All posts in street art

The Rapture

Next time someone proclaims the world will end, you can get a rise out of them with a simple prank. Grab some old clothes and a pair of shoes (funny props are a good bonus). Scurry off to the nearest church or other religious establishment behind the alleged Judgement Day. Arrange clothing in a human-like pose. Voilà, a vaporized rapture victim.

@technollama, RIP, sent documentation from this weekend’s End of Days:

Abandoned Minature Cities

“In [Chinese artist Jiang Pengyi's] most recent series, titled Unregistered City, he further explores the present monuments to Chinese modernity – skyscrapers, contemporary high-rise apartments and the curves of Beijing’s express ways – but all done in miniature. Jiang sets his model cities in derelict buildings and vacant rooms that belong to the old world and that have been forgotten by the present.” via @berlinpiraten

After learning about Detroit’s ghostly copper-stripped-from-the-pipes-and-every-window-smashed $25 homes, it sounds like you could find such views along the Midwest’s Rust Belt, too.

Mickey Mouse as a Cultural Battlefield

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Mickey Mouse is a legendary symbol in the copyfight. Of late, though, I’ve been noticing a surprising number of Mickey references — in street art, activism, and high-end fashion — that are making me revisit the controversial Disney mouse.

In winter 2008 H&M had a front line of Mickey Mouse clothing, no doubt mainstreaming a sub rosa fashion cue that had inspired the likes of Rihanna and Cate Blanchett. Elsewhere this year, sneak designer Jeremy Scott rolled out Mickey adidas kicks, while Hong Kong had an entire luxury Disney collection, and Louis Park presented a (super-Flashy) tribute to the mouse. Admist all that, fashionistas are posting endless snaps of themselves sporting Mickey gear.

Entering the scene with a twist of critique are the blank-face Mickey Mouse prints by Oh Logo. Their “Do Not Wear” collection is “ripping icons from the collective memory and reducing and diversifying them into a visual experience.”

The Oh Logo motto builds upon the older Mouse Liberation Front, an underground coalition launched in the seventies by cartoonists rallying against Disney’s “corporate seizure of the American narrative”. The MIL is rediscovering itself in the digital age and adapting the cause to the current copyfight. Screenings of RIP! The Remix Manifesto, for example, is one way people learn about Mickey, lawsuits, locked creativity, and the liberation efforts.

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These developments interest me because they allude to an intersection of high-end / mainstream fashion with a political movement. Perhaps Mickey Mouse parallels what’s happening already with pirates — those daring outlaws who are stealing the limelight both in fashion and politics.

Come to think of it, pirates are pretty well-backed by Disney, too.

What do you make of the Mickey Comeback?

Suggested reading: Cory Doctorow’s debut novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Bob Levin’s Disney’s War on Counterculture.

Images: Classic serigraph by Oh Logo, Official member of the Mouse Liberation Front bysukisuki / CC NC SA

Illegal Street Knitting

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Walking around Kreuzberg a few months ago, I spotted my first “illegal street knitting”. Masquerade, the playful rouge knitters behind the guerrilla action, document their stitched streets bombs on their site and share their thoughts about the craftism movement. You might also catch their work on commuter trains. Apparently, the Masquerade crew likes to embroider messages like “kram” (Swedish for “hug”) into the fabric of the seats.

Check out the tourist map to see if there’s any unruly sewing your neighborhood. Better yet, grab some needles and spread your own yarn!

Artvertiser: Augmented Reality Replaces Ads With Art

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Wanna combine adbusting with bleeding edge gadgetry?

Check out this toy, the Artvertiser. It’s a netbook hacked with a video camera so it can recognize billboard advertising and overlay it with art images. Talk about product re-placement!

The project uses Free and open source software, and hand held devices are expected to roll out soon, particularly the Android. Judging by the demo video, these Spanish tinkerers live in Berlin. Anyone know them? I want to play too! ^_^

From their website:

The Artvertiser software is trained to recognise individual advertisements, each of which become a virtual ‘canvas’ on which an artist can exhibit images or video when viewed through the hand-held device. After training, wherever the advertisement appears, the chosen art will appear instead when viewed live through the hand-held device. It doesn’t matter whether the advertisement is on a building, in a magazine or on the side of a vehicle.

HOPE on a Slippery Slope

The most iconic 2008 U.S. election image is under fire. Shepard Fairey’s Obama “HOPE” poster is getting heat from Associated Press, the news agency that claims Fairey’s work infringes on AP’s copyrights.

For months, the internets have been a-buzz trying to identify the original photograph used in Fairey work. On January 14, netizen investigations led many people to believe that the original photo was taken by Reuters photographer Jim Young, who later admitted he hadn’t even recognized Fairey’s alleged spin-off of his repertoire.

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A few days later, however, the dust seemed to settle on the origins of the mystery photo. Flickr user stevesimula, among others, argued to have found a better match: an Associated Press photo from October 2006.

