Archive for the 'Street Art' Category


On the street and on FB.

“a healthy opposition to ideologies” (I miss my Dad today)

A link from Infoshop leads to a Web site called Little Black Cart, which is a combination blog and shopping cart for books, mags, ‘zines, etc.  Reading topics include: anarchism, communism, culture, green anarchy, situationist, insurrection, anarchy, autonomism, and surrealism.  Here is what they write about Situationists.

The Situationists (or Sits) were artists from various countries who formed a group in the 1950s called The Situationist Internationale. They critiqued modern society in its various economic, social, and political aspects. They wanted to bring Marxism up to date, to construct a theory of what was going on in society that was preventing people from being able to live fully and act freely. The result was a critique that centered around everyday life, rather than on abstract economic forces. The idea of the “Spectacle” (the empty roles and values and passive rituals that modern life both perpetuates and relies upon) was at the heart of this.

The Situationists were characterized by a healthy opposition to ideologies (if you think of ideologies as sets of ideas that people pledge allegiance to, stop thinking critically about, and only defend). As part of that opposition the Sits denied that there was such a thing as Situationism, doing their best to fight off the stultifying, paralyzing effects of dogma and the party line.

I think I got “a healthy opposition to ideologies” from my Dad, a Congregational minister who left the church to become a professor at a community college and a maximum security prison.  I remember him talking about why he left the church, in that he felt the church as an institution in general was heading in the wrong direction.  This was in the early 1970s during the height of the Vietnam War and civil rights movements.  He said that he felt he would be a better minister working with those from a disadvantaged working class and others who deserve equal opportunities in life.

Shepard Fairey, a RISD grad, quotes the Situationists as an influence in his own work as a street and sticker artist.  His Obey Giant campaign “manufactures quality dissent since 1989.”

I have come across a number of German stickers in the past five years that reflect Situationist perspectives, which will be the subject of one of my text panels for the upcoming exhibition at SLU, “Contemporary Street Art in Berlin as Cultural Expression and Political Protest.”  Quiet mornings are helping me formulate the exhibition in my mind, and I realized today that the subject headings in my sticker database will form a perfect framework for these text panels.

In the context of German street art, I’d say that anarchy is not about lawless chaos.  Rather, according the Oxford English Dictionary (via Wikipedia), it refers to “A social state in which there is no governing person or group of people, but each individual has absolute liberty (without the implication of disorder.)  But is bound by a social code.”

2010 World Cup

In the last week, der Spiegel has featured a couple of articles regarding the multicultural diversity represented in the German football team as it moves into the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup.  Eleven of the 23 team members are of immigrant descent.  The Turkish-born German Mesut Özil scored a winning goal in the recent match against Ghana, which is said to have caused a great deal of controversy for many in Germany.

Immigrants Defend the Flag while Left-Wing Germans Tear it Down (June 29)

An Inspiring New Face for Germany’s National Team (July 2)

Neo-Nazis Spurn Germany’s Diverse New National Team (July 2)

During my last two trips to Berlin, I’ve seen scores of stickers related to football ultras, i.e., hardcore fan clubs that express strong political stances left and right.  I’ve also included below a shot of handwritten graffiti “Freedom for Ultras” and “A.C.A.B.” (all cops are bastards).  Apparently A.C.A.B. is a popular punk chant at some football matches.  More reading for SK.

Summer solstice

I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I am doing (at least with my sticker project).  Since 2004, I’ve been to Berlin six times and made dozens of trips to NYC, plus individual trips to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Munich, and Madrid (mostly work-related except for NYC).  Students, alumni, and friends have picked up stickers in Amsterdam, Rome, and several cities in eastern Europe.  A couple of thousand stickers by now.  A growing database.  An exhibition in 2006.  A blog with musings and lots of links.  Two conference papers.  A few sticker contacts.  A faculty carrel.  A SLU-funded study trip to Germany with three students this summer.  Another upcoming exhibition in the fall of 2010.  A short list of publishers, residency programs, and grant opportunities.

Now what?

I need to figure this out.

The reading and research I’ve been doing leads me to Web sites regarding antifa, anarchy, (anti)-authority, identity, nationalism (often through sports), politics, war and political conflict, globalization, etc.

