<body> Public Ad Campaign: Living Walls-Wrap Up
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Living Walls-Wrap Up

The recently finished Living Walls conference in Atlanta far surpassed my expectations. In an effort to highlight street art and urban art projects' affect on our communities and public environments, Blacki and Monica's attack was threefold. A week before the conference began, incredible artists such as RIPO, Remed, Gaia, Doodles, Swampy, and many more began production on an unprecedented number of public murals around the Atlanta area. Peaking the interest of the public at large, these murals prefaced a 8 hour long conference at the Georgia Tech Architecture department. Panel discussions focused on gentrification, urban gardening and transportation issues, while artists and thinkers spoke about specific projects as well as the larger goals of our Urban Art interventions. While I ended up being the final speaker, the highlights for me included Jason Eppink's talk on rapid prototyping as a model for street art actions, and Jeff Ferrel's succinct description of why issues of representation are now the preeminent battleground in our major metropolitan environments. Jeff Has been a hero of mine ever since I read Crimes of Style but I now feel I can officially call him a friend as I spent several incredibly drunk hours on the roof where we were staying, belting out protest songs as him and Everyman wailed on an acoustic guitar. It was a truly incredible experience I will never forget. Along with the two above noted aspects of the living walls conference, Blacki and Monica held a group show at the alternative and fiercely progressive Eyedrum arts space. Here a group of nearly one thousand Atlanta residents gathered to take in the work as well as 10 rapid paced Pechacuha style presentations which were met with incredible enthusiasm. For more information, read Jessica Blankenship's article in Creative Loafing.

While I was mainly at the Living Walls conference to talk, I also included a piece from the Expanding Rituals series in the gallery show. Along with this, I got excited over the prolific mural production and thought it appropriate that while artists were out doing legal walls, I would bring my own personal touch to a single location in the city. I spent the first day I arrived at the corner of Krog and Edgewood, whitewashing the entire corner building, including the billboard attached. While it was nearly a hundred degrees out, rather than question if I was supposed to be painting this property, I think people felt bad for me. I returned towards sundown, allowing the heat to dissipate, to paint the simple design. Nearly 2/3rd of the way through and after spending several hours at the location, a van pulled up behind me. An older man jumped out, clearly upset, questioning whether or not Kenny knew about what I was doing. Assuming Kenny was the landlord I of course responded yes. The man asked for my ID, which I began to take out, willing to comply as truthfully I thought what I had done was at least a slight improvement and even probably okay with kenny, despite its unauthorized nature. As I walked towards him, he seemed upset with the fact that I was relatively un-phased and he threw his hand up as he turned around, leaving me with "fuck it! the cops are on their way anyways." While I am all about conversation with public individuals, cops don't usually engage me in a dialogue. I waited for a while across the street after packing up my materials. As I stood watch, a man pulled up to the stop light on the corner. He turned to me and asked what that was, pointing to the wall I had been working on. I responded that it was a mural. He in turn told me that he liked it and asked me if I knew why. I told him I did not and he said because it wasn't graffiti, pointing to the wall opposite mine, riddled with graf. I took this as a positive sign and hoped Kenny would feel the same way, possibly even leaving the wall up. Realizing that in all likelihood, the police were not on their way, I returned to finish the wall.

Speaking to OX before the conference, I had promised I would put up his work since he would not be able to fly in from France. Being a fellow ad takeover junky that I had worked with before in NY, I was only too happy to help out. The above images were posted over a series of two days.
The last and possibly most interesting thing that happened to me while I was in Atlanta happened the last night before I left. Around 11pm I went out to watch RIPO and Remed work on a legal wall. I sat, enjoying their process, sipping a beer when a grey pickup truck pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the wall. A man hopped out and seemed to wave to the two artists as he walked towards me. Thinking nothing of it, I offered my name, "I'm Jordan." His response, "I know." Turns out this was a freelance wildposter working for NPA. According to him, he had gotten wind I would be coming to town and had been patrolling the area waiting to catch me in the act of reclaiming the space he had covered with his illegal postering. I explained to him that I had no intention of doing so and I was mainly at the conference to talk. We had a lengthy conversation about the NYSAT actions, the resulting end of NPA, its conversion to Contest Promotions, the jail time served by project participants and the loss of many NPA jobs. He was clearly trying to feel me out and after realizing I was not some raging lunatic, hellbent on destroying his life, our conversation became more amiable. In the end he offered me a bucket of wheatpaste to put up OX's work on the condition I did not use it to take out any of his work. I agreed and he drove off with his wife in the car, both of us happy to have met one another.
While this encounter was not all that unusual for me, it did reinforce the fact that our actions had drawn national attention from NPA. It also made me realize that my movement and work was being followed closely, something I suspected, but have not seen directly until now.
All in all the conference was a fantastic experience, drawing a community of artists and activists together, sparking intense debates about the process of public appropriation of private property whose walls directly affected the public psyche. It proved without a doubt that the actions of few can have deeper more interesting consequences than we could ever imagine. It has emboldened my crusade to challenge notions of public curation and enlivened my sense of duty. I look forward to continuing this project for years to come in an effort to create more widespread physical and mental change amongst my peers and the public at large.

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