This site is a year old today. Our first post --- a probably too-general call for political art of all stripes --- was posted on October 30, 2004. The collective had just regrouped after a long summer spent working full-time on the No RNC Poster Project, a campaign that involved 50,000 printed posters, 10,000 stickers, and enough grunt work to make pissing off Republicans a full-time job for a few of us. We had very little idea what to do next, and we mostly made it up as we went along.
This site was started with the idea of giving voice to those artists who seek more than name recognition, and of opening a space for critical discussion on street art and political activism. In the past year, the street art movement has only continued to gain momentum, while the wave of activism that preceded the Republican National Convention crashed and receded following Bush's electoral victory and now finally shows signs of reviving. As a collective, we've had to struggle to find our place between these two worlds. In the past year, we've been lucky to meet and work with people we admire and respect, so thanks to the Toyshop Collective, Madagascar Institute, Not An Alternative, Time's Up!, Josh MacPhee, Street Art Workers, AI Firefly, and the Grassroots Media Coalition for being gracious giants.
The question now is: what next? This site has grown by leaps and bounds, adding new features and slowly getting more regular in its updates, drawing 10,000 readers or so a month. Thanks to all of you for keeping us going! What do you want to see? We've had a few voices noting the stagnation of street art's "manifesto" --- how can we push these ideas further, explore new territory? One of my unrealized goals for the site has been to get more contributors --- interested people from outside our collective --- anyone who wants to step up for Year 2 should drop us a line. What's missing from the site, and more importantly, from the real world art/politics scene? Shoot us an email or drop a note in the comments. Let's keep talking.
Our friend Alice Arnold is screening her great documentary To Be Seen tonight (Friday, October 28) at DCTV. To Be Seen is a 26-minute film about the ways street artists in New York City interact with public space. It features revealing interviews with Swoon, Dan Witz, Ryan Watkins-Hughes, Vinnie Ray, Michael DeFeo, and others. From the director's description:
"To Be Seen"is a study of visual culture, of urban culture and an exploration of an age-old urban cultural phenomenon, street art. The film takes a critical look at our consumer society by looking at the practice of street art in New York City.
The subculture of street art is significant because it embodies within it a sense of subversiveness, which is rare in today's culture of consumerism and political amnesia. Street art functions as a way of 'taking back the streets.' Streets are public spaces, but increasingly public spaces are being privatized - through security cameras, Business Improvement Districts, and the profusion of corporate marketing. This form of art, that is not a commodity (there is no price tag), that is somewhat ephemeral, and that tends to address current political and/or cultural issues, will be examined as a form of public expression, a form of media and a means of political and social protest.
The film is showing tonight at 7pm with a number of other short films. DCTV is at 87 Lafayette St, two blocks below Canal St., in Manhattan.
Some of our favorite neighborhood anarchists have been busy organizing the second annual Really, Really Free Market, set for this Saturday at St. Mark's Church. The RRFM is a chance to meet folks, get rid of good old stuff you know you shouldn't keep, and find treasure amongst others' trash. More on it here. It's a very relaxed and fun event, with impromptu activities scattered throughout the day.
A few members of VR will be hosting a stencil workshop at 1pm. Stop by if you're interested in trading tips and tricks, sharing your skills or learning someone else's, or just saying hello. Bring materials if you can --- cardboard, manilla folders, markers, x-acto knives, paint, etc. --- or borrow some of ours. We'll have supplies and stencil templates for people to work on. See you there.
NYC Indymedia does invaluable work, especially on their free biweekly paper the Indypendent. Their website, paper, and space have all served as powerful and much-needed resources for activists in this city, especially in busy periods such as the build-up to the Iraq war and during the Republican National Convention. After several years in their current office, they're being forced to look for a new space:
Help! NYC Indymedia is moving out of its longtime office at 34 E. 29th St. at the end of November and is looking for a new space.
We are seeking to either share a space with another movement organization or rent an 800-1,000 square ft. office (at below market rates), preferably in Lower Manhattan.
