Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"How Philly Moves": Unleashed Images, Community in Motion

Around 4pm JJ shakes the hand of a nervous woman, who just minutes before had been flinging her arms around her head, pulling her knees up to her chest, and moving her shoulders with such fluidity that I felt my own muscle tightness start to melt away, now standing with her arms crossed tight against her chest, says that she is not sure she will be any good. He says to her: “Anything you do will be perfect. The only person who can mess up is me, and I will, but I’ll also take some good pictures too.” The music starts, strong drum rhythms, and, she takes center stage, opens her eyes and explodes into motion, arms thrown out, knees bent, hands making circles like birds taking flight. JJ follows her around the stage, sitting, almost lying on the floor taking a low angled shot, and then on his knees keeping the camera in line with the rapidly moving dancer. While he continues moving, now walking around the dancer, he circles his left hand, like a catcher signals a pitcher, and the lights change to create a snowflake effect, magnifying the greens of the dancer’s shirt and the smile on her face. The person keeping records of who danced when, the even coordinator, and the sound technician shimmy in their seats. Myself and another runner dance and shout next to the risers. Four minutes later the music ends and we all are smiling.

Watching JJ Tiziou work I recall Ariella Azoulay’s writings on the civil contract of photography. She argues that we are not spectators, we are participants in a photographic situation, and that the subjects of a photo are also members of a civic sphere wherein they have the right to demand to be looked at. An open dance call in Old City Philadelphia certainly seems to have less overtly political stakes than the context that Azoulay writes about, ongoing violence in Israel/Palestine and the layers of gendered violence that emanates from a militarized public sphere, but its very ordinariness helps to lay bare the potential that photography, public photography, has to bring different people together.

Azoulay argues that photography finds notions of property and ownership “foreign,” (103) and that it is a vehicle for citizens to “actualize their duty toward other citizens as…a partnership of governed persons taking up their duty as citizens and utilizing their position for one another…” (104), it is a way to “rehabilitate one’s citizenship” (117) because we all have a duty to look, or rather, to watch (14), and such a duty has no end (137). In other words, taking a photo provides a way for viewers to acknowledge the lives and bodies of others, but it also provides a way for the photographed subject to revitalize their own capacity for public communication, even if it is mediated through the viewer. The photographer then does not own the photo but creates a public, collective scene of ongoing communication.

“How Philly Moves” was the brainchild of JJ who liked the idea of “public photography.” It began as a project that was supposed to be an installation in a subway station, but after it failed to get elected he continued working on it, and then proposed it for the Gateway project that the Philadelphia Department of Transportation and Philadelphia Mural Arts Program were working on. It was to be a large scale mural on the parking garage of the airport celebrating Philadelphia via images of Philadelphians—dancing. JJ said:

When I was putting together the proposal for Mural Arts, I started processing my work more in the public art realm and realizing that even though I didn’t have any solid installations on my resume a lot of the stuff I have done has fallen in that vein of celebrating communities through image making, and then sharing those images back with them directly, and sometimes that’s been in a temporary slideshow projection kind of digital installation and sometimes stuff through the web that ends up all over people’s facebook profiles and stuff like that. […]The photography realm has changed a lot with the transition to digital [media] and it has made it so much easier to share imagery. It’s a different model. I feel like there are so many people practicing photography as a public art without thinking about it that way. […] I make these images and I can share them straight with my audience. I don’t have to exhibit anywhere, I just upload them to the web. (Interview March 2011)

Often photography occurs in public, in advertisements, for purposes of surveillance and control, and in portraiture, but it is not always for and of a broader public. Current presumptions about ownership and copyright dictates that photographs are the domain of their producers, the photographers, not the photographed, or viewers that want to repurpose them. Unofficial laws about beauty and power dictate who can even be a photographic subject. For an art that has such a technical capacity to be used by nearly everyone, and the reach almost every corner of the globe, it is controlled, and represents a very few in the mass media public sphere. JJ explains:

Everyone photographs the same way you know like when they are comfortable when they are excited when you have that real smile at that real moment you can get beautiful images of them and it has nothing to do with what their background is nothing to do with what situation they are in and how much money they have and everything else if they are comfortable and they are happy you are going to get a good image of them. It has to be well lit and everything else but its definitely something where my eyes tell me that there is a sort of universal value to everyone, but, the media market tells me that some people are more valuable than others. And there’s a big disconnect there between some of my priorities and the mainstream media markets, and I find a lot of value in creating imagery about the communities that I respond to and that I value inherently and then in sharing those images directly with them. (Interview March 2011)

