Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Meeting of Styles" Chicago: We Are All Energy

So I have a lot, a lot, more to write about this festival but I wanted to say something briefly about what I took to be the ethos, the sense, of Meeting of the Styles this year, which was a kind of improvisation and generosity. Watching various artists paint (forgive my imperfect recollection of names) AIR crew, CBS Crew, NERD and PATH, STEF and DEMON, SUPHER, FLASH and CHUMBLY among many many others, and hanging out with a writer on hiatus, the kind OUTLET, I witnessed a kind of organic collaboration, communication through the vocabulary of color, and a shared sense of excitement and intense dedication. Starting around noon yesterday, facing large swathes of yet-to-be-primed walls artists had to take sketches on 8 by 11 inches of paper and transfer them to a scale of ten by eight feet, at minimum. They had to deal with random plant growth, a tree that stubbornly grew right up to a wall, uneven brick, confining alleys, and produce something fantastic.

Observing artists do an activity that is frequently understood as ego driven, but do so in a collaborative, generous way (sharing gloves, paint, ideas, smokes, beers) is a powerful reminder that art can startle us, change us, and open us up to different ways of thinking.

At 27th and Kedzie after interviewing Caesar (transcript to follow) I stood in silence watching, listening to the guys work. "I hate how these fucking white lines got fucked up!" a writer lamented-- "Fucking cans. But yo, just make your letters and I'll make it work " he suggested. The alley hosted the rhythms of gentle exhales, kind of a hissing and kind of a whisper, of spray cans, hinting at the life walls have and the imaginative resources they can offer to us.

This event is not without politics or controversy. Nothing is. But I felt lucky to be able to see artists from Texas, the Bay Area, Chicago, LA, New Mexico, Detroit sharing spaces, and sharing ideas. At the opening party on Friday night Illuminati Congo rhymed about how "we are all energy" and listening, smelling and seeing the outpouring of expression via aerosol cans across four different sets of walls in South West Chicago, there is visual evidence to prove his point.

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