on this one I’m sure the public can do the promo for them. And they won’t like it.

More on the 2009 Oakland riots:

‘Pigs Go Home’: New America Media

Report from the Oakland Riots: Vibe

Video of the Oscar Grant protest

For $57 – Change

I can’t help but feel optimistic this morning, and I’m hopeful – with the biggest turnout in US election history – that we have a new, engaged generation.

Obama’s arrival will come to symbolise far more than the erection of a new American idol. Watching the crowds celebrate, I felt a bigger, richer sense of people coming together. The victory is theirs.

I hope we’ll continue to witness that joy and humanity on the streets.

There’s a short film that’s doing the rounds now (via BOOOOOOOM!) that seems all the more timely. Shot entirely on mobile phone, on the streets of Sydney and New York:

Mankind is No Island, by Jason van Genderen (director), Shane Emmett (producer) and John Roy (music composer) won Best Film at Tropfest NY 2008. The story created from found signage, beating 100 submissions from around the world, cost just $57 to make.

Small change. But we can all make small changes. That’s how a big change will happen.