There is such a huge amount of material out there that I’m not sure where to focus my energy.  What’s my angle?  Cultural studies seems the most apt, but I don’t know anything about social theory, literary theory, political economy, etc.—or I should say, not enough to write about in relation to stickers and street art.  I met recently with a consultant in academic publishing who thinks I’m onto something with my sticker project.  She suggested I write about this material in relation to my interest in visual literacy and media literacy, which would certainly be unique.  But would it be of use to anyone in any sort of circumstance or situation?  She reminded me that publishing is about sales.  Yeah, I know.  I just don’t know how my project translates into $$.  If anything, the stickers and street art I’m interested in reject capitalism and capitalist authority wholeheartedly.

Just today, I came across a blog linking back to mine called Anti-German Translation.  They had used a few of my antifa images in a post called Variousness 8 (30sep09).  The ATG Web site led me to a fantastic list of resources with categories labelled: anti-german translation picks; antifa; autonomous culture; autonomous politics; eurozone; football; conspiracy; kritik and theory; middle east; thinkers; documentationsarchiv reporting global fascism; icare news; the cst: monitoring anti-semitism; contested terrain: platform against anti-semitism and for emancipation; shift: anti-capitalist perspectives; 3wayfight: our enemies’ enemies are often not our friends; slackbastard: against fascism, for anarchy; and planet kommunismus.  Each category includes scores of links.

See what I mean?  So much reading to do, much less make sense of.  I’ve always thought of myself as a studio artist, not a writer.  I like making things.  I do like to write, too, though.

A new me, perhaps.  Just in time for the summer solstice.

Wooster Collective in Berlin

Too bad my SLU study group and I will miss the Wooster Collective meet-up in Berlin and a chance to meet Marc and Sara Schiller, the NYC-based couple who has done so much to advance street art around the world.  Plus the students would have loved going to the hip Club der Visionaere; they talked about it all the time.

No complaints, though.  Our recent trip was fantastic in all respects!!

MediaSpree protest June 5, 2010

During the last day of our study trip to Berlin, Spencer and I found ourselves at the front end of a street protest against MediaSpree.  Well, the front end of 1/2 of the protest, as it turned out that two groups merged together from both sides of the Spree.  MediaSpree involves the commercial development of property along the river in the Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg districts of former east Berlin that is dislocating neighborhoods, squats, local businesses, etc. with big multinational shopping malls, office buildings, MTV, Universal Studios, and the controversial o2 arena.  People are calling it a new wall to replace the Berlin Wall that ran through the region.  Unfortunately, Stickerkitty forgot to bring her camera that day (crap), but there are a bunch of photos on Flickr if you search MediaSpree, including good sets from PM_C and Mikael Zellman.  Berlin was dotted with stickers, fliers, and a huge mural announcing the protest.

Despite what was supposed to be a peaceful protest there was a strong police presence, which is something I certainly wasn’t used to.  Kitty didn’t like the scary dogs that were there like this one.

It was fitting that our trip ended in front of this mural, which is on the cover of the book I gave to the students before we left, Street Art in Berlin 3.0 by Kai Jacob.

Alternative Berlin

At Spencer Homick’s suggestion, my SLU students — Kat Dwyer, Bridget Montesanti, and Charlie Reetz — and I signed up for a walking tour yesterday with a group called Alternative Berlin to see and learn about street art.  It was a great way to begin our two week journey — better than I expected, to be honest.  Our guide Mark was extremely well informed, not only of the “scene” itself, but also about the ways in which artists engage the community with their work.  He discussed street art as much more than mere decoration and/or defacement of the public environment.  The work we saw expressed commentary and critique regarding various social-political issues here in Berlin, Europe, and elsewhere.  I’m going to ask the students to choose one artist each and reflect upon and write about what they saw.  Prost, Just, Miss Van–I’ll need to check my notes to list some of the other artists.

We also went to the ATM Gallery to see an exhibition entitled Mutation by stencil artist Czarnobyl.

At the end of the day, Mark had everyone cut an 8-pieced stencil of a gorilla, and we spray painted it onto a piece of canvas to bring home with us.  The students loved it.



Flickr Photos

June 2020