JJ’s comments illuminate the capacity that photography has to make things public by making them accessible, not just in terms of photographic subjects receiving their images over the web and then being able to share them, but also that everyone can be photographed and everyone can be photographed well. The medium of the photographic still also equalizes dancers by showing crucial moments, rather than letting viewers criticize their technical abilities as one would in a longer film sequence. Finally, JJ uses his own photography as an equalizing model by making “bad shots” available as well, opening up the editing process by breaking with the notion that the photographer (auteur) knows best and instead allowing for a larger set of people to apply their varied perspectives and investments in the photos by using and disseminating them on their own, via facebook and other social networking devices.

It is precisely the idea of community actualized at the level of emotional (affective) attachment that attracts me to this project. Even though it has received large scale publicity as a “Gateway” project, a new “postcard” for the city (How Philly Moves Mural Site) which seems to suggest that it communicates at an abstract, global level, it in fact works on the level of the “hyperlocal” (TIziou). As a project that has appeared on the 36th street storefront, on the Kimmel Center at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, online, at Gallery East on 9th Street and Market, on the airport parking lot and in terminal B it is about different kinds of mobilities (how Philadelphia(ns) move). It also performs mobility in communication and emotional networking as well by having multiple potential sites of inscription and actualization, but all of these sites, across the city, link back to concrete bodies (of the dancers), experiences and memories that shape their movements that are incredibly intimate. However the content of these different dances condensed in the bodies of the performers and represented in JJ’s photos also testify to the way that this “hyperlocal” is also transnational at the same time—it demonstrates the multiple scales and spatialities that collide in any urban space and community.

Greeting dancers and then walking them up to the performance space at Christ Church Neighborhood House during the fourth photo shoot I saw tribal belly dancers, Moroccan belly dancers, Irish step dancers, West African dance, East African dance, rhythm tap, ballet, modern, a traditional Indian dancer, an Indonesian dance collective, hip hop that had a kind of west coast languid flavor, an eight yer old in a sequined go-go outfit doing the mashed potato and other 1950s sock hop moves, and free form club dancing. These different styles have a multiplicity of origins, and for some dancers tether them to homes that are elsewhere (India, Africa, Indonesia, Ireland), or to a certain vision of America (1950s bee bop, 1940s images of Uncle Sam and the Good War), or to a certain sense of themselves (learning about how their bodies feel different after disease, after age, after childbirth, all contained in a four minute dance).

What the airport mural, and other expositions of the photos offer, is not a neat picture of how to understand and consume Philadelphia, but a complicated, emotionally charged set of connections that spill outside Philadelphia’s borders, overlap in different ways within it, and create an image that is explosive, blurry, and constantly in motion. Asking JJ about whether he worried that “How Philly Moves” might turn into “How Philly’s Marketed” he noted:

I think its challenging because these things this project is trying to touch on is on the hyperlocal. Its on the level of the individual. And so much of what Philly has that’s amazing is its skill and its communities and its people and its hard to some that up in a glib advertising slogan. Sure, how Philly moves can be the next advertising slogan for the city and they could do billboards and ad campaigns and what not but its something where you know I think that when you are really trying to reach a broader audience through the mass media sometimes you have to simplify the message a little bit. Because I guess I haven’t looked a whole lot about how Philly is marketed, I know “Philly is more fun when you sleep over” and those “dear such and such letters” and… what I hear from a lot of friends like visitors is [go see the] Liberty Bell and [eat] cheese steaks-- that is what Philadelphia is. Those are both great but there is so much more …it is hard to go out and find out and hear about that stuff but its so worth because there is no lack of exciting things to get involved with and people who are actively working to make the city better, more livable, more just for all, more beautiful and safe. The thing is that if you like stay at home and kind of watch TV and don’t get out and get involved beyond main media campaigns its hard to access. You have to seek it out. (Interview March 2011)

JJ explains powerfully how communities are complex and can never be presented on a silver platter. What his comment also evinces is that one can never fully know or grasp the entirety of a city. In a sense, cities and their communities have a level of opacity, they are in motion and escape being pinned down or captured.

