Posts Tagged ‘graffiti’


Chiyo: Blink and you’ll miss it

November 27, 2011

I almost forgot about a really cool event going on in London today, and I’m glad that I remembered it last night, or I would have missed out on something that only happens once a year. I told my flatmate about it last night, and she wanted to come along as well, so around 11, after sleeping in we left the flat and set out on our adventure.

The event that only takes place once a year, is on Leake Street, where there is a tunnel. Blink, and you’ll miss it. This is the tunnel known for graffiti artists to express their inner ‘artiste.’ After visiting Berlin and seeing all the graffiti there, I really gained a better appreciation for wall art, and so when I heard about this event via Twitter, I knew I had to go see it. This event is a two hours long, and the theme changes every year. You literally get to watch them “do their stuff” live, and see the process from start to finish. There was music bumping, and they were all drinking beers. It was just a very laid-back environment, and you could tell they were in the moment. I’m not sure what the theme is this year, but I was glad I got to take part and be a witness to such a cool form of art. After we hung out in the tunnel watching the artwork come to life, Katie and I were hungry so we went to Slug and Lettuce for lunch before heading to our next destination. 

Once we finished with lunch, we were off to Kingston, which is a good 40 minutes from Waterloo station. Ever since I got out of London the first time a few weeks back, I haven’t been able to stop. It’s just nice to explore new cities, and it is a nice change of pace. The main reason why we went to Kingston was due to an attraction that we had heard about. There are these telephone booths that are tipped over like a domino effect, and the title of the work is called, “Out of Service.” It’s located right on Old London Road, and quite the attraction. Kingston was quite the lovely town, and on the way to Kingston via the train, there is a town called Strawberry Hill. After taking our pictures, we grabbed Starbucks (I spend wayyy too much money there…) and walked around the town. All the Christmas decorations are up, and I oohed and aahhed at them because they were so pretty. We stopped in a shopping centre nearby, and there were these Christmas decorations that at the top, open up like a blooming flower, and there’s characters inside of them(see facebook for pics). Katie and I popped into Esprit, where I have gotten her hooked on the clothes, and we both ended up making purchases. Shops close around 5 pm on Sundays in the UK, so we made our way back to the station to head home to get to our term papers. 

Back at the flat it’s just me, Katie, and Allie. We only have two weeks of school/finals left, so we’re all absorbed in writing our term papers. Time to get back to work!


One of the artists hard at work




Alex: Street art

September 15, 2011

I spent a large portion of my spring break hunting down the best of Auckland city’s street art.

Spring break here in New Zealand began on the third of September. By that time, most of my classmates and peers had made plans to travel, many of the them to the South Island, some to Australia, and others to pacific sites like Fiji. At this time, I had just received my financial aid package, so I had not had money with which to plan a vacation, and I was not in the mood to spend twice as much money booking last minute. I had hoped that this time would allow me to do much of the research for which I came to Aotearoa. So I decided that I would take advantage of my urban surroundings and go looking for man-made beauty.

I have had a fascination with street art for some time. As an adolescent it was just about the thrill and the danger, the possibility of getting caught. Growing up in a town of thirty thousand suburban (by which I mean white, middle class) people, I had little exposure to the art and craft that can be present in good street art. Living in Minneapolis, along with the media’s recent fascination with street art, opened my eyes to this underground art form. My fascination with taboo art forms could be not only a whole post, but perhaps a book unto itself. So in order to fill my time, find some art, and sate my insatiable need to walk, I devoted at least two hours almost every day over the last two weeks to comb the streets of Auckland for art.

I have learned quite a bit from this experience, primarily regarding the placement of street art. There is a delicate balance to be struck between visibility and surreptitiousness. Like any artist, graffiti artist want there art to be seen, but they prefer not be seen by the proper owners of the building or the always-understanding-of-artistic-expression police. So choosing a street is a matter of choosing one that is busy enough that enough people will see your work to warrant your time, but not so busy that it is regularly patrolled. One can easily tell which streets these are, because once one artist finds the balance, word travels fast, and soon the street is covered. Karangahape road (k’road), which is a fairly busy street just up the hill at the terminus of a few different main streets, is a prime example of this. It is covered in street art. From huge murals to simple tags and everything in between, it is fully decorated.

