Saturday, 18 September 2010

Papal Bull

Pope In London - Street artists rise as foretold

photos Nolionsinengland except S.Butterfly where noted

Benedictus episcopus servus servorum Dei, Pope Benedict, Bishop, Server of The Servants of God, etc etc is in the UK to give us a bit of a telling off and to enjoy one of the most expensive inter-city long-weekend breaks on record (Twelve million quids worth is the accepted estimate of his inclusive board and travel deal). Graffoto was a little disappointed that the opportunity presented by the elections in the UK this Summer passed by un-remarked by most of the street art/anarchist community, perhaps with the honourable exception of Dr d, so it is encouraging to see this papal visit has stimulated the minds and exacto knives of a few stencilistas in London. For anyone not familiar with the circumstances, the two protest themes hinge around expense and paedophilia cover-ups.

Top prize goes to the ever thoughtful K-Guy who placed controversial work in a couple of spots designed for maximum visibility to the papal entourage and all passing Catholics. K-Guys is at his best when presented with a toxic cocktail of politics, religion and hipocracy and the quality of his political work is sustained in this hear-no-see-no-speak-no cannon-ised monkeys. Reducing the pontiff to the level of a primate and mocking the Church’s inability or un-willingness to properly and clearly address the horrendous crimes committed within its sanctuary by a few (“Paedophilia is a sickness, they were “ill”), this work pulls no punches.

K-Guy “see-no-hear-no-speak-no”

K-Guy placed a version of this image on Thursday night on the Popemobile route to Westminster, Graffoto made a detour on the way to the day job on Friday morning arriving just as one chuffed-to-bits cleaner removed the piece off the streets. 0-1 to the buff.

I’ll ‘ave that

K-Guy was motivated to go one better for the Pope’s benefit on Saturday (today), placing a second specimen inside Hyde Park where the Pope was due to lead an open air séance or something. Wonder if it survived until the vigil, certainly thousands of Catholics will have got the message if it did.


SPQR also addresses the popular theme of papal cover-ups, this splendidly executed work referencing the less than transparent internal investigations supposedly carried on by the Catholic church. Being placed on a gallery wall miles from where the papal retinues and the flock would gather renders this effort a tad futile but to be fair to SPQR, he was presumably rather busy with a solo show opening at Signal Gallery that night.

SPQR – “Report Exposes Church Sex”

Much closer to the heart of the papal action geographically speaking is Nick Walker’s Cardinal Sinister placed on the walls of the Royal College of Art immediately outside Hyde Park. Nick Walker renders the Pope as a Blofeld-like evil head of a sinister organisation stroking the cat on his lap. We like the analogy to the head of a crime based organisation, the stencil has impressive scale and detail but we feel the Royal College of Art gains more through boosting its waning“edginess” quotient than Mr Walker gains for his imaginative composition.

Nick Walker "Cardinal Sinister"

We thank the ever vigilant Ms S Butterfly for photographing this effort by Raymond Salvatore Harmon (anyone like to hazard a guess at his religion?) aka RSH, location unknown. Perhaps the splatters of blood are a bit OTT but the few pieces by RSH we have seen recently have been almost violently dayglo, the point of the work is more important than the colour palate.

RSH – Suffer The Children (photo S Butterfly)

D*Face used the opening on Thursday of a retrospective show at Electric Blue Gallery, Middlesex St to mock the new religions of corporatism and branding with his logo cross (curiously, this time hung upside down St Peter style), previously seen at the 2008 aPOPcalypse Now show.

D*Face logo cross (aPOPcalypse Now, 2008)

The Pope angrily charged D*Face with what he called “Aggressive Atheism” but the bulk of the mainstream press have chosen to interpret the remark in the wider context of British Society.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Poster Boy In London

Dog days of Summer suck and taking a family holiday at the end of August can involve compromise. For me the compromise became apparent a couple of weeks ago when an calling-all-art-knobs email arrived announcing a Poster Boy multi-location book launch, one leg of which would be at the Pure Evil Gallery, London.