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Image origins aside, the HOPE posters have certainly generated a remix phenomenon far beyond Fairey’s initial piece. The portrait, and its many mutations, appeared on t-shirts, banners, screens, and pretty much everywhere else throughout the election. Obama supporters and critics alike found expression in the image, brandishing, commenting, and rallying behind the poster at innumerable occasions. What’s more, in our era’s true participatory fashion, the election saw countless spin-offs of HOPE, including the popular Obamicon.Me, which cleverly renders user-submitted photos into the now classic HOPE design. Some of the more popular images are worth a look:

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This whole wave of remixing, kicked off by Fairey’s poster but part of a longer political tradition, is an exciting and positive thing, demonstrating humor and parody and all the other important layers of cultural commentary that we as citizens are by law allowed to enjoy. Fortunately for Fairey, and for all us, really, Stanford’s Fair Use Project will be representing the artist against infringement claims. Let’s hope, for the sake of our collective sanity and cultural freedom, that AP sees the light and drops its charges.

Images: “Obama “Hope” source.” by MikeWebkist and “fairey poster photo source?” by stevesimula, both available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Screenshot from “Obamicon.Me“, created by author for the purpose of commentary under the provisions granted by fair use.

Photoshop Adbusting in Berlin Subway

A few days ago I tweeted about a clever “Photoshopped” Adbusting action in Kaiserdamm. The artist applied large overlays of Photoshop tool bars to a billboard featuring the heavily edited visages of The Brit, The Tina, and The Leona.

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Unfortunately, by the time I got out to Kaiserdamm to take my own pictures, a blank wall greeted me instead. Looks like the BVG moves fast.

Kaiserdamm post-adbusters

It’s a pity the BVG hasn’t bothered to take down the hideous “un”photoshopped originals hanging in Kotti and pretty much everywhere else in Berlin.

Still, if ad-busters don’t get to them first, maybe more subway stations could pick up on art initiatives like Glück gehabt! in Weinmeister Str, Bernauer Str, and Volta Str, where local arts impress billboards with ACTUAL ART. Their work is professional and poignant, and official art billboards give artists more exposure and don”t assault citizens with vacuous, pop filler-ads. Commuters are already captive audiences. Man, while in the Ubahn, I read every line of the Berliner Fenster and then some. Let’s put this undivided attention to good use and give Berliners something really worth looking at!

Images: Credited by “Crew: (FTW) / Mr. Tailon, Baveux Prod., Kone & Epoxy!” presumably under an undetermined CC license (see logo in photos’ bottom corner).

XOOOOX Cut Up and Gone: Why I Like Street Art

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I snapped this photo a while ago on a street near my office. I apologize for the bad quality — it was with my cameraphone. But what I really like about this image isn’t so much the figure or its style, but how the work’s message has changed since I first laid eyes on it.

A few months ago (or, at least, that’s when I first noticed it), Berlin street artist XOOOOX threw up the original stencil of the model, sans the cut-out lines. XOOOOX is one of the most well-known street artists in Berlin, whose work is about re-contextualizing high fashion through the manipulation of luxury brands and symbols placed in the “egalitarian” streets.

Recently, XOOOOX’s work was featured in an exhibition at the CIRCLEculture gallery, which is down the road from the stencil pictured above. A big name like XOOOOX drew quite a crowd, and many items were sold.

Then a few weeks later, there came a small protest. At least, that’s how I’m interpreting it. Another artist came along and painted the dotted “Cut & Go” lines around XOOOOX’s work.

What is this addition trying to say, I wonder? Is it in defiance to galleries and art markets, which take the “street” out of street art and sell urban works to big collectors, thus rendering the pieces high-end luxury items themselves? Or, are the lines instead augmenting XOOOOX’s own criticism of luxury goods — a comment on today’s fashion on the go, temporal and insatiable? Or, is the tag “Cut & Go” in fact from the nearby hair salon of the same name? A guerrilla attempt to advise with urban cool while fronting shameless commercialization and name promotion?

Who knows? I certainly don’t. Guess only the street (and the CCTV cameras) really do.

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Wikis Take Berlin!

Inspired by the successful Wikis Take Manhattan photo scavenger hunt held last week, Berlin free culture folks will take to the streets on Oct. 18-19 for the first Wikis Take Berlin. Armed with cameras and target lists, participants will comb the Hauptstadt’s neighborhoods, capturing its sites and street features to illustrate WIkipedia articles and other cool platforms like Wikitravel.

The photo-snapping Stadtbummel will be perfect for attendees of BarCamp Berlin 3, so fellow geeks coming to town for the Berlin Web Week, don’t forget your cameras and walking shoes!

Help draft a list of targeted sites! Come to the Wikipedia Berlin Stammtisch on Oct. 17 at 19.00 Uhr IN-Berlin, Lehrter Str. 53, Moabit and help flesh out the list.

Video from Wikis Take Manhattan | Streetfilms and The Open Planning Project | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 (sorry, can’t get it to load on WordPress…)

Kiss and Drive

After visiting the post-apocalyptic haunt of Louvain-la-Neuve, it was refreshing to see Belgians with a sense of humor. The “Kiss and Drive” signs at Brussels National Airport guide visitors to the passenger drop-off point, where families and lovers bid farewell with a kiss.

In a time of hyper-paranoia and over-regulation in airports, it’s charming to see a security sign that instead makes you smile.