Keywords: News, Media, Alternatives, Local, Communication Rights,
NYC Indymedia has been one of the most consistently active chapters in the global Indymedia network over the past five years and has done amazing work. We currently put out a biweekly television show ("Blacked Out TV") that airs locally and nationally and three newspapers (The Indypendent, El Independiente and IndyKids). Having a space to work out of is crucial to our long-term growth.
If you have any leads or suggestions to pass on, please email imc-nyc at indymedia.org or call 212-684-8112. Thanks for your support!
If anyone out there can help, it would be more than appreciated. Also, moving has tons of incidental expenses, so if you can spare it, donate to the NYC-IMC here.
Since we are a NYC based collective, and there is an upcoming mayoral election, I wanted to point out a really slick website called Fire Bloomberg.
The site leads to a wealth of information about the past few years of the Bloomberg administration, with links to all articles on topics ranging from Housing to Transportation to Womyns Issues and more. The site suggests:
Bloomberg claims to have helped regular New Yorkers. But once you read through Bloomberg's Record, you'll see that Bloomberg has hindered regular New Yorkers.
There are also critiques on Bloomberg's commercials, picking apart inconsistencies in the data used in them.
I decided to check it out in more detail, after I saw an assumingly young teenage boy in a Park Slope cafe with a pin, bearing the logo of the website (the Bloomberg image above). It reminded me of the pins that many folks used to wear during the Guiliani administration, and how easy it is to dislike politicians that take advantage of inflated real estate markets.
I'd like to invite any interested groups or individuals to help plaster the USA with billboard size reproductions of Picasso's Guernica. Ideally, the work would stand without any text or headlines or additional commentary: if the painting is all that's seen, it forces the viewer to make an interpretation instead of being told what to think. Being told what to think is exactly what got Americans in trouble in the first place, no?
The following paragraph is not what inspired the idea, but I think it explains relatively well what one might hope to accomplish in this project:
"A tapestry copy of Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council room. It was placed there as a reminder of the horrors of war. Commissioned and donated by Nelson Rockefeller, it is not quite as monochromatic as the original, using several shades of brown. On February 5, 2003, a large blue curtain was placed to cover this work, so that it would not be visible in the background when Colin Powell and John Negroponte gave press conferences at the United Nations. On the following day, it was claimed that the curtain was placed there at the request of television news crews, who had complained that the wild lines and screaming figures made for a bad backdrop, and that a horse's hindquarters appeared just above the faces of any speakers. Diplomats, however, told journalists that the Bush Administration leaned on UN officials to cover the tapestry, rather than have it in the background while Powell or other U.S. diplomats argued for war on Iraq." -- quoted from wikipedia
If the painting intimidates warmongers into covering it, then why not make sure that it goes up in as many public spaces as possible?
Full call here. The Powell incident sparked outrage among artists and civil libertarians, and inspired Word War 3 Arts in Action to create Guernica-themed placards for the March 22, 2003 antiwar march in NYC. It also led me to create my first stencil. Anyone who would like to get involved in this project can find a source image of Picasso's Guernica here. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and John at johntunger.typepad.com if you'd like to work on this.
For the last few weeks, an advertising company placed a locked porta-potty on the corner of Washington Square East and Washington Pl. This porta-potty was an advertisement for some new home improvement "reality show". As though the bulky porta-potty advertisement, which blocked pedestrian traffic, was not annoying enough, the company also hired a private security guard to video tape the advertisement and arrest anyone who tried to vandalize it. The security guard, who claimed to be trained by the NYPD, was stood across the street in civilian clothes next to his tripod and video camera, guarding ad.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 4th... Kristin (from our very own nyuinc.org) and Andy Cornell were discussing the inane advertisement. Andy then said something to the effect of “let’s write something on it!” and asked Kristin for a marker. As seen in this image Andy then wrote “NO MORE STUPID ADS ON CAMPUS.”
Well, we do go to NYU and we do live in New York City, hence no such innocent act of disgust with corporate insanity could go by unpunished. Andy was quickly yelled at by a young man with a camera and asked if he “knew that that was vandalism?” Both Andy and Kristin ignored the young man, assuming him to be an aggravated NYU student simply trying to cause trouble. However, the man did not cease in bothering Andy. In fact, he told Andy that he was under arrest for an illegal act of vandalism upon the fake, useless, port-a-potty.
