Kilroy Was Here, our column about street art, was recently published in interactions. In the time between finishing the article and its publication we’ve found a range of articles and links that go with it.
‘Gold Mountain’ history mural marred by graffiti [SFGate] – Murals, a legitimized and desirable form of street art are still vulnerable to others with spray paint. We call one “street art” and the other “graffiti” or worse, “tagging.”
Someone has written “easy girls” next to the group of 1940s Forbidden City cabaret dancers. The Chinese Telephone Exchange pagoda is obscured by spray-painted green scrawls. The likeness of 9/11 flight attendant Betty Ann Ong that was added to the mural in 2004 is almost covered by a bright orange tag. In 2004, it cost $25,000 to restore the mural. Even as the artist repainted the mural, taggers continued to mar her work. Security cameras were installed in 2008, but new graffiti appears nearly every week. Now, officials at Chinatown Community Development Center, which owns the apartment building on which the mural is painted, say they’re considering re-creating the mural somewhere else. So far the nonprofit has been cited for the graffiti, but has not paid any fines. “It’s impossible to keep up with taggers, and we don’t have the manpower or the funding,” said Cathie Lam, the center’s senior community organizer. It was “determined not worthwhile and too labor-intensive” to restore it a second time, she said.
Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression – We attended the first screening of this film. The movie, despite its extraordinary bias towards street art, was extremely thought-provoking. The screening itself was dramatic and intense, with the post-film discussion devolving into shouting, name-calling, and some gang-related threats.
A new breed of crime-fighter now stalks the urban landscape: the anti-graffiti vigilante. These dedicated blight-warriors stop at nothing to rid their neighborhoods and cities of street art, stickers, tags, and posters. Yet several of these vigilantes have become the very menace they set out to eliminate. In their relentless attempt to stamp out graffiti, they have turned to illegally and destructively painting other people’s property. VIGILANTE VIGILANTE is the story of two filmmakers who set out to expose these mysterious characters and discover a battle of expression that stretches from the streets to academia.
Graffiti Taggers Turn to Trees, With Some Possibly Harmful Effects [NYT.com] – Another disturbing example; where self-expression triumphs all other considerations.
Outside Elixir bar in the Mission district of San Francisco, graffiti taggers have left their mark — not on the wall, but on the living. Every tree on that 16th Street block has been spray-painted in shades of purple, red, white and black. “I can’t imagine why anyone would think that’s O.K.,” said Shea Shawnson, the bar manager. “What do you do to clean up a tree without messing it up?” In a city where graffiti abatement is swift — property owners are fined if graffiti is not immediately removed, and the city spends $20 million on the problem — taggers have discovered a way to ensure that their mark has staying power. Graffiti, taggers believe, is not easily covered or removed from trees without harming them. The vandalism has angered residents, and possibly threatened the health of some trees, which are remarkably rare in San Francisco because very few tree species are indigenous. The tagging also appears to violate one of the tenets of the graffiti subculture: it is supposed to be a reaction to urban life, not an attack on nature.
Street Art As Provocations To Change The World [design mind] – frogdesign documents a couple of powerful street art examples driving towards awareness, and ideally social change.
JR is a photographer and artist that describes himself as a “photograffeur.” He flyposts large black and white photographic images in public locations—in a manner that is similar to the appropriation of the built environment by graffiti artists. The idea is to show the world its true face by pasting photos of human faces across massive canvases. One of his most famous projects is called “face2face.” For this, he worked with Palestinian and Israeli citizens to explore the similarities of their daily lives, rather than focusing on the divisions; he highlighted fundamental human emotions. Israelis and Palestinians doing the same job—such as taxi drivers and teachers—agreed to be photographed crying, laughing, and making faces. Their portraits were then pasted without authorization from the local authorities in eight Israeli and Palestinian cities as well as on two sides of the wall that separate the two countries, demonstrating that art and laughter can challenge stereotypes. He explained his concept, by showing two portraits (one Israeli, one Palestinian) and asked them: who is the Israeli and who is the Palestinian. Most people couldn’t answer him. That’s when they understood that behind their cultural differences, they are very similar, and remain human first and foremost, and human with similar values!
Brian Barneclo painting “Systems Mural Project” [SFGate] – Yet another example of street art crossing over; here with an official authorized sponsored ‘landmark.’
“It will be a new landmark,” Barneclo said, pointing out that the painting near Seventh and Townsend streets will be the first thing commuter train passengers see entering San Francisco and the last thing cars zoom by as they take the Interstate 280 on-ramp from Sixth Street. “There’s nothing else like it.” Using large-scale icons, the piece aims to illustrate the many relationships between man and nature – from the nervous system to the solar system, computer operating systems to the ecosystem. “I’m just intrigued by how the world works,” Barneclo said. “It’s complicated, but I’m trying to boil it down and make a groovy mural.”