The Street is a media that is approachable by anyone and everyone and its fair the streets are open to all, free from any bureaucratic way of thinking.
Artists had started graffiti as a reaction against the art world, which at that time, wielded a strong authority while moving large sums of money in and out of countries off artists.
Today, big advertisement campaigns are everywhere, put on by global brands on the streets in addition to series of sensational TV commercials aimed at accelerating the consumer market. Many hold that graffiti started from the street culture in the 80’s and that figures like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring played a key part through their resistance towards society as the gap between the rich and poor widened. Then, and now, this gap has kept widening.
“Inside/Outside” is a documentary film aimed at recording one of the hottest contemporary graffiti artists all over the world. There was special event and screening, “Inside/ Outside-Rebel week-” from 5th April to 11th April at the Uplink Cafe in Tokyo. I went on the 4th day of event, April 8th, to the screening and artist talk by Hisashi Tenmyouya (artist) and Kenji Kubota (independent curator).
Is graffiti evil? or is an Art due to reveal a kind of social tragedy? In the film, Zeus in Paris, the writer “kills” models on billboards with red spray, and it calls it a “Visual Attack”. The artist went on to say, “We attack advertisements with minimum effort by using the very power of its influence.”
Pigmeus in Sao Paulo remains known as “Tag” on the top of the high buildings. By using original fluorescent paint, KR conquers the town. Swoon is a female graffiti artist in New York. She puts up her posters on the street without permission. Now, her works are recognized by MOMA and the Brookly Museum of Art. She said, “I am happy that a lot of people see my work but, at the same time, its a complex feeling knowing that I am involved in a part of a huge art market.”
The camera shows some more works and thoughts of various artists in different situations, cultures and countries. Some people regard it as vandalism but graffiti is ephemeral as it is immediately clear when its found. Graffiti artists are always on the run from police. What is the reason why they are particular about the streets even though it’s dangerous? What kinds of values exist there? This insists not only the meaning of the art but also what do we really mean by freedom in our society?
Hisashi Tenmyouya, an artist, explained graffiti in Japan using the example of Kyosai Kawanabe, a painter in the Edo period. Hisashi said, “Kyosai is an old graffiti artist, and he was arrested as a political criminal. Even though he belonged to a very central and traditional art group, Kanoha, he created Ukiyoe which was regarded as street art at that time.” Hisashi also claimed that graffiti is a belief oriented towards resisting conservative tendencies in society, not just writing a “tag” on the wall. And it is an egoism as a graffiti writer just writes his or her name in order to mark and assert their own territory. Without the awareness of other peoples’ eyes and their consciousness, graffiti would be just seen as vandalism. Aside from graffiti being considered evil or not, the most important thing is if people are moved by it.
[2005 / Denmark / 57 min]
Director: Andreas Johnsen
Featuring: Zevs, Swoon, KR, Earsnot, Ron English, Os Gemeos, Pigmeus, Adams & Itso
Text: Wakana Kawahito