Fans of electro rap should check out Yo Majesty if you haven’t already! After dropping singles Club Action and Kryptonite Pussy they’ve got a whole bunch of new songs and are about to release their first album. I’m loving the lead single, Booty Klap! So catchy!
Listen to the track here!
Can I just say though, that there are some amazing art initiatives happening in South Auckland, particularly at the Fresh Gallery in Otara…Curated and run by Ema Tavola, this gallery supports local and Pacific artists, bringing visual art into the context of the Otara shopping centre. This project is Council funded, and despite my rant below about the sting being taken out of street art by its connection with Council & corporate funding, I do realise what a boost it can give to artists, particularly artists who don’t have parental money to fund their projects etc etc. Fresh Gallery, in my view, is about bringing art in line with the community, and not imposing ideas of “what art is” onto the community. Particularly inspiring for me was the initial “Art Takeaway” self-published magazine produced by Ema and others which featured art by local Pacific artists, and was handed out at the Otara markets. Some people who would never bother going into the city to visit the Auckland Art Gallery now had some art to take home and think about, and the artists featured in the magazine would have the opportunity to have their work viewed by their own communities and families.
I mean, perhaps similarly, as Art Takeaway and Fresh Gallery challenge traditional curation and exhibition, “street art” appearing in galleries act as a challenge to traditional notion of what good art is. But I remember reading something by Elliot Askew a while ago, perhaps in a NZ hip hop magazine, where he was saying how frustrated he was when people tried to seperate the taggers from the street “artists”, how he felt that you couldn’t just dismiss tagging and love aerosol art. And it’s really annoying when people think they’re edgy cos they’ve got a piece by Misery in their front room. A public art becomes private.
Check out Ema’s blog which features info about Fresh Gallery and other community based art projects.
This is not strictly about anything to do with music at all, but it happens to be the thing that is most on my mind at the moment, and this link that Linden forwarded to me this week just really made me wanna talk about it.
So you checked out the link and read what it was about right?: a group of “pixadores” in Brazil who were protesting against “the marketing, institutionalization and domestication of Street Art” by the galleries and media… And they didn’t even bother covering their faces…swoon…
This issue has bugged me for ages, probably mostly intensely around 5 years ago when in Auckland a company by the name of Phantom decided to “own” all the spaces in Auckland usually used by posterers to advertise their DIY gigs and events etc. Where you’d normally see layers of black & white A4 flyers pasted up with a mixture of lumpy flour and water or perhaps wallpaper paste for the more discerning, suddenly there appeared huge A1 sized coloured posters advertising products and large corporate bands and signs advising you that you would be prosecuted or your poster would be torn down if it was put up in any of the spaces “owned” by Phantom, which happened to be the side of every abandoned building, electric box, busted fence etc in the city.
Similarly, there has recently been a huge crack down on graffiti in targeted areas of the city, (i.e the poor parts) and while there has never been a better time for graffiti artists who want to make money in the corporate world (just look at ads for Vodafone etc), suddenly your average kid on the street, for whom graffiti has always been something outside of the system, can get more screwed over by the police than ever before, especially if they live in South Auckland and if they are brown. I lived in the privileged central city, and worked with youth in under-privileged Otara (a suburb on the edge of Auckland) for a number of years, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that they seemed to be getting more and more ghettoised for behaviour that was perfectly legitimate in my eyes, me who doesn’t want to have to watch planes pulling large advertisements for Qantas across the sky while I’m sitting in the park, who doesn’t ask to be bombarded by sexist and heterosexist and racist advertising everytime I step outside the door in central Auckland….What the hell do I care if these kids want to tag everything up? I’m glad they do, the graffiti that many of those kids do in Auckland is vital and exhilirating in my opinion, cultural terrorism that resists being co-opted by being “ugly” in the eyes of society. And I’m not talking about Otis Frizzel either.
Anyways…So now I’m living in London, and where’s all the graffiti? The only concentrated amount I’ve seen so far is in this tunnel that was set aside for a “street art” exhibition, featuring the work by some public school guy called Banksy…I mean, what the hell is the point of street art sanctioned by the council? What is the point of street art that some public school guy called Banksy sells for thousands of dollars and allows to be sold off on little canvases in the Camden markets to tourists etc, or has his pieces out on the streets put behind perspex so no nobody can tag over them? And has CCTV got such a hold on this city that there are no kids or activists or anyone wanting to spray all over the walls? That’s a shame if it’s so… And I can’t say I’d risk it either.
