The Art Conference #01
I just got back from London where Tina Ziegler held the first TAC (The Art Conference) in a beautiful old factory venue called the Ugly Duck. I was asked to open two days of pretty intense talks about Art, Technology, and social engagement. I took the task seriously and used my work to show how advertising, as one of the sub genre's of cultural production systems, undermines social progress by monopolizing the systems of dissemination, prohibiting access and participation, economically driving technological determinism, and framing our cultural values in frighteningly self serving ways. It all went pretty well despite not having a podium to put my papers on. Given the chance to do it again I plan to do a little more memorization, and to attempt to go beyond advertising to Art itself, which has its own way of slowing social progress in ways which are similar to advertising itself.
Notable speakers from the conference were RJ Rushmore who's talk From Dissidence to Decorative derided projects like Urban Nation as decorative city wallpaper intent on raising property value more than providing any of the real radical politics once prescribed to street art. As a nice opposition to that, Teresa Latuszewska spoke about the Urban Forms mural project in Lodz Poland which is a sanctioned mural project but one that works hard to reach out to the community and integrate itself deep into the skin of the city. They have also done some pretty boring and thankless work gathering hard statistics on peoples feelings towards the individual murals and the culture in general. Mia Grundahl spoke about Women on Walls which I knew little about and which practically brought me to tears. To say that these projects proved RJ's point would be an understatement.
Similarly heartbreaking and inspirational was the work of Robert Montgomery whose texts can often be found on the street where advertising once broadcast its messages loudly. Robert has taken over billboards illegally, but he has also worked directly with the OOH companies to place his work. At first I was upset that he would collaborate with the enemy, but after speaking with him and hearing him talk, I realized that my radical politics was less important to him than ensuring there was an alternative voice to the aggressive commercial megaphone we are often confronted with on a daily basis. His writing, a sort of haunting conversation with the city and capitalism, draws a beautiful contrast that works to undermine consumerist propaganda. While I surely like his illegal pieces better, I cannot say that the sanctioned pieces are less effective to someone who doesn't know the politics behind anti ad activity. And finally Dan Witz took me on a nostalgic trip back to his earliest work that began in 1978 a year before I was born. That guy has been doing groundbreaking street art before the term was coined, hell even before graf made its mark. A true pioneer.
All in all it was a fantastic event and I look forward to the next. If you have an opportunity to visit one yourself, I highly suggest taking the time.
A quick installation on Commercial street, London
Speaking about how advertising undermines social progress