What the “How Philly Moves” photo shoots offer then is a civil contract that has no definite endpoint—they generate conversations, friendships, emotional connections, and lines of potential that run ahead of any neat advertising campaign. The photographer, photographic subject, and viewer occupy equal positions with respect to interpreting, creating, and disseminating the photography. Even though the mural that resulted from the first three photoshoots created a grand tableau that is technically fixed in space, the images themselves resist becoming static. Their blurred edges and sometimes obscured features (due both to the architectural impediments of the parking garage itself and rapid movement of the dancers and blurred faces as a result), along with the fact that it is a painting of a photographic still, not a film, leaves it up to the viewer to wonder what might happen next. The image does not try to show all. It is precisely this uncertainty, and wonder, that makes it possible, and necessary to continue the task of constructing and reconstructing community through image making.


Azoulay, Ariella. The Civil Contract of Photography. Zone Books, New York: 2008.

Tiziou, JJ. Interview with Caitlin Bruce, March, 2011.

Many thanks to JJ, Rachel Kantra Beal, and the other volunteers who let me share and learn at this event.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Viva México: Monumento de la Revolución and Voicing La Gente

Mexico is fantastic because there are an abundance of places, at least in the city center, where you can stumble onto something that occupies an insane conjuncture between genres, times, or even designated purpose. This is very much the case with public monuments.

I am staying quite near the Monumento de la Revolución and because it is a much more spiritually uplifting sight than the mall on Paseo de la Reforma by Madrid, I walk through it often on the way home. Also the woman who works at the EXXO store where I buy daily water is really kind. As I walked west to the monument I heard a speech over the loudspeakers-- heard not understood. Buying my water I asked the girl "Qué pasa alla?" "Manifestación. Todo el día." She rolled her eyes a bit. Getting closer I saw three big Ciudad de México health trucks, I suppose in case people had heat exhaustion or other problems. Policía cars circled the monument. A crowd surrounded the monument, and flags waved, big SME flags with a fist symbol, and was facing a podium on the western part of the monument. Though far away the stage was illuminated with a reddish light, and it was clearly packed. Children played ring around the rosie, and some people sat on lawn chairs. Candy and refresco and cigarette vendors passed by "Diez diez diez!" Mostly men. They stood close together, giving hugs periodically, hands on shoulders. The speaker had a loud deep voice, and was asking to see the hands of Mexicans, to know they were were. Hands were raised and people yelled "VIVA!" The speaker continued saying that they are continuing the fight of the trabajadores "La lucha es continuando" and that they will survive until 2616, that things will improve, and that the light will not go out. He mentioned that there are fights all over the world, in the U.S. in D.C., New York, San Francisco, that workers are fighting all over (presumable about Occupy Wall Street). He concluded his speech saying "Viva Sindicación Electricidadores de México" "Viva!" "Viva México!" "VIVA VIVA" and then a chant started "AQUI LA FUERZA DEBES VEN!" Vuvuzelas reinforced the call. The chant continued while another speaker took the microphone, and in less polemical tones reminded the crowd to vote for a new labor leader, because the compañeros are the arm of the lucha.

This snippet of the protest I experienced is a reminder of the vibrant role that public space can play, and in particular places of memory. The monument contains the tombs of major revolutionary figures, and it is an active everyday place for youth, families, couples-- in short it lives. The copresence of vendors, both with carts and with full tents set up, and governmental health vehicles and health information centers suggests that the figure of "revolution" is understood as a way of life, not a fundamental rupture. It is a form of sharing space, communicating affectively, and resuturing social bonds, not necessarily breaking them. The SENSE: the rhythm, tone, and force/fuerza of the speaker, combined with the participating of the large group (union workers in hats, children playing, vendors hawking their wares) created a scene that was coded, by the "VIVA"s and signs and banners as a "political" moment meant to be of a heightened intensity, but really it is an intensification of everyday scenes of communication and public part-taking. Walking to the train station at Hidalgo in the morning I pass a graffitied parking garage door that says "Zapata lives in all of us," waiting to dash accross the road in Coyoacan I see a spraypainted sentence on Bosque Coyoacan walls exclaiming "Calderón = Narcogobierno", another criticism of government on Paseo de Reforma, and on a rooftop across from Museo Estaquillo in Centro Historic, and so forth. The content does not much change but the form does. The aura of the monument and the ritual element of signs with icons like the raised fist helps provide a readability and legibility to political events. A framework for people to occupy and then invent within. Highly conventional public spaces, such as public monuments, while sometimes "background" provide repositories for emotional energy to be transferred, built up, and transformed. The silhouette of the monument to the side of the speakers provided a physical reminder even to a foreigner, that something of import was taking place. Viva.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Hombre Controlador del Universo": International and Nation-Binding