Andy then walked down the block towards me, with the “officer” in toe. The deputy officer, as he was later known, then revealed to us that he was a volunteer policeman trained by the NYPD who had the authority to hold Andy for arrest. And he did just that - the officer, whose name is still unknown, brought Andy to the NYU Public Safety office, called the police, and held him there until the uniformed NYPD officers arrived.
Once the officers reached “the scene of the crime,” they told Andy that he could be arrested, but allowed him to clean up the graffiti instead. However, once he was finished cleaning the inane ad, he was issued a summons.
A few months back VR members taught a stencil making workshop to teens at Time and Space Limited, a community arts and media center in Hudson, NY. The artwork they produced was really impressive, ranging from self-portraits to anti-war statements. Check out pics from the event on our photolog and in the new Sept./Oct. 2005 issue of Clamor Magazine.
Ever since we saw M-City's work highlighted on the Wooster Collective site we have been floored by the magnitude and originality of their work. Several months in the making, here at last is an interview with Mariusz, the person behind the project.
How did you start this project? What were your influences and inspirations?
My work, even before M-City, has always dealt with themes related to the city and the elements that make it up or that are connected with it. I think that a main influence has always been the surroundings that I live in and a fascination with industrial places. From my window at home I see cargo containers, from another window the chimney stacks of the hydroelectric plant. In Gdansk there is a shipyard where most of the terrain dealing with ship production has been closed due to economic reasons. There remains plenty of buildings, a production hall, cranes, and streets that have been an incredibly inspirational. Besides that there is an artist collective there with several galleries that has the climate and feeling of a squat. All of this is situated within lovely geometric lines and isometric perspectives from which the project is built.
Very few people in Poland interest themselves with muralists. In the city where I live once a year there is a festival dedicated to large scale painting—the only one of its kind in Poland. It is difficult to find places to put work up, not to mention finding the money. Most of the legal realizations are covered out of my own pocket. Street art, murals, etc...for now have not been commericialized. There are many differing people interested in street art but with very little connection to each other. There is minimal interest and coverage in the media and newspapers. There is only one street art festival in Warsaw. A negative example of commericalizition is the global popularity of graffiti, which was falsely created, and as a result the artistic level of graffiti has strongly dropped. Cities have been flooded with cheap work. Large sections of old painters have stopped painting and the young painters still have a lot to learn.
Much more after the jump...
Black and white colors and the large amount of object details draw people to the work. It is easier to draw the attention of a viewer when he knows what the work means or what it is about, in being able to recognizing related images, graffiti sits in opposition to this, where the most important thing is the aesthetic and not the readability, which results most often in not understanding. The projects objective from the beginning was to draw the whole public into playing with the work. On the bigger projects I am inviting friends or bystanders. The initial sketch that might arise for a project is very broad, though in reality it is limited by the global composition and shape of the city. What occurs in the middle of the modern city is mostly by chance. Thanks to the modular composition of M-City every person involved in the project can by themselves pick elements of the city and place them in space. There are no limits to the combinations, therefore everyone can create her own world, oftentimes one mimics the situation they are in or the place that they live.
I try to find a place that is both visible and lonely—though finding such places is not easy. I don’t like it when one work interrupts another. Its better to integrate with the surrounding. Most of the time I try to take advantage of places that are legal. To make a large wall it sometimes takes several days.
The scale of your work is incredibly large, yet there are smaller details to take in--food not bombs, etc--are these scenes noticed by people?
The work can be understood from several viewpoints. It’s like a view from an airplane—the closer to the ground the more details. You can look at it from a distance as a specific ornamental form or as a specific relation to a place, because sometimes the city shape duplicates city fragments from the surrounding. Most often histories and stories hide themselves within the details. The more people I invite to build the walls these stories emerge.
Are you thinking of a visit to the US?
If someone would sponser the visit then why not. Mostly the cost of the flight is very expensive and after that I would have to get a visa which is not easy. Right now I am not working and not studying which means I am the ideal candidate to be rejected for a visa. Recently I had a proposition from LA and I am waiting for what may come out of that.