So what the hell is up with commodifying street art? And posters and flyers and zines that are brought out on shiny coloured paper featuring advertising for Coke or whatever, disguising themselves as being “street” and therefore appealing to some youth market. Same as commodifying riot grrrl or punk or hip hop, middle class art school kids wearing “bling” and adopting some lingo outside of their experience as an expression of irony towards a group of people they don’t think would ever understand the joke.
I’ve read a few message boards about what happened in Sao Paulo. The overriding opinion seems to be, good intentions, but bad choice of target. Why target an independent gallery featuring work by artists who do actually do stuff on the street, who maybe even came from the “street”, and now are legitimately trying to make money off their skill. Dumb taggers, people are saying, who are still wearing Nike and trying to be revolutionary. Spray an adidas billboard, people reckon, if you want to make a statement.
Well you know what? What’s gonna get a bigger reaction and get people talking about this issue more? Spraying up a gallery or tagging some billboard where the company can afford to put a new ad up to cover it at 6am so nobody ever sees or knows or cares? And plus, what do the artists exhibiting at the gallery in question care? No doubt their works were insured, so they’ll still get money anyway, and what does it matter to them whether their work was used in this way or bought by some rich person to put up in their rich person’s “edgy” lounge room? So they want to make legitimate money from their skill….well that’s fine and understandable, but is it still “street art”? Is it still a zine if it’s a monthly gig guide put out by Barfly? Do we need to waste paper making posters advertising Katy Perry when everyone who likes her has a TV anyway and watches it avidly?
The kids that I knew back home when I worked in South Auckland are going to end up either with huge fines, jail time or maybe even death (e.g the situation that happened last year), OR they are going to be commissioned by the mayor who will sanction them to do a piece on some politician on the side of one of their buildings in their neighbourhood who has never done a damn thing for them. And you can be damn sure the mayor will make sure that he gets into the photo with those kids in the papers.
This is an unapologetic rant. What do you think?
A band I love, from the good ol’ PDX...
Mainly, I was going to see Poly Styrene and hear her voice in true life, that was how come it seemed ok to pay £30 for a ticket to see a band who was known for their anti-consumer lyrics (I mean, I paid only $20 or something to see the Slits, and they’d come all the way to New Zealand!). Poly Styrene, when she was young and wearing plastic bag dresses is my ultimate inspiration: so weird, and so astute and so strident. Plus she was multi-racial with braces and said things like “yammer yammer yammer, yammer yammer yammer, boredom boredom, boredom boredom!” which is a phrase that seems to be appropriate for so many situations. X Ray Spex was one of the most important bands of their era for punk music, but Poly transcends even that for me.
Anyway, to be honest it was a mixed show. I’m gonna start with the downside at the risk of being negative: the sound was bad, she sometimes sang way out of time and had to drop whole lyrics to catch up and at times the band seem to be falling apart, which seems like it’d be just the ticket for X Ray Spex fans, but it just didn’t have the same charm or riotous rebellion it would’ve had in ’76 when played in some shitty punk club…No, this was the Roundhouse, there were coloured lights and a big stage and lots of people, so it was a bit weird. Also, Poly was dressed pretty conventional and a couple of songs were performed twice, which was odd.
Though, in all honesty I was glad Oh Bondage! was played twice, because they opened with it and it took me by surprise so I didn’t have time to take it in. When they played it the second time Poly Styrene’s daughter joined her on stage which was so great (her daughter’s band opened that night, but unfortunately I missed them). It reminded me of when the Slits played and various “daughters” played with the original members. Aside from the dodgy technical stuff (I can’t believe I really even cared about all that actually) I was having these weird brain flips thinking, oh my god, that is the Poly Styrene I’m looking at, and her actual voice singing those songs: it was just one of those moments that I thought could never happen just cos I wasn’t born in time, but there it was right in front of me, and I know I’m gonna sound like a hippy, but it was pretty magical to have that occur.
They pretty much played all their songs off Germ Free Adolescents, apart from Plastic Bag. I think I probably enjoyed I Can’t Do Anything the most, as it was my first favourite X Ray Spex song ever (“Freddie tried to strangle me,with my plastic popper beads, but I hit him back with my pet rat!”), and she really sang that song like she meant it (whatever it means!?). All in all the show was great, at times a little like a family sing-a-long combined with moments of pure punk abandon, and I felt very privileged to have been able to go.