Poetry of an unkonw people (2)

There is a street artist who paints on the street of New York with color chalks and leaves a short poem--he was just know his handle name "De La Vega" that he leaves with the drawings and poems. If you live in New York, you might have seen his remains on the street.

A sidewalk is a public space, so drawing or leaving something on a street is taken as a vandalism or a littering. Doing so is restricted only to those who are allowed by officials for his/her public title as an established artists. They are permitted to alter or leave something in a public space for the sake of public.

In SOHO. By tearing down a building in front, a wall painted with graffitis is reveald in a daylight. The construction walls are covered by new posters--as soon as a new space to post them, the empty space is filled with new posters.

Graffiti artists jumps over such fixed notion of a public art by their action itself, and they leaves something ridiculing such establishment. It is the manifesto by an unknown, ordinally people based on the action of creativity rather than the art as a product. Therefore the remains are lively and ephemeral that embodies such principle.

A very stylized graffiti intended to decorate the open surface

Street art is a statement to blur the standard to distinguish what is art and what is not--the line to decide what is art and what is junk. Or in other words, such standard is hung in the air to ask how vague such standard is. New York, especially in Halem or East Village, graffiti as an action attracts many young generation and it even functions as an outfall for a frustrated and suppressed mind. Even if such act of deflation receive a negative reputation in general public, as long as the reason for pushing them such behavior exists in a society, denying and criticising only the results will not cut to the core of the problems.

An abandoned pannel on a SOHO street. It looks like a lyrics of some song. It was there as if the pannel was meant to ornament the street.

In fact, those kids in Harlem seems to take graffiti as a thrilling sports. They sneak into the rail track of a subway at night and leave graffiti on the sidewall of the track. This train budging is to test his courage, and they compete how complete and creditable his graffiti is. Sometimes those kids loose their lives for this--I remember my classmate in a drawing class presented a graffiti-like collage commemorating the three kids who were killed in a subway accident for painting graffiti. And those memorial graffitis at some commemorative spots in New York--(ex. a spot where a car accident killed someone) becomes even glorious and solemnly as people keep adding something to the drawing.

De La Vega that I mentioned above, also uses the anonimity to blend into the side of a general public, or to keep his position in a general public. By leaving something small--a short but smart poem or a keen drawing--over and over and here and there, the chance to be seen by many people will increase, and some may feel something and receive the message.

The short poem or the drawing written in a chalk by De La Vega is so ephemeral that it disappears soon under the feet of passing peopel without even noticing. It is also difficult to "find" when you try to--you encounter with them by chance, a chance that becomes precious as it wouldn't recur. Sometimes, someone replies to his poem and the exchange of the though are recorded on the ground. De la Vega might not be a specific person but a group of people made up of general public, which gives the sense that poem or the drawing are the voices of many ordinally people. Or it might be his intention.

Sometimes Graffiti is drawn on an amazing space to show off its presence, but normally graffiti is drawn near the ground--the sign telling it is the product of an ordinally people. Looking up the sky between those building walls, what was he thinkig as he drew

De la Vega appeared in a newspaper (Village Voice article) that he was arrested on the spot for vandalism. Prosecutors asked for three months sentence but he received a judgement for a public service (in a sense, it is ironic)
The public opinion that was used to define the meaning of public and general opinion is so vague and unclear, once we compare this case with Christo, who recently produced "The Gate" project in Central Park. Christ has a vast publicity and popularity (?) that he can use, and his private project is promoted and implemented as if it were well accepted by a general public without a doubt. Such "private" project is affirmed by a public authority--then, what is the reason for discriminating the creative activities by those unknown artists like De La Vega?

The point where the piles of memories spill out

Those artists such as Keith Herring or Basquiat who became well known as graffiti artists, were accepted as artists by shifting from a glaffiti, which requires to keep repetitive and stay on a street level with anonimity, to a commodification of their produce as a product (a different type of repetition) by inscribing their name. Basquiat gradually lost his true creativity, and Keith went back to the street even after he became famous ( he was arrested many times throughout his short life)
The process of modern art is such commodification to supply signage to be well recognized by a wide range of general public--thus it is the result of a marketing prepared and produced by someone for some reason. Within this consumer oriented society, this is not something to be rejected or denied, as an art is absorbed by mass production field such as a design industry.
But then, for those artists who try to keep anonymity for their creative foundation, only a guerilla activities like the ways that De La Vega does, are left untouched.