Here is alink to the orginal text in Polish. If anyone has suggestions for translation please write us!
Just found an article from the LA Times that gives an example of how cities are criminalizing graffiti --- not as vandalism, but as a style. Even commissioned murals will be removed if they "look like" graff:
Los Angeles is often called the mural capital of the world — and no place is this truer than on the streets of Boyle Heights, where hundreds of walls at pharmacies, general stores, guitar shops and even churches have been transformed into urban artwork. The murals depict Mexican American history, advertise businesses and take the form of abstract art at the hands of graffiti taggers....
Using a little-known ordinance that allows the city to regulate murals that abut public property — including sidewalks — officials have notified some property owners that they must either modify or remove their murals....
Under the city program, the Cultural Affairs Department will find artists to create new murals and set up a system to maintain the artwork. Joseph Montalvo, a graffiti muralist participating in the program, says he supports the idea of engaging young taggers. But he worries that the city will put limits on what artists can and cannot do.
"For the last 15 years, the relationship between the store owner and the writer [muralist] has been there and there hasn't been a need for government participation," said Montalvo, 35, also known as Nuke. "What I'm afraid is they may want to suppress or oppress any content that in their eyes they think is inappropriate."
Yeah, that seems like the whole point of the city's program, doesn't it? We've seen similar things happen elsewhere, notably Vancouver. Lots of small cities have ordinances requiring property owners to remove graffiti from their buildings or face fines. Smaller cities and towns require permits for any kind of decoration at all. Combine these property-value-minded campaigns to whitewash the city with the fearmongering panic-tantrums of Vallone Jr. and his dumb ilk and you've got a country where public space is severely policed.
Legacy Queens councilman and Giuliani-wannabe Peter Vallone Jr. is once again dragging his favorite scapegoat around the city's newsrooms:
The scourge who has been defacing buildings, vehicles and trees across the borough was busted this week after becoming the No. 1 target in Councilman Peter Vallone and the 114th Precinct's anti-graffiti crusade.
"I want this punk, and I want him bad," Vallone (D-Astoria) proclaimed, following the Tuesday morning arrest of Oliver Siandre, 27, better known by his tag, "Kiko."
"Catching this guy has been a personal vendetta of mine for a few months now," Vallone added.
Vallone Jr. --- who inherited his council seat from his father --- was one of the main hot-air opponents of Marc Ecko's street party and made a big stink about Cope2's Time Magazine billboard. He constantly bleats to whatever reporters will listen about the menace of graffiti-writing hoodlums run amok. Now he's playing the white-collar Dirty Harry at press conferences, claiming Kiko caused $100,000 in damage. The showboating demagogy of Vallone Jr.'s personal role in the pursuit of KIKO and the studied stupidity of the Daily News' tabloid style are both symptoms of a public culture that's beyond rotten. Doesn't anyone get sick of this cheap, cynical grandstanding?
Photo from vidiot's flickr photostream.
While riding towards the Manhattan Bridge the other day I could not help but notice a very long "taped up" message on the brick wall that marks out the corner of Flushing and Navy. At first glance the words looked so uniform and unassuming that one might think a City official put them up herself. A closer look reveals a different story that calls for halting the destruction of "Admiral's Row." Built during the Civil War the houses have been vacant since the 70's falling into a beautiful state of decay and disrepair. During the summer months the houses are blanketed by foilage, barely visible from the road. But as the year goes on and the leaves fall the houses come into view once again--a quiet mystery making little sense in a Brooklyn that has been witness to such unbound and at times dysfunctional development. The city is in the process of handing over the property to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation which has promised to demolish the buildings in favor of a supermarket. The neigborhood actually does need a supermarket but is this the only possible site for one? One has to wonder about the hidden handshakes behind the proposed development of a site that has been struggling for 40 years to achieve landmark status. Although this is a thorny issue it seems that in an ideal world the site could be preserved and a supermarket could be built nearby, but as always development has an impaired vision, especially with regard to history.