I spent time today at the archives in Centro de Artes Naciónal (CAN), and in the Biblioteca de Artes Naciónal, going through the ample periodicals folder that has been assembled in the Centro de Investigacciones by several Mexican scholars that have scoured the Archivo General de Nación and the Hemeroteca Nacionale. Archival work I am learning is kind of parodoxical because to find what you need, you need to know what you need, but the reason you are looking is because you don't know about it or haven't seen it. At least in my case, as a rookie researcher. Luckily Rodrigo Bazaldua at CAN was kind enough to bring me their archive index, and let me point to what I thought I needed, and then weed things out from there.

After four hours taking pictures of periodicals, and a run to a tacquiera, I entered the large Biblioteca where Rodrigo told me I could find more on the history of Bellas Artes. The entire Centro de Artes campus is this amazing, modern, airy, angular and then curving open air structure, with green spaces scattered throughout. There was classical music playing in the library. There were giant tables. I was in heaven. Then I learned that you had to submit "papelitas", small papers with all of the item info and your personal info on it, and a librarian had to search every book out themselves. I was immediately guilty for what was a bit of a fishing trip. Two hours later, nestled at the end of the line of tables with a view of some glass walled classrooms and the campus green, leafing through some history of Bellas Artes texts I found what the equivalent of bread crumbs to an academic: at the end of the copy of the original Palacio opening booklet a few paragraphs about the Orozco and Rivera murals. Not much, but a few lines explaining how they clashed with their site, because of the colonial building design. Yesterday reading the catalogue from the "Quimera" 70th anniversary exhibit, in an article by Nestor García Canclini I learned that many foreign visitors use the Rivera "Hombre Controlador del Universo" mural as a way to speak about international issues, even though it is in a building that was meant ot be for the Meixcan people. More of the Bellas Artes texts confirmed that Bellas Artes is a destination and a departure point for a growing international art scene. A comforting paradox that when foreign visitors go there to find Mexico, they also might find home.

Me quedía a los archives del Centro de las Artes Naciónal y la Bíblioteca de las Artes Naciónal hoy, y estaba buscando en ricos archivos lo que he haciendo para scoláres méxicanos quienes buscaban en Hemeroteca Nacional, y los Archivos Generale de la Nación, y otros. Trabajo archivado es un parodijo porque un persona debe que buscar algo que no sabe, pero, buscar tiene que conocer lo que necessita, pero el eso por buscando es porque no he lo visto o no he lo supe. En el caso de mio, como una investigadora nueva. Suertemente, Rodrigo Bazaldua me ayudó, y amablemente me traigo los indices de los archives por que yo podía elegir lo que necessito.

Hasta que cuatro horas de tomiendo fotos de periodicos y revistas, y un comida corrida, me entré la Biblioteca, un lugar dónde Rodrigo me dijo que podría encontrar mas informacion sobre la hístoria de Bellas Artes. Todo del Centro del Artes es fantastico: moderno, llena de aire, con angulos y circulos, y ubicaciónes de verde. Musíco clasico estaba jugando en la biblioteca. Estaba en cielo. Entonces, aprendé que tenía que dar un papelito al official de la biblioteca para recibir un libro. Imediatemente sienté culpable por mis investigacciones indefinitivo. Dos horas despues, comoda a un mesa grande, cerca de las ventas con una vista de una edificio con paredes de cristal, leyendo alungas historias de Bellas Artes, encontré un indicio. Al fin de un libro de comemoracion, que contiendo una copia del folleto originale de 1934, dice: algunos frases sobre los murales de Rivera y Orozco. Nada más, pero, unas lineas sobre la contradiccione de los murales con el edificio de estilo colonialismo. Ayer, leyendo el catalogo de la Setenta Años de Bellas Artes "Quimera" exhibicion realizé, un un articulo para Nestor García Canclini que turistos extranjeros al museo con frecuencia ven elementos familiar y internacionale en los murales, aunque Bellas Artes es un edificio por la gente mexicana también. Más textos sobre Bellas Artes confirmen que es un destino y sala de embarque for muchas artistas en una scena de artes internacional subiendo. Una paradoja que se pone tranquilo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MOS Chicago: Interview with OUTLET

