February 27, 2006

Japan represents in Italy

Not only in the Olympics this year. Two Japanese graffiti artists, Kami and Sasu, took part in a major project in Milan with 5 other artists. Check out the link where you can zoom in on the canvases.  From Wooster Collective.

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February 25, 2006

When writers sell out?

Questions on graffiti and authenticity are spinning through my head after reading the comments from this post on British stencil artist Banksy. One of the comments questions the authenticity of Banksy sightings because apparently anybody could be Banksy now, as pre-cut stencils are being sold on ebay for about 5 dollars. Another comment questions “Wheres (sic) the art in doing someone elses design?”

Good question. Of course there are art historical precedents of appropriation, etc. But what happens when you appropriate in an anonymous art form? These “fake Banksy’s” don’t stand to gain any recognition for their stencil efforts. They are not showing their appropriated Banksy stencils in a gallery with their own name on them instead. It seems instead that Banksy is getting up for free here.

Not anyone could design a stencil, but anyone can use it. This is a key difference between a stencil artist and a writer who has a distinct tag that no one else could imitate. When using stencils one erases the connection between the graffito and the artist’s unique gesture. Stencil graffiti, then, invites copy catting. Of course if you’re a self-respecting graffiti writer you wouldn’t want to be caught dead using someone else’s stencil.

But what if you’re a fan? You have no graffiti ambitions of your own, maybe no style or talent. Or you’re lazy and don’t want to try to develop skills. (Check out this LA writer Zato One’s ironic take on this.) Who would stop you from getting THEIR name up? When you look at a Banksy you find in Hollywood, does it matter if it was actually stencilled by the man himself? Because when you look at it, you still think, “Banksy…”

Checking out ebay though, the availability of precut Banksy stencils is pretty low. They aren’t even that cool. The smart comments he is famous for aren’t included in your stencil set. So for the record, if you are looking at what you think is a Banksy, and it is clever, then it probably was done by him, not some poseur.

On the other hand, an artist who fully condones the spread of his work, offers kits for those aspiring legions of copycats on his very own website. Check out the Space Invaders kit, available for 80 euros. “Be an Invader. Stick Your Space. Get Points. Support the Invasion,” flashes across the top of your screen.

Space Invaders supports even further commodification of his trademark pixelgraphic aliens in the form of decals you can put up in your house. Space Invader decals, by Blik, are even available at mega mart Target.

Space Invaders are on their way to becoming a sign as recognizable as Nike. I wonder if, in time, our children could look at the lovable aliens and not even know anything about its origins? Will the aliens outlive their anonymous French creator? Is there anything wrong with wanting one’s art to outlive oneself?

Maybe the days when getting up worldwide was a personal ambition, a way of documenting your travels and getting recognition in far away continents, maybe that’s old school now. Could delegation be the future? A worldwide force of lackeys who get up for you?

Well check it out, this sort of stuff’s been around since 1989 when Shepard Fairey started the Andre the Giant campaign. And graffiti is still going strong; it hasn’t changed anything really.

It is all up to the individual writer, where his or her priorities lie. An artist like VeryOne, who travels all over Asia getting up puts the emphasis on the journey and the proliferation. For others, like Space Invaders or Obey Giant it is the movement that matters. The symbol supercedes the creator and is proliferated by others.

Whether this is Banksy’s intent is debatable. The stencils on ebay are probably bootlegged, but I don’t know if that is really going to cause Banksy much consternation. After all, the old adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” probably rings true at this point. Banksy says

The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.

People copy it because it means something to them. They like it. They’re fans.

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February 21, 2006

Let’s go to Guam!

So the other night I was thinking, why don’t people go to Guam on vacation more often? I mean isn’t it a U.S. territory and it’s tropical right? But I never hear about people going there. Curious, I did a little googling.

Blazing ahead, I found the Guam page , Guam-online, which insists that

However, the widely held belief that Guam is one big military post is far from accurate. Guam has much to offer and visitors can spend their entire time without seeing any military presence, if that is their desire.

Guam’s number one industry is tourism, actually. So you could have a totally epic holiday: laying around on beaches, hiking (they call it “boonie stomping”), or taking in a little of the local culture. Guam is pretty fresh.

The indigenous people of Guam, the Chamorro , have a matriarchal society. When the Spanish arrived on Guam and took over, they didn’t catch on to the fact that the women had the real power and only conducted their dealings with Chamorro men. Because their society was organized this way, their culture was able to avoid erasure, passed down among the women.

So let’s go to Guam! I’m serious! You can get a huge apartment for like nothing! And pretend you’re a colonialist!

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February 16, 2006

I miss SF so much…

Look at what I missed! This is right by the restaurant I worked at, the classy Sinbad’s Restaurant, where you can enjoy an “Authentic San Francisco Dinning (sic) Experience.” Heinous!

Anyways I am bummed that I missed a gnarly pillow fight!

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But you know what they say, if feathers fall on Tuesday, you better have your pillow ready on Wednesday.

