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August 2007

Posts from July 2007

Public/Private

Publicprivate

The reclamation of urban spaces has been the subversive counterpoint to the macro shift in the world population into cities - it is projected that by next year the number of people living in cities will exceed the rural population for the first time in history.

Skateboards, parkour, graffiti, urban games - these are all attempts to reclaim our concrete environments in some way. Humans are the most social of all animals - this is apparently why we're so smart - but even our mighty prefrontal lobes can only cope with groups up to about 150 people in size. Beyond that we simply can't cope.  So the emergent property that is a city is a community way beyond our evolutionary ability to parse, which generates all kinds of odd behaviours that we know as urban living, including the urge re-exert control of this inhospitable environment by painting on it.

Despite the huge numbers of people who trump through the turbine hall of the Tate Modern every day more people have probably seen a Banksy than anything that resides within a gallery.

Now 'proper' art has come out of the galleries to compete on the street.

HP and the National Gallery in London have taken some of the art [or reproductions thereof made on HP printers] off the walls, turning the West End into a giant gallery. The Grand Tour website has suggested walks and an audio tour for the Podded.

And this morning my mate Saul pinged me into Swedish artists Eltono and Nuria Mora, who have also taken their art out into the world. As part of the Public / Private exhibition they place paintings in the town around the gallery and encourage visitors to talk a walk, find them and bring them back. The artists then sign the work and finders keepers.

Lovely, participatory art reflecting on the boundaries of public and private spaces and what delineates one from the other.

[Whether or not you can smoke is probably not the answer they were hoping for]


Cuba Libre

Cuba

As I've said before, when you work in the industry, you tend to look for what we do.

So when I got to Cuba, sadly enough, one of the first things I noticed was the lack thereof. The only billboards in Cuba celebrate socialism, commemorate the revolution, and, like the one above, point out just how much they dislike the USA and Bush in particular.

It was quite refreshing. Like the feeling you get when a loud noise you've acclimatised to suddenly stops. I couldn't help wondering what it would be like if the COI was the only advertiser here and all they ever communicated was patriotic propaganda.

[The COI grew out of the ashes of the wartime Ministry of Information, who did pretty much exactly that:

Formed on September 4th 1939, the day after Britain's declaration of war, the Ministry of Information (MOI) was the central government department responsible for publicity and propaganda in the Second World War. The initial functions of the MOI were threefold: news and press censorship; home publicity; and overseas publicity in Allied and neutral countries.]

Just as I began to enjoy the sounds of silence however, the first jintero, or street hustler, clapped his arm around my shoulders, welcomed me to Cuba and began to expound the virtues of his female siblings to me.

There may not be any brands out there, but someone is always selling something, in this case the oldest profession promoted by the oldest medium.

[Note: The hustlers mainly hang around tourist areas and are not representative of Cubans in general, who are almost absurdly friendly and tolerant of idiocy like mine. It's a shame that the tourist's first experience of one is usually a hustler, leaping into conversations unbidden, as he wanders around looking for a place to stay. Sad if it puts you off talking to anyone in case they are trying to hustle you {"no me moleste, por favor"} as you definitely miss out.

Probably a lesson in the somewhere, for interrupter and interrupted alike.]