Interview with OUTLET Sept 17, 2011, 4pm 49th and Ashland:

I ran into OUTLET at the 30th and Kedzie wall-- she asked if I was a writer and I said no. She said "I'm just taking photos too." I mentioned that I was heading over to the 49th and Ashland wall in a little while, taking a couple buses, if she wanted to come with. Without a second thought she told me she had a car, could give me a ride, and gave me her number. Little did I know that I had met one of the coolest and reflective folks ever, and that through OUTLET and her friends I would be able to see the intensely loyal, funny, friendly and caring aspects of graffiti culture, just through hanging out. by hanging out with OUTLET I learned that graffiti is an art but its also a form of community and a way of sharing time and space with others: it can be an extended family. OUTLET is not currently writing, but she offers the perspective of someone who knows the world of graffiti, but also is a supporter and an audience member. Her thoughts on MOS might help us think about what it means as a thing for communities. Thank you OUTLET for your thoughts and kindness in helping me get around to do the rest of these interviews!

CB: When did you start painting?

O: I want to say that it was in 2002 I believe and I stopped around 2004.

CB: What got you into it?

O: I guess it started when I started doing murals with an art organization and then turns out a lot of people that were into the murals also did some graffiti so it just went from there, it was just something I wanted to do. It wasn’t as easy to get a mural as easy as it was to do graffiti.

CB: Because of funding or wall space?

O: Because of time and effort. Kind of thing. The paint was kind of another thing. It was kind of easier to go look for the colors that I want and not worry about how expensive it is sure its just about the same price but I mean I don’t know some how it was just availability of it that made it more intriguing, like “If I go get this can, then I can go paint on a wall.” Instead of, I gotta get brushes, I gotta look for all these other materials, then I gotta come up with an idea, then I have to come up with a design. And most of the time before I went to paint I had an idea but it was very lackluster, not sure, just unsure and when I got there it just kind of came out.

CB: Where or from who did you learn?

O: I didn’t really learn. I wouldn’t say I learned. There is a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn.

CB: Do you have any favorite graffiti artists?

O: Uh, jeez. So many. I don’t really know. Favorite favorite? Its really hard to say.

CB: Just some people you admire.

O: Dime…I’ve been out of it for so long I cant even recall..a lot of European graffiti artists are beyond dope. Here in Chicago theres not too many that I know personally but I see their stuff up all over. Like RISK, ZORE, SUPHER from Texas, theres a lot of good graffiti artists in Texas too. A lot.

CB: Have you gone to Meeting of Styles before?

O: Yeah.

CB: Just in Chicago?

O: Yeah.

CB: How many have you gone to?

O: Three and then in San Antonio they have this event called Clogged Caps and I think they haven’t done it for a couple years but back when I was there they did it like twice and that was awesome, it was pretty much similar I guess like the people and the styles always changed depending.

CB: In Chicago have you noticed any changes in the festival over the past few years?

O: Not much ahs changed. Its about the same. The community is about the same. When you actually get to know somebody you realize that its just it’s like having a block party only you are painting together instead of having the kids around—its like a big party for adults that love to paint.

CB: How would you feel if there were no more Meeting of Styles?

O: this year like I said I haven’t been back into art for three years about, I’ve been doing my own thing quietly in my room, you know but nothing that brought me out, and when I did come out first person I met was in graffiti and its just like a community you cant get away from it—everyone knows somebody who is into graffiti. Anywhere and everywhere you go. Its just like the from the ground up venture back into art, and that’s always just been the way it is, I don’t know why that is. It all comes from somewhere and yeah it would really suck if there were no Clogged Caps or Meeting of Styles or any kind of graffiti events because I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself. I wouldn’t know where to start again. I couldn’t just go back into a gallery and be like oh wow I love this art because you don’t know what to look for, you know what I mean?