A truck covered entirely with graffiti, parked besides a stylish modern looking restaurant. But the scenery doesn't look odd, and it becomes very New York daily scenery

The social status of an art today is so complex and vague, that the marketing and promotion of art is operated under the skin only to show the comprehensible aspect. Nowadays, such comprehensibility is an added value. Those who see deception there, or who seek for more natural compathy of a street, they would intentionally choose to be anonymous and unknown.

The torn and worn posters and the traces of paints reminded me of the lyric of infamous song by Bob Dylan,Blowin' the wind--The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind--

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

The words of an unkown is blown in the wind and float in the air of New York street. 


Graffiti・energy of a city/ poetry of an unknown people (1)

SOHO is now lined with those fancy brand shops. But as I walk toward Canal Street that divides SOHO and Chinatown, the scenery turns into the views of old warehouses.

Those buildings of SOHO with loft spaces held by an old cast iron columns still function as warehouses, supply storages, and small factories. We can see the loading and unloading of those supplies on the stone paved sidewalks.

Even though there are many spaces renovated for expensive apartments, the true face of such warehouse area has not changed dramatically. Those artists who actively participated in art scene from SOHO area might have received the energy from this jumble and haste. (Canal Street has a large art supply store called "Parl Paint," and the loft space of this store filled with various art supply illustrates the cluttered atmospher of those days)

The art hung in a clean, white space of SOHO gallery began to loose such energy of the streets, reflecting the daily lives of ordinally people. Gradually the artists began to feel isolated and ironic to the art scene in SOHO. Onto the walls of SOHO buildings covered with fancy materials and clean-flat paint, or the left over space hidden between the buildings, not just the artists but many people banged their frustrated energy as graffiti.


Even though they have been beaten by the wind and rain, teared and weared, small but bold message is painted over to be accumulated. Some has a really strong message, and it unites and gives the power to other graffiti around it.


A poster by WK INTERACT that I recently learned its name. There is the poster in the picture above this. His graffiti art suddenly appears in an open space of New York, but unfortunately such open spaces gradually disappeare as new buildings build up. His works also get destroyed or hid beneath the new surface, but that itself sounds very New York like with a positive cycle of a birth and rebirth.

The Republican convention was held in New York this year. (2004) Since Republican is weak in New York city, they used 9/11 incident to cut into New York supporters. Around the time of this convention, I found many posters and graffiti on a city wall and street. New poster covered up even if they were removed. Even the remains of the posters become a message.

By the way, the mascot character of Republican is an elephant. The original of this poster seems to be the Pieta by Michelangelo. The dead body of Christ is held in the arms of Maria, but here Maria is replaced by the statue of liberty. In addition, the shadow inside of the lying person looks like an elephant, the mascot of Republican. Right next to this poster, there was also a poster showing a funnel smoke coming from Brooklyn power plant turns into an aggressive elephant, with a short message beneath the poster possibly by the artist himself.

Those graffiti and posters are sank in the rain, without being noticed by anyone. The quiet voice of the city in this untouched scenery--it is one of my favorite view of New York.


everyday street

In the afternoon with a strong daylight--I found a scenery that I used to know well had been turned into a completely different picture. For paving the damaged street, the surface had been scraped to reveal different patterns.


It was bright with the glitter of the sand reflecting the sun light, while the ground surface with stripe patterns shows a strong contrast on the rugged ground. The stronger reflection of the sun light from the street caught me to a daydream as if everything that I know had turned into something unknown.


The rugged asphalt ground looked like a sand garden of an old Japanese temple, which might have made me see the illusion as the noise of the city receded in the dream.


Those invisible utility holes revealed their existence with a reflection like those stones in a sand garden.


When I came back after a while, the streetside trees were casting softer shadow in the declined afternoon light.



Room without view

From my room facing to the couryard, I see the very small and desolate space. The apartment on the other side might be under renovation, so nobody is living with all the windows are covered by veneer wood pannels. It is a quite depressing view, so I tend to keep the screen of my windows closed.

One day I noticed with the light and shadow on the closed screen. It was as if the light and shadow reflects my mind that noticed with it--or in other words, I overlapped my feeling over the image.






In this space of transparent void, my mind and spirit spreads out like a small waves to expand and shrink to fill the space. The stuffy air of the room is relieved by the constantly changing patterns of the shadow and light, and I am looking at the quietness turning into a transparent air of this space. The time in this space is also perceivable--it is not stagenant but fulfiling piles of moments.



I vaguely think about what I see--is that visible becuase I try to see something, or is that invisible even if it should be visible...? I just gaze into the shadows and light once again.






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