It also seems that either the laws on graffiti are different here, or the police are simply more understanding. More than once I saw street art being painted in broad daylight, albeit often rather nervously. I also found pro-police street art, presumably either painted or commissioned by the police themselves, which leads me to believe they are not so vehemently opposed to graffiti as American police. Also reinforcing this idea are the electrical boxes on the streets. I have seen only a handful of unpainted electrical boxes in all of Auckland. Since these are directly on the street in broad view, I presume they were not painted surreptitiously.

There is also a protocol as to which walls on which one paints. You will never, for example see street art on marble walls. There seems to be a tacit code which stipulates that only those walls which are drab or ugly should be painted. Street artists generally seek to add beauty, not detract from it.

So although I didn’t travel and I didn’t do much research, this was a productive and informative spring break. That said, I am quite jealous of my peers. I’m attempting to use this feeling to fuel a new vigor in my school work and research.


Meredith: The lettered city, alive and well

June 3, 2010

“El que no está en el gobierno no existe y el que no existe no habla.”
“He who is not in the government doesn’t exist, and he who doesn’t exist does not speak”

–From “La virgen de los sicarios,” by Fernando Vallejo

Since the time of Spanish imperialism, the “written word” has been intricately tied to power and freedom in Latin America. In his ground-breaking novel, The Lettered City, Ángel Rama identifies this relationship and discusses how it produced endless conflict between the “letrados” (educated elite) and the illiterate masses. According to Rama, “The principle explanation for the ascendancy of the letrados lay in their ability to manipulate writing in largely illiterate societies.” The educated urban elite imposed written laws on the masses, creating an almost mystical relationship in which the written word had the power to shape reality. Peoples’ actions were allowed or disallowed according to law, and actions outside the law were ignored, punished, or eliminated. Thus, the letrados oppressed the masses: “Within each visible city stood another, figurative one, that controlled and directed it.” This “less tangible lettered city” utilized “the order of signs, and the high priority of its function lent it a sacred aspect, freeing it from subordination to ordinary circumstances …This was the cultural dimension of the colonial power structure.”

As Rama has noted,

“Because [graffiti] is written on the wall, because it is frequently anonymous, because its spelling is habitually faulty, and because the kind of message it transmits, graffiti attests to an authorship outside the lettered city.”

This idea is thoroughly explained in The Lettered City, using examples from colonial times. Reading about this in a class, in a book, without a physical context and landscape to connect with, can make this seem something far away, irrelevant. Yet everyday, when I walk around the city of Buenos Aires, I see the struggle over the lettered city come alive. I see those who have no voice, or rather, no medium through which to make their voices heard, re-appropriating the spaces of the city.

the streets are ours

insecurity is the police

get out, Bush

we said, never again

ideas cannot disappear

without condemning punk rock!

so that everyone can speak



Christina: j’aime France et je crois que France m’aime aussi

January 28, 2010
Having missed my train from Paris to Montpellier, I had a few worthless American dollars in my pocket, a limited knowledge of French in my head, a sick feeling in my heart, and a 70-pound suitcase full of expensive perfume and uncomfortable shoes. This place was wrong, this life was wrong, I was wrong!

The wind started to twirl and the rain was sinking the ground beneath my feet and the tears were falling and the world was a disaster…until I made my first great discovery here. While I was frantically searching my dictionary for the words to purchase a new train ticket, I realized that the word for “cry” in French is pleurer, which really is a lot like the word for “rain”: la pluie. There was nothing that could have felt more wonderful or more right to me then. I was upset and worried and frustrated, but I was in the place of my dreams, a world where even crying in a train station feels beautiful. Now I am here and all is well. Feels like mystery, feels like hope, but still doesn’t feel like home (yet).

Everywhere I go in this frightening country, I see the left-behind musings of another. How and when graffiti art became such a vibrant part of French culture is something which, just a week after moving here, I have yet to understand. There are long, spidery webs of writing spun around old brick corners; garish cartoon faces splayed across city sidewalks; furious and ongoing debates between multiple authors scrawled on bathroom doors. By night the rain comes down and mixes with the multicolored threads of paint hewn on the wet walls, and the water leaves a viscous sheen that’s better than pure.

It’s elegant, really: the way something so inappropriate somehow feels so right here. Maybe the reason I love this graffiti is because it reminds me how much the people here feel connected to their home. I’m enchanted with the idea of claiming ownership over physical place, especially something old. I know I shouldn’t like this graffiti at all, and it’s something I never thought of as “French” before coming here. Yet now it fascinates me. It’s like a story contained within a wall; a life within a city; a world within an idea. I’m realizing that it might be the collective ownership of history that’s so compelling: how wonderful to think that I will one day be a part of this city’s past.

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