News Articles

Arab Art Breaks Spell of Oppression

How Arab revolutionary art helped break the spell of political oppression

Graffiti, murals and other dissident art have transformed public spaces and mobilised public opinion in the Middle East

    Julia Rampen and Laurie Tuffrey
    guardian.co.uk, Saturday 5 May 2012 08.00 EDT
    Article found here

In January 2011 the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali fled Tunisia. Ten months later, his giant smiling face appeared on the side of a building in the busy port city of La Goulette. At first people just gathered beneath it and stared. Then they started to get angry. Urged on by the crowd, a group of men pulled the dictator's image down. The poster crumpled – and revealed a second poster: "Beware, dictatorship can return. On Oct 23rd, VOTE."

Half-ad, half-performance, this was one of the examples of art as political statement selected by Professor Charles Tripp, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, who spoke at the University of East London on Tuesday night. He argued that graffiti, murals, posters and other visual art forms helped to "break the spell" of dictators like Ben Ali, continuing to mobilise protesters against threats to the revolutionary ideals.

For instance in January this year, as tensions between Egypt's interim military leadership and the crowds in Tahrir Square grew, the prominent street artist Ganzeer declared: "Art is the only weapon we have left to deal with the military dictatorship". When the authorities put up barricades around Tahrir, they were soon transformed by the city's artists. The use of visual tricks further undermined the installation of the barricades - many of these paintings simply depicted the forbidden street that lay behind.

At 23, the Spray Man Becomes Syrian Liberation Graffiti Matyr

A Syrian Graffiti Artist, Defiant Until Death

Original Article appears here

They called him "the spray man" for his graffiti that appeared all over the Syrian capital of Damascus. But in truth, 23-year-old Nour Hatem Zahra was an activist like any other activist.

He started protesting in Syria last spring. Back then, the opposition thought it would only take a few months to get rid of President Bashar Assad, as it had in Tunisia and Egypt.

Then Syrian forces started killing protesters, detaining them, torturing them. And the people started fighting back.

But still, there was Nour Hatem Zahra and his friends — organizing protests, hiding activists from the dreaded security forces, ferrying medical supplies to those who were injured but terrified to go to a government hospital.

Then late last year, Zahra got caught. Under torture, one of his friends had given up his name. Zahra later forgave the friend.

He was locked up for 56 days. As soon as he got out, he was at it again. He and his friends went around spraying the suburbs of Syria's capital, Damascus, with slogans against the Syrian president: "Down with the traitor." "To the trash heap of history." Pictures of the president with the word "pig" scrawled underneath.

A few weeks ago, Zahra and his friends declared "Freedom Graffiti Week." The Facebook page calls their work a mix of civil disobedience and peaceful expression.

Red Goat Stencils Cause a Stir in NY

March 2, 2012
How Graffiti Goats Became a Symbol of ... Something
By PETER APPLEBOME

Original is here.

KINGSTON, N.Y. — The red goats of Kingston came from nowhere. One day there were new, clunky white planters in the stockade district and then, mysteriously, in October they became canvases for about 37 stenciled goats, red on white, like ghost goats from another world.

And then the red goats went everywhere. Thanks in part to a Facebook page, the goats have become a favored form of graffiti art far from this Hudson Valley town — at the Marcy Avenue subway stop and the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, in Missouri, Michigan and Canada, at the Art Basel show in Miami Beach.

Shameless Marketing Blog Post About Movie Stencil Ad

NOTE: To see too many photographs of a legal, trademarked stencil, go here (for original posting)

We've left our mark in the name of Spider-Man. Permanently this time! Last night I was called on the phone I picked up in the Mark of the Spider-Man viral to meet up in downtown Los Angeles to participate in an incognito event around the city involving tagging the Mark of the Spidey on walls around Hollywood. It was awesome. And you can still see our work. This isn't the only city either, as groups have hit Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, and also coming up tonight, New York and Phoenix, too. Our group of 10 and the Mark crew took stencils and rode in a van around the city last night spreading the word of Spidey. Here's what went down.

Note: Before anyone says anything, this was a completely legal, virally-coordinated event involving Sony / Columbia Pictures in the background. All of the locations were marked and chosen and this was designed to be an "in-fiction" event for Spidey fans like us to experience. It is not meant to encourage illegal activity or vandalism and we did not just ride around choosing random walls to tag. That said, it was an awesome idea and if you know the locations, you can now find these Spider-Man symbols hidden all around the country.

Mad Graffiti Week in Egypt and Beyond

Graffiti week returns with calls to resume revolution
Author: Jano Charbel

Original Article Found Here: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/618131

In the run-up to the anniversary of the 25 January revolution, a street art campaign dubbed “Mad Graffiti Week” spread like wildfire across Egypt. The call for the event was announced on Facebook, Twitter and the blogs of Egyptian street artists and activists.

A growing number of Egyptian and foreign artists and activists, male and female alike, have responded to the call. They have painted their art and their messages on walls, not only in Egypt, but also in Germany, UK, Austria, Poland and Canada.

Most of the themes center around calls for completing the revolution, deposing the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and transferring power to civilian authorities.

Over the course of “Mad Graffiti Week,” three youths are reported to have been arrested — one in Banha City and two in Mahalla City — for acts of “vandalism.” These youths were reportedly detained, questioned and then released on the same day.