February 15, 2006

This is fresh

Check out these optical illusion rooms. Huge!

February 13, 2006

Sushi: a Japanese tradition

Last night I was treated to the “quintessential Japanese experience:” a soak in an onsen preceded by a meal at a sushi-ya. Among other indescribables I enjoyed octopus heads, blowfish caviar, and more octopus heads. Delicious. Luckily I had seen this video a couple days previously, thereby saving myself some awkward moments of gaijin impropriety.

Thanks to the Japanese comedy group ラーメンズ (Rahmens), for producing such a hilarious parody. Unfortunately the only websites that mention them are all in Japanese, so if you can read Japanese, by all means, どうぞ。

February 11, 2006

Joyce versus Baudrillard

A few days ago in a class lecture, Dr. Preston Houser, was talking about Joyce’s philosophy of aesthetics and desire, art and pornography. According to Dr. Houser, Joyce claims that porn incites desire for the object whereas art liberates us of the desire for the object. Through art we transcend desire.

I started thinking, is this really true? I remembered the writings of Jean Baudrillard who claims that through advertising and mass media pornography has ceased to exist because “it is virtually everywhere.” Art, too, has ceased to exist because the definition of the art object has been blasted wide open to include anything and everything and the only reason art presumes to exist still is because of the institutions that support it. Baudrillard says in the Conspiracy of Art:

The illusion of desire has been lost in the ambient pornography and contemporary art has lost the desire of illusion. In porn, nothing is left to desire. After the orgies and the liberation of all desires, we have moved into the transsexual, the transparency of sex, with all signs and images erasing all its secrets and ambiguity. Transsexual, in the sense that it now has nothing to do with the illusion of desire, only with the hyperreality of the image.

The same is true for art, which has also lost the desire for illusion, and instead rases everything to aesthetic banality, becoming transaesthetic.

The transaestheticism of art, then, was actually predicted by Joyce as he writes in Portait of the Artist, As a Young Man:
Can excrement or a child or a louse be a work of art? If not, why not?

Now we have seen excrement and pornography elevated to the status of art, so where does that leave us? Can art liberate us still? Or does art cease to be art when its motive is to shock the viewer into experiencing the visceral emotions of rage and lust?

Stephen Dedalus, the main character of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, explains to his friend Lynch that Lynch’s sexual impulses toward the work of art is nothing but a physical reaction to a stimulus, but that the work of art itself, or the work of the artist transcends that.

-”You say that art must not excite desire,” said Lynch. “I told you that one day I wrote my name in pencil on the backside of the Venus of Praxiteles in the Museum. Was that not desire?”

-”I speak of normal natures,” said Stephen. “You also told me that when you were a boy in that charming carmelite school you ate pieces of dried cowdung.”

Lynch broke again into a whinny of laughter and again rubbed both his hands over his groins but without taking them from his pockets.

-”O I did! I did!” he cried.

Stephen excludes Lynch’s actions from the realm of “normal natures,” but as I see it, this impulse to elevate so-called base bodily functions into the realm of fine art is now condoned and funded by institutions of art. Through this elevation, however, art has paved the way for its own eradication.

In contemporary art, the Lynches rule. Art no longer transcends anything, not even toast. Baudrillard tells us that art glorifies and proclaims its own “nullity.” It has nothing to do with beauty as Joyce would like. The secrets of aesthetics Stephen Dedalus tries to reveal are meaningless in the media-saturated, “hyperrealist, cool, trasparent, marketable” world Baudrillard says we live in. In that sense, art has outlived its function for transcendence and merely operates out of habit.

the Venus of Praxiteles’ backside. What does it incite in you??

February 3, 2006

If you want to see what Japanese graffiti looks like…


Originally uploaded by nattynattyboom.

You can look at my Flickr account. I just uploaded all of my good Japanese graffiti photos.

Thanks due

There is a Japanese translation of my article, “The Bombing of Babylon,” currently in the works thanks to Ian Lynam, a graphic designer who lives in Yokohama. Susan Farell, the editor of Art Crimes, forwarded him my research, and it turns out that he had also attended the Mito exhibit and taken some photos.

In turn, Ian read my article and offered to have it translated by one of his contacts. In such an understudied field as graffiti research it is great to see a network of willing participants who put forth their time and effort without the backing of grant boards or arts councils, getting the information out there and available for everyone. Thanks everyone!

On the left, here are a couple photos of the exhibit taken by Ian: If you want to see some other cool photos of the exhibit, check out these Flickr accounts- chipple (second from right) and pingmag (far right).

February 1, 2006

Graffiti in Japan

Last semester I conducted a research project on Japanese graffiti art, which was partly inspired by a major exhibition of Japanese graffiti writers at one of Japan’s foremost contemporary art museums, the Art Tower Mito. The essay I wrote, “The Bombing of Babylon,” is now published and can be found on the Art Crimes website, in their research section. This website is a great resource for photos, articles and interviews about graffiti from around the world. Especially if you7ve never given graffiti much of a chance, please check it out! It might just change your view of this fascinating art form.

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