In his latest edition of Hypermedia, artist Artie Vierkant explores ideas of surveillance and sousveillance in the work of artists Jill Magid, Steve Mann, Josh On, Ryan McKinley, and Trevor Paglen.
This movement of art in- and outside has been of interest to me since I regularly began following street art about a year ago. The contexts in which the work can be seen often varies dramatically, and these environmental shifts raise a number of questions: does the work itself change as it traverses public and private domains? If so, how? And what does this translation mean for our understanding of the work? A few months ago, I crisscrossed Brooklyn and Manhattan to investigate street art’s translation from the street to a gallery setting.
Depending on how a street artist uses the street they may have something to lose by moving into a gallery space. Peru Ana Ana Peru, which is composed of two artists, use the street primarily as a way of making their striking and fantastical images even more so. We are struck by a colorful image or by a traditional picture frame on a signpost. We wonder what they’re doing there, so we investigate. But a closer inspection is unhelpful: An old portrait with the face scratched out? What does “Peru Ana Ana Peru” even mean?
My husband was walking down Bedford Avenue on Wednesday, and he spotted someone pasting up posters on a wall which is almost always dominated by a giant Shepard Fairey poster, so frequently in fact that it might as well be his permanent ad space. It was lunchtime and no one stopped or cared. Knowing my love of street art, and what can sometimes be inane details, he quickly snapped a pic with his camera phone and emailed it to me with the message, “Someone covering up fairey [sic].”
What at first glance appeared to be a run of the mill “sniping” (i.e. illegal posting of corporate advertising), turned out to be a new street art campaign, iBlanket, though the artist prefers the term public art. The brain child of Bushwick artist Ann Oren, iBlanket riffs off the ubiquitous Apple “i” genre and turns our attention to the problems of homelessness just as the temperatures have started to plummet.
Much has been written about the traveling exhibition The Americans, but here’s a recap: Swiss photographer Robert Frank won a Guggenheim fellowship and drove around the United States in 1955-56 taking pictures. His book The Americans, with a forward by Jack Kerouac, was published in 1959, and met with acclaim and controversy. Some people didn’t like the America that Frank saw. On the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, the entire series has been shown at several U.S. venues, and is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From images of a funeral in South Carolina to a wedding chapel in Reno, Frank revealed a nation that looked burdened, anxious, and lost.
When a gaggle of Meriden teenagers got together in the early 80’s to form Napalm Death, they weren’t thinking of completely restructuring the DNA of the Song. They weren’t thinking about inventing a new Metal genre, Grindcore. They weren’t thinking about garnering the lifelong support of John Peel. They weren’t thinking about any of these things. They were just bored with the music they were hearing. They wanted to make something faster than Punk. They wanted to kill it, the latest tired beast. Turned out the beast was already out of breath, but that didn’t mean it didn’t need a good clubbing. Overkill never hurt anyone.
Hypermedia: Critical Issues in Contemporary Media Art is a column written by artist Artie Vierkant for Hyperallergic. Each article discusses an existing or emerging theme in practices at the intersection of electronic media and the arts, drawing from the contemporary and the historic, the pervasive and the obscure.
The Internet has bred a certain degree of cultural democratization — citizen journalism, revolts aided by the use of Twitter, the rise to fame of Soul’ja Boy, etc. The same is true to a degree in art, but for the most part older methods of working stay cribbed in older methods of distribution.
It’s an epidemic in street art publications, picture books with no little or no text and often no photo credits or explanatory text. The democratization of publishing, accompanied by the popularity of street art, has created a mass delusion that just because anyone could that everyone should publish a street art book. It’s far from the case.
MOMO is one of my favorite New York street artists though I tend to dislike his work outside (or is it inside) of that context. Nowadays, his large abstract paper pieces are plastered on construction sites and sidewalk overhangs throughout downtown Manhattan and northern Brooklyn.
I joined Hyperallergic editor and fellow street art enthusiast, Hrag Vartanian, to discuss the recent film by the Antagonist Art Movement titled “This is Berlin Not New York.” The very indie film is directed by Ethan H. Minsker and follows the adventures of the New York-based art group as they travel to Berlin to participate in an exhibition and explore one of the world’s hot spots of contemporary art.
An edited transcript of our conversation is below but make up your own mind this Saturday night (Oct. 17) as the film is being screened at Anthology Film Archives during the Royal Flush Festival.
The second issue of Manya Scheps’ quarterly critical journal New Asshole launched on the internet recently in .pdf format. The journal, a self-described “DIY critique of DIY,” focuses primarily on goings on among the collective and community-based art scenes in Philadelphia. (Full disclosure–this is a scene I only recently left to pursue a graduate degree, and an article of mine was published in the first issue. It was a piece of writing that the editor copy & pasted off of my blog without my prior knowledge.)
New Asshole succeeds, however, in not limiting its scope to the politics of the art scene and extends its grasp to act as a sounding board for critical inquiry within the community. Put simply, it exists to call artists and collectives to task, creating a forum where “DIY,” “hip,” or “rad” art can be discussed critically and held accountable.
For Alex Bag’s current solo show, Reality Tunnel Vision, the front room of Elizabeth Dee gallery is wrapped with forest-patterned wallpaper on one side (curling off the wall at the far end), dead plants hanging from the wall, some dead bamboo sticking out of dirt on the gallery floor, an old barbeque, and a few drawings. The drawings, sketched in a cartoony crudeness, depict some of the despicable characters currently swarming our cable channel reality TV shows, such as puffy-lipped Barbie-women with impossibly huge breasts, or the muscled, faux-hawked, tattooed men who compete on national television for a chance at “true love,” money, or their own spin-off show.
Much contemporary art is disappointing–street art especially. Even if you manage to find a piece you really like–or, if you’re lucky, one that is really worth liking–it gets buffed, weathered beyond recognition, hyped beyond reason, or it simply disappears. And like all art, its digital web ghost doesn’t replace the real thing. It’s really gone forever. And that’s disappointing, even if you knew it would happen all along. Still, some deaths are better than others.