CB: So its like an entry point kind of?

O: Yeah, absolutely. A gateway. A gateway graffiti.

CB: That’s great, Meeting of Styles the Gateway Graffiti. But it sort ofi s though – do you think the festival is just for graffiti artists or are they communicating with some other people?

O: Absolutely not. There’s music, there is hip hop, all kinds of elements of hip hop involved there’s writers there is not just graffiti writers people that sing people that dance, all kinds of people. Awesome. Awesomeness. And just like in any art culture you are going to find all of that: poetry, and spoken word and all of that kind of similarity. Its just like a great kidn of a-b-c-d-e kind of a grade category.

CB: When you did write how did you document your work?

O: Photos, mostly. Some sketches I never ended up doing the sketches.

CB: Did you use facebook?

O: I didn’t never for graffiti no, uh uh. Haha. There are a lot that do but I don’t .

CB: Did you ever try to network with other writers, other artists that weren’t in Texas?

O: Um, I guess sort of kind of. I just knew people that I knew. I didn’t meant to meet them and I wasn’t like ‘hey I need to go talk to that person because they are into graffiti’ but people just said I know this guy up there and you should meet him. And I said okay, if, if, maybe we will be at the same place at one time. And that’s pretty much how it has happened. Like meeting of styles.

CB: what do you think the importance of- well this wall is a good example- having like an Austin writer next to a San Antonio writer next to Chicago writers – what do you think the importance of that is, sort of bringing people from different places together?

O: relativity, I guess. The relationship that brings everyone together. Like unity. Like an unspoken word like anything and everything that you want to say all together. And its awesome because you see one piece next to another piece, and those people may or may not know each other. They may or may not be form the same area or anything like that and they are speaking they are next to one another and they are speaking, so its awesome.

CB: Do you have any concerns about the future of graffiti?

O: You know politics always plays a part, so I odnt know im more concerned with the economy I guess because the way I see it is there is always gonna be graffiti where there is people. You don’t have to say what they are thinking all the time, and if they don’t get to say it then they’ll spray it.

CB: well thanks for your thought provoking answers.

O: You’re welcome.

MOS Chicago: Interview with CAESAR

I met Caesar last year at Meeting of Styles-- he did a really cool piece of a giant pigeon for the opening night gallery show. Running into him again he agreed to do an interview with me, and I got to see his crew, and a Detroit crew paint for a few hours. His reflections on how graffiti doesn't need to be immediately legible, that in fact the lack of certainty makes it fit in with the definition of "art" is a strong rebuttal to what many critics of graffiti say defines it as "barbaric." Thanks to Caesar for his time, and his thoughts. Transcript below:

Interview with CAESAR of AIR Crew September 17th Noonish- 27th and Kedzie wall

CB: You told me you started writing when you were thirteen—what made you get into it?

C: Break dancing. I got into break-dancing and it was like the natural thing to do and I was always into art, you know, and so then that’s when I first started like trying out letters and stuff and from that point- we grew up in a train yard, over near Stone Park, and me and my friends went a lot to the bottom of the rains and that’s where the majority of my graffiti went to, to those train yards.

CB: Did you sort of learn on your own?

C: No there were people that were better than me that were older that were getting me into it you know but not a lot as far as my own style I got into college when I was about 17 18 I joined CF and I started learning under other people that were really awesome graffiti artists before me.

CB: Who would you say are your top inspirations?

C: I have to say SOLO from Chciago, CHU CHO, HYDE (HIDE?) yeah a lot of those guys, GNOME, he was pretty inspirational and like POSE he’s got a lot of dope stuff.

CB: Where do you think the most boundary-pushing graffiti art is being done in Chicago?

C: Like what area of Chicago?

CB: Yeah.

C: I think they are all around. I think you get clusters of talent in different areas, there isn’t just like one side where everyone is the best and stuff is the best I wouldn’t say that just about graffiti but about art in general.

CB: Did you go to art school?

CB: I went to American Academy, and I went to Italy, actually, I studied in Florence academic style painting I actually do paint illustrative style work.

CB: Do you think that’s impacted your graffiti writing?

C: Yeah to the point where its changed it like it really stopped me doing letters I haven’t done letters in like 10 years. I just decided to stick to doing characters and backgrounds and stuff because that what I was really favorable about- I was more into comic books, stuff like that, that was a huge influence on me was going to college. It influenced me to do more character based stuff.

