Anagnorisis Fine Arts

The Futility of Fighting with Chaos by Binnorie

JR's furrowed brow colorized by Irene with Kenny Scharf

Hurricane Irene left very little damage in New York City compared to what happened in surrounding countrysides.  New Jersey, upstate NY and Vermont all got hit very hard with flooding, not to mention what happened further south.  It’s as if Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs are in a protective bubble, rarely affected by natural disaster.

Irene did leave her mark behind in Gotham, however.  Many are reporting this mark as damage, but I see it as Mother Nature’s collaboration with artists JR and Kenny Scharf.  Irene’s water has soaked through JR’s black and white photo of a giant furrowed brow and crinkled nose so much that Scharf’s colorful painting left underneath shows through.  Personally, I think JR’s photos are far more powerful when installed in cities that heavily benefit from its presence.  He is a selfless and intelligent artist whose work blends in and gets lost in New York City’s jaded and cynical streets.  Scharf’s colors give this particular photo of his a nice punch.  The new look further reminds us how pissed off Scharf was when his work was tagged (sorry, Kenny, the tagging looked horrible, but stop wearing your trendy outfits around town and maybe you’ll avoid this kind of problem in the future).

A close-up of the Os Gemeos mural

Kenny gets tagged

The graffiti wall on Houston Street just west of Bowery, curated by Deitch Projects,  had for a while a recreation of a mural by Keith Haring.  Haring’s image was eventually replaced with a new mural by street art duo Os Gêmeos who were soon covered over by Shepard Fairey’s pasted graphics.  Shepard’s efforts weren’t well respected by some.  I recall walking by and seeing giant holes punched into the wall of Shepard’s pastings, revealing the drywall and metal studs that had been built over the previous work.  The holes let the Os Gêmeos painting peek out once again creating a Fairy/Gêmeos medley of sorts.  So, you see, the wall has a history of damage that has been inflicted upon it, time after time.  The latest damage from Irene’s deluge is not unexpected, yet creates a pleasant visual surprise.

The Keith Haring replica gets whitewashed to make room for something new.

Shepard Fairey's mural with plywood to cover up extensive damage.

My favorite city walls are those covered with many artists’ work, stickers, tags, dirt and nails all collaged on every surface in even the most hidden nooks, all giving New York its special character.  To me, the uproar that results when one of the works on this Houston Street art space gets marred is silly.  Part of the allure of street art is the random or uncontrollable changes that happen to it over time.  If you put something up on a wall giving others access to it, then you need to accept and even revel in the fact that others are going to tag it, break it, lick it, pee on it…  It’s going to rain, mold will grow on it, the glue and paint will peel…  If you don’t want that to happen to it, put it inside and protect it, or make sure the materials used to create it can withstand the toughest abuse.

I don’t know…I suppose one could argue that the news about the damage is all part of the art, but I think time would be better spent helping those who cannot return to their homes due to Hurricane Irene.

{This post was inspired by Animal New York}

A Bitter Message by Binnorie

Survival Research Laboratories‘s  A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief from 1988.  Directed by J. Reiss.

A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief is a dark film that follows anthropomorphized machine-beings made of metal, gears and bones through underground stone caves filled with heat and magenta.  They course slowly through dark fiery halls, interacting in morose ways, capturing and destroying lesser, more meek creatures.  To me the title of the work is over-dramatic, but the film itself has a mysterious and surreal quality to it that brings forth a grotesque beauty.  It’s depressing, yet powerful and emotional.  Should one pity these viscous creatures or hate them?

Survival Research Laboratories, founded by Mark Pauline in 1978, is more known for its live performances.  Machine-beings similar to those in the film are kinetic sculptures brought to life in thrilling displays of spitting fire, grinding motors and screeching metal all controlled by remote or driven by SRL members.  Each performance “consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.”  They are like crosses between MIT student robot competitions and the automobile accident reenactment scenes from Cronenberg’s movie Crash, all of them viewed in outdoor theaters by large audiences.

A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief stands apart from Pauline’s live performances.  It captures a more sullen, almost pitiful aspect of the personalities of Pauline’s metallic creatures.  While they are wild things of strength and power, they are revealed as trapped and angry, lacking compassion and care.  Regardless, the film stays true to SRL’s focus of “re-directing the techniques, tools, and tenets of industry, science, and the military away from their typical manifestations in practicality, product or warfare.”

The film was directed by J. Reiss, also known for his work on Nine Inch Nails’ Happiness in Slavery music video.  Amongst many other projects, he has also directed music videos for The Black Crowes, Danzig, Slayer and the Kottonmouth Kings.  In 2007, he released his film, ‘Bomb It’, a documentary on grafitti and the perception of public space, featuring artists including Taki 183, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos and Revok.

To see more, Survival Research Laboratories currently have a ton of their performances posted up on their YouTube page online.