Within minutes, a sceptical buddy mail arrived saying “oh yeah – Poster dude.....four simultaneous launches around the world [ish, London and 3 in the US] .... does not compute”. Fuck that I thought and got back on the kite board (kinda – day 1 is body dragging)....I wasn’t going to be anywhere near so best not to dwell on the inconsistency.

Reacquainting myself over the past couple of days with what’s new and what’s forgotten in the London street galleries I was really surprised to find Pure Evil’s gallery resonating with irrefutable evidence of a continuing Poster Boy presence - books, beer and cut out paste ups strewn on the floor.

Before checking out the PVs tonight I found the end of Summer transformed by Poster Boy action on the London streets. No, I don’t know when these interventions happened other than it was today..I was there sometime before, I was there sometime after, here are before and after snaps.

Obviously this is plain simple billboard hijacking. Other than where the eyes are allowed to peek through, these pieces involve complete advert obliteration. The message here is simply political. Spending 5 minutes photographing the hijacked billboards gave sufficient time to absorb the impact this un-expected off-message message was having. Every passerby and every car driver was studying the anarchist assault.

Thanks to dastardly bastardly agency creatives discovering that mimicking street art has a powerful resonance with a certain trendy target audience, my quest over the past few years to discover more Cut-Up Collective work lurking behind, around and on top of public adverts has involved me looking at more street marketing campaigns than any ad exec could dream of. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Cut-Up Collective's intended effect!

I had thought, having never previously had direct contact with a Poster Boy environmental enhancement, that Poster Boy’s work was purely about advertising subversion, poster remixing with wit and generally an anti corporate propaganda theme. This may or may not be true, in a couple of years I will have finished reading the book, but Poster Boy’s London blitz is hugely political, a truly remarkable thrust from a dude whose country pulled out of its most recent/current/most public global fuck up only last week.

Poster Boy was arrested in an internationally publicised incident early in 2009, nabbed by covert police pouncing on an advertised private view of a Poster Boy art show. Poster Boy got sent down, or detained, or sent to bed early or something, yet the Poster Boy campaign actually intensified. It had both a windmill to tilt at AND a huge profile. Eventually, messages reached some critical nerve endings in some street art keyboard botherers and the question “if he’s inside, whose doing this schizz” was floated. Mainstream press speculated that the wrong guy had been arrested.

Although Graffoto believes these mysteries are best left mystique intact, it seems the answer was/is that Poster Boy is a multi-testicled beast and the authority had yanked its tail. Anyway, the gentleman in Pure Evil’s gallery tonight was without doubt in my mind the same guy in this famous youtube clip and he seemed to imply that Poster Boy is a collective.

Clip byTheKSkill

The book is a fundraising exercise to raise money for K.A.R.A .T.E - Kids Are Rallying Against The Empire – a legal defence fund for artists who may find themselves detained at The Man’s pleasure for changing the world without license or authority. When we look at custodial sentences handed down to visual environment enhancers then any funding to protect society from the stupid mistakes of its un-elected judiciary has to be a good thing.

Apart from funding a good cause, Poster Boy has a unique way of signing the books, if you look closely you might make out that he has whipped out his razor and incized through the frontispiece to reveal Poster Boy's name on the page behind. Cool. Signed copies available Pure Evil Gallery, London and, I would guess, from Frost Gallery, NY; Carmichael Gallery LA and AE District Gallery, Miami.

copyright - whatever

The book is a photographic collection of the work of Poster Boy, including many before and after shots as well as the photographic inspiration and sources behind the ideas. The introduction nails it, don’t know who the author is but it says “This book is a piece of hypocrisy....Poster Boy’s high-minded rabble rousing is starting to reek of bullshit. After all, Poster Boy detests the media but wholly depends on it as a medium.”

This post doesn’t fall into that trap as Graffoto prides itself on being a large, not a medium.