Graffiti and street art “are very powerful and effective tools of public expression,” said artist-activist Omar X-ist Mostafa. “This is evident in the fact that the police and army arrest people for painting graffiti with a political message, while the municipal authorities are constantly erasing and painting over it.”

New Yorker: Tahir Square (EG) Year in Graffiti

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/01/tahrir-square-a-y...

Tahrir Square: A Year in Graffiti
Posted by Wendell Steavenson
 

In the year since the landmark January 25, 2011, gathering on Tahrir Square, there has been a great exuberance of expression: theatre, documentaries, pop songs, political cartoons, and paintings. (I write about the past year in a post on the Nile View blog.) The Tahrir metro station was turned into a revolutionary picture gallery for some weeks; whenever there is a big demonstration, the revolutionary art syndicate posts satirical drawings all over the Tahrir branch of KFC. But amid all of the welter, the graffiti has plotted the year—tying nooses around Mubarak’s neck, lampooning Tantawi (the head of SCAF), commemorating martyrs, and riffing off of Egyptian cultural icons. I have become quite obsessed with documenting them all. (I think I have four or five hundred graffiti pictures now). Here, for the birthday of the revolution, are a few.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/01/tahrir-square-a-y...

Hanksy: Weirdest Interview Ever

EXCLUSIVE! AN INTERVIEW WITH HANKSY
by Reverend Jen
original article: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/jen/reverend-jen-hanksy-art-sh...

Last Friday evening, I was slumming in my pajamas when my elusive roommate, J.P., emerged from his room.

"Have you ever heard of the artist, Hanksy?" he asked.

"Banksy?" I said, thinking he was speaking of the painfully hip street artist.

"No. Hanksy. He makes Banksy-like images with Tom Hanks' face on them."

Maybe it's a result of the years I spent watching reruns of Batman, but I love secret identities. Plus, I am a big fan of early Tom Hanks, specifically Bosom Buddies. My ears perked up.

"I actually know Hanksy," he added. "He has an art opening up the street at Krause Gallery. If you wanna go, I could introduce you to him."

"Do you think I could get a world-exclusive interview?"

"Probably."

Being one of the least successful writers in history, I have never had a world-exclusive interview with anyone. Thrilled with the prospect, I agreed to meet J.P. there in 20 minutes. In the meantime, I texted my boyfriend, Courtney, and his friend, Gray, who were out on a beer run and told them to meet me at 149 Orchard.

Courtney called moments later.

"I don't think you wanna bother. There's like 10 people sitting in a circle talking and one of them is a naked dude. In fact, I think it's your friend, Tommy D. Naked Man."

Rojo and Harrington Interview Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey : Too "Street" For Corporate, Too Corporate For The Street (PHOTOS)
Posted: 07/ 4/11 12:20 AM ET

Shepard Fairey has grown up before the eyes of fans, peers and would be competitors. Undaunted by criticism he gets from both sides of his chosen vocation as a globally-known street artist, the man still has a great deal to say. His art has made its way into homes, museums, wardrobes and book collections in addition to all the walls--legal and illegal--and he pays the price and gains the benefit of all of it. A living conundrum, he embodies the sharp tongued anti-establishment, anti-corporate, anti-police state ethos of his formative years, while gradually beginning to resemble the middle-aged dad who so much of the punk generation rebelled against.

He raises money for individuals and organizations advocating for the disempowered or victimized, yet street art and graffiti kids who feel marginalized in their lives call him a sellout for making commercial work. Without the credibility of major shows, arts institutions, and collectors he could never afford to employ people who help him. Yet keeping it clean and doing legal walls costs him "street cred." How exactly does one become an authority on questioning authority? You try this balancing act, and see how far you get without a scrape or two.

How do you graffiti-proof public art?

4 July 2011 Last updated at 10:55 ET
From the BBC

Who, What, Why: How do you graffiti-proof public art?

Spray can Graffiti may be art to some, but it is seen as a nuisance by others
Continue reading the main story

A landmark sculpture project is at risk because of spiralling costs - including the budget for keeping it graffiti-free. How do you protect public artworks from vandals?

It was meant to be a towering monument - a 50m (164ft) white horse in the fields of Kent greeting Eurostar passengers to England. But now sculptor Mark Wallinger's so-called "Angel of the South" project is at risk because of rising costs.

The price tag for the Ebbsfleet Landmark Project (ELP) has gone up from £2m to £12m, according to reports, with the budget for removing graffiti over 80 years part of the revised bill.

Jeremy Novy - Queer Street Art

A Movement Defaced: Queer Street Art Fights for Legitimacy
By Jonathan Curiel
published: June 15, 2011
Jonathan Curiel on A Movement Defaced: Queer Street Art Fights for Legitmacy

Cover photo by Michael Cuffe/Warholian.

Inside his art studio in San Francisco's Bayview District, Jeremy Novy surrounds himself with the stencilwork that has burnished his reputation as a street artist of note. Of course, the koi are there. Even people who don't know his name know his aquatic vertebrates — colorful creatures that can be found on sidewalks across San Francisco, most prominently at Market and Laguna streets, where scores of the fish swirl outside the Orbit Room. In Novy's studio, though, the animals are crowded out by representations of people. Men, mostly. Queer men like the drag queen with the yellow beehive and bright red panties, and the young wrestlers grabbing each other's flesh. Then there's the stencil of a big pink erect phallus.

"That's my cock," Novy says matter-of-factly.

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