The plea on the wall reads as follows--
"NOT DEATH ROW! A REPRIEVE, THEY'RE INNOCENT! COME VISIT ADMIRALS ROW NATIONAL HERITAGE SITE, THE UNITED STATES NAVY'S PRIDE 1864 until 1967. LOOK INTO THE PAST AND KNOW THEIR BEAUTY AND HISTORY. IMAGINE THESE PRISTINE, MANICURED MANSIONS WITH FAMILIES, CEREMONIES, RECEPTIONS, AND ON . . . LANDMARK ADMIRALS ROW! PRESERVE OUR NATIONAL HERITAGE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME. DO NOT ALLOW DEMOLITION HERE! THIS IS NOT A LOCAL ISSUE! GET LOUD!"
My only question is how can this be anything but a local issue?
(Since the day I took the pictures a few more words have gone up specifically asking Governor Pataki to landmark the site while questioning just how such development could occur during an election year?)
Around 7 pm on October 5, 2005 the NYPD removed bicycles locked to the entrance of the Bedford Avenue L station in Williamsburg. Locks were cut, bicycles were tagged and driven away in vans without prior warning. Although signs indicate property attached to these MTA railings will be removed, there was no such warning for bicycles removed from nearby signposts.
In fact, according to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 24, Section 1115, it is completely legal to lock a bicycle to a signpost, lamppost, bus stop pole, parking meter or any other public street fixture as long as it does not alter or interfere with the operation of public traffic signals and signs. Because of potential harm, locking to a tree is illegal.
This situation underscores the need for more outdoor bicycle parking, one of the many important issues Transportation Alternatives is working on. If you walk or bicycle in New York City, you should really consider becoming a member.
I just called the 94th Precinct, which includes Bedford & N. 7th, to find out what excuse the cops would use and they wouldn't talk to me. Call 'em up at (718) 383-3879. See more pictures here, and a discussion on Indymedia which includes a scan of the NYPD's official guide to Bicycle Safety & Security that specifically recommends locking to street signs.
UPDATE: Apparently the law is unclear on whether cyclists have the right to lock to "street furniture." City Council member Margarita Lopez recently introduced a bill that would codify this right: contact your councilmember and ask them to support Bill 685.
Any Midwest readers, be sure not to miss Street Magic, the new show curated by Tod Seelie. The show features work by Swoon, Darius & Downey, Akay &Adams, Jorge Rodriguez Gerada, and Zevs. From Tod's description:
Every artist in this exhibition challenges the understanding of exactly what is and who controls public space. Whether through subtly embellishing the visual experience of an area, or by aggressively changing it to suit their vision, these artists have expanded the understanding of what art is and where it belongs.
The show is up throughout October, full details here. If you can't make the show in person (we can't), you can get a sense of it by reading up on the artists involved. See expecially Swoon's interview with Jorge Rodriguez Girada and Akay's Traffic Island and Zoo projects. Also, don't forget that you can still catch Darius & Downey's show at the Jen Bekman gallery until October 22.
Peter Kuper sends word that the next issue of World Word 3 Illustrated is ready to hit the streets, and that this issue marks the magazine's 25th anniversary. They're celebrating both events with a party and exhibition Thursday night at Exit Art:
EXIT ART presents an exhibition and the release of World War 3 illustrated's 25th anniversary issue
Thursday, Oct. 6th, 2005, 6-8pm
475 10th Ave. (at 36th St.)
The release party will also be the opening of a show of original art from WW3 with many of the artists in attendance. Show will remain on display through Oct 27th
If you're not familiar with World War 3 Illustrated, you're missing out. The magazine has cultivated an incredible array of artists, many of whom are featured in #36. The new issue is called "Neo Con" and was edited by Ryan Inzana and Peter Kuper, features a cover illustration by Sue Coe and contributions from Eric Drooker, Seth Tobocman, Sabrina Jones, Mac McGill, Ryan Inzana, James Romberger, Chuck Sperry, Nicole Schulman, and Joe Sacco's account as an embedded journalist in Iraq.
Full details on the anniversary event after the jump:
EXIT ART presents
an exhibition and the release of
World War 3 illustrated
25th anniversary issue
THURSDAY, OCT. 6TH, 2005
475 10TH AVE. (AT 36TH ST.)