CB: You said you painted at Meeting of Styles four times—is it in little village every time you were there?

C: The last two times was 37th and Kedzie that’s one of the main walls and then the last two times was here on this side.

CB: Do you feel like you have more of a connection to the neighborhood because of meeting of styles or is it more just like a wall to paint on?

C: Um, honestly for me it is just a wall to paint on but it’s a crazy neighborhood its really cool but I’m not super familiar with it- I’m not from the south side originally, I’m from the North and the West side.

CB: Do people ever come up to you and talk to you while you are painting?

C: Yeah yeah you do get people who come up to you and talk. Telling us they either like it or we should change it up to do something else, you know, everyone’s got an opinion.

CB: Do you try to integrate their opinions?

C: At times, at times I’ll think about it. I’m like maybe you’ve got a point but for the most part I pretty much know what I am doing, like the colors I’m using.

CB: What do you do to prepare for Meeting of Styles?

C: We had two meetings before it, just to figure out what we wanted to do, what the themes were gonna be and stuff like that. So we’d start out with that.

CB: I thought I heard you say—you had over 200 cans of paint—is that how much you need for a production like this?

C: Probably a little more.

CB: That gets pretty expensive how do finance that?

C: You are talking about almost $2,000 walls. Everyone buys their own paint basically, drop maybe 100 dollars.

CB: So that’s one advantage to working in a group?

C: Yeah we just buy a bunch of paint, we buy a bunch of bucket paint.

CB: How would you feel if there weren’t any more meeting of styles in the future?

C: Well it would suck. It would be horrible you know this is fun we are just aout here doing production walls being peaceful, painting, just hanging out not really causing any problems or anything like that just trying to make sure still doing this without having the hassle of getting hassled.

CB: What’s your reaction when you have a work and someone vandalizes it or—

C: Oh! It pisses me off! I get upset about it, who wouldn’t, Buddhists, wouldn’t, I myself am not a Buddhist.

CB: What do you do to document your work?

C: I take photos. I have a really nice camera, high quality camera and I take photos of everything and then I make sure that I put it on the internet and that I have backups of everything.

CB: Whats your favorite kind of storage, website?

C: I usually use flikr,

CB: Do you usually participate in Chicago Graff Net and those types of forums?

C: Not really, mostly because I’m really just trying to focus on my own stuff, and I still get into graff I don’t do a lot of it anymore, I’m thirty-one and I still get drunk and bust tags and shit here and there but I don’t climb water towers…

CB: But you did in the past?

C: I don’t do a lot of water towers, I did a lot of trains. A lot of underpass walls and shit like that, rooftops and stuff in the summers. Mostly trains, I like trains a lot.

CB: Did you have run ins with the cops doing that stuff?

C: You know sometimes. Sometimes we’d just stay here, and they’d be like “what are you doing?” and we’d just show them what the fuck we were doing or be like “look at what we are doing its fucking awesome!” and you know its worked a couple times.

CB: How do you network with other writers? Do you use this event?

C: Sort of. I don’t really put myself into the whole graffiti thing as much as I used to. I mostly network now with production artists you know like if they are into graffiti they are doing piecing so like a lot of times—actually facebook is a great way to network.

CB: What are your thoughts on the importance of having international artists here?

C: I think its great I think it brings a whole different style and whole different view of what these cats do. Because you understand in other countries they paint differently they have different paint, they have different means of doing things that we wouldn’t consider doing.

CB: Are you worried about Meeting of Styles getting commercialized?

C: Not really. I mean no because there is no real commercial graffiti artist and if there is so what. If it brings more attention to it and if it makes it bigger, I am all for it. Its going to make a lot more kids get into graffiti, and the problem with that is you are going to start over-saturating it with bad graffiti artists, and just bad writers that don’t have hand-styles that aren’t good at writing. That’s my problem with a lot of kids today, they just substitute their style and technique in painting with just the fact of getting up.

CB: So its more rather than quality?

C: To me its like, if you are going to get up, make it look really good. If you are going to get caught by the dude who’s garage you are painting on you’d better make sure that that shit came out dope as hell for him otherwise you deserve to get your ass beat. That’s kind of the way I feel about it. Yeah you are damaging someone’s shit or you can justify it by saying ‘actually, I am making this a lot better than it was before.” If I ever got something vandalized, and it looked good, I would leave it up. I’d just keep it up.

