Photo Essays

A Punk Take on The Wizard of Oz Screens in a Massive Graffiti Installation

Wastedland 2 ask the existential question “What else is there?” — in this case, referring to anything that isn’t painting, getting high, or sleeping.

Wolftits stands in the midst of the crowd during a screening of Wastedland 2 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

If, on a recent Saturday night, you happened to find yourself walking down a desolate street at the edge of L.A.’s Skid Row, you might have passed an open warehouse roll gate in a building displaying a Swoon mural on the exterior. Inside that warehouse, you would have immediately encountered a giant multi-eyed upside-down alien next to a wolf serving fresh popcorn. A film was screening deep inside the space, and if you made your way past the small shack with a roof made of compressed spray cans — and didn’t trip over another pile of empty paint cans with a small metal chimney spewing glittery cloud letters — you would have joined a room full of people watching Wastedland 2, the most recent work by punk filmmaker Andrew H. Shirley.

Wastedland 2, installation view
Andrew H. Shirley, “Anything Helps…,” hobo shack theatre, with Greg Henderson, “This Wasted Land” in the background
Ryan C Doyle and UFO 907, “I Started Writing Graffiti in 1994 and I’ve Been Addicted Ever Since”; Rambo 907, “Writing on the Wall”
A character from the film She Wolf distributes free popcorn from a custom cart at the screening of Wastedland 2

The warehouse, better known as Superchief Gallery, is hosting the film’s accompanying massive site-specific graffiti installation, also called Wastedland 2, through the end of the month. The show features work by a string of infamous graffiti artists, including UFO 907, RAMBO, DARKCLOUD, WOLFTITS, and Adam VOID. UFO 907 provided many of the standout pieces, from the giant alien that greets you at the entrance (which you can climb inside) to the motorized, spray-can-wielding sculpture (which plays a major role in the film) to the animated piece “Neon UFO” lurking in the back. 

Amy Smalls and George Vidas, “Neon UFO”
Wastedland 2, installation view
Screening attendees inside “The Beginning If Not The End…”

The film itself resembles a post-apocalyptic, beer-and-weed-fueled buddy road trip evoking Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz. The mythical character UFO 907 stands in for the wizard, and the roles of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion are played by a wolf, an amoeba, and a cranky cat, respectively. The narrative revolves around the oft-repeated existential question “What else is there?” — in this case, referring to anything that isn’t painting, getting high, or sleeping.

Wolftits stands in the crowd during the screening
Attendees watch Wastedland 2

This version of the installation is part of a nationwide tour that has already seen shows in an old Ford factory in Detroit, an art gallery in Richmond, VA, and a guerilla show under a bridge in Kansas City, MO, with a different mix of art each time. In an interview with Mass Appeal, Shirley, whose work has been shown at PS1 and the Museum of Sex, said, “I have explored punk aesthetics in various mediums, and filmmaking is one of them. It’s a challenge to incorporate the design and psychology of graffiti into a film and have it be relatable to both graffiti writers and the average person.”

Rambo, “Enter to Tame”
Greg Henderson, “What Else is There,” detail
Wolftits, “Free Popcorn,” detail
Wastedland 2, installation view
Wolftits costume by Briana Barber and Wolftits

The tour will continue up the West Coast and across the Midwest, culminating with its biggest show and event in New York City in September.

WASTEDLAND 2: 2017 TRAILER from andrew h. shirley on Vimeo.

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