Writer 2: Yeah if you do it with style, why not! Yeah if someone puts some wack shit up you are just like “damn”

C: Yeah then I’d buff it. If you do that I buff it. If you put some dope shit up I’ll even put up a sign that says “do not buff this.”

Writer 2: That’s tight.

Caesar: that’s true. Its free art. You are getting free art. M--- that would pay thousands of dollars for it—like Basqiuat used to go around rich as hell writing on peoples’ shit.

CB: Do you think Meeting of Styles is for graff writers or a broader audience?

C: I think its definitely for a broader audience—it wouldn’t just be for graff writers if it was outside. And there was something specific for graff writers it would be in tunnels. Whereas, when you do pieces like this this is trying to transition the general public to liking what graffiti can be.

CB: Do you think people can automatically understand graffiti?

C: I don’t think people have to automatically understand it. Like any art form you don’t need to understand it to see the beauty of it.

CB: What do you think the most utopian function- graffiti at its best—what could it do—for the world for Chicago?

C: I think it’s a good transition into the ideas of creativity, to tap the left side of the brain. That kids from urban areas they can appreciate graffiti more. To me any sense of art when you are doing art its almost like meditation for me, its like you are doing something, you are in the zone, you are involved with something, you are creating something and you care about something.

Ciudad de México, y Revolución Económico: Desarollo y Lugares Vacío y Llena de Vida/ Mexico City and Economic Revolution:Development and Empty Places

Llegué a la Ciudad de México hasta tres días, y ya siento un ritmo un poco diferente que otras ciudades lo que vivía. Por ejemplo, cruzar un calle es un grande cosa, con mucha peligrosa, y tengo que pagar mucha atención. Esos calles son grandes, planes, y occupados, con todos maneros de transportación. Pero, ellos tambien tienen otros tipos de communicación que los bocinas: artes públicos. Más que casi todas ciudades estadounidense que todavia veía (no incluido Filadelfia, y poco partes de Chicago, y centro de Washington D.C.).

Paseo de la Reforma es más que un calle: es un espacio de memoría viviendo. Los monumentos, por ejemplo, a Cuauhtemoc, o plaza de la Revolución no son unicamente objectos de arte, pero lugares donde chilangos puede (y con frecuencia) platicar, descansar, y hacer "skateboard," bailar, y comer. Sin embargo lo que es casi igual al Estados Unidos es la subir del almalcen como primero ubicación pública, pero no es para todo la gente. Unos cuadres fuera del Plaza de Reforma 222 hay gente quienes vender recuerdos, gente quienes estan protestando contra acciones del goberino y hacer este argumento estan viviendo en la calle, y unos cuadros son muy callados, silenciosos, y no hay mucha gente. La pregunta, para mi, es porque algunos lugares de D.F. son muy utilisando y occupado y otros son desiertos? Los monumentos, objectos de historia actuan como áncoras frajiles, prevenir la sociedad de completamente carroza lejos de sí mismo.

I arrived in Mexico three days ago and already sense a rhythm a little different here than in other cities I have lived in. For example, crossing the street is a big deal, it is dangerous and I have to pay an extreme amount of attention. These streets are broad, large, and busy, with every kind of mode of transportation in them. But they also receive other kinds of communication than the honking of horns: public art. More than almost every U.S. city I have seen (Philadelphia excluded, as well as parts of Chicago, and the center of D.C.).

Paseo de la Reforma is more than a street: the monuments, for example to Cuauhtemoc, or plaza of the Monument to the Revolution are not simply art objects but are places where Chilangos can (and often do) chat, relax, skateboard, dance and eat. Nevertheless, something which is similar to the U.S. is the way in which, proportionally, the mall is a much denser site of congregation, it is increasingly the number one public space, although it is not for all of the urban citizens. A few blocks away from Plaza de Reforma 222, a beautiful glossy mall, there are street vendors, poor, and protestors living on the street while making arguments about the actions of the government. There are also streets that are quiet, silent, and empty. The question, for me now is, why are some streets in D.F. used or overused and others empty? The monuments, relics of history, act as fragile anchors, preventing society from totally washing away.