The pseudonymous British street artist, Banksy, has recently released a film here in the UK, which supposedly documents the real story of the man who tried to film him. Confused? I won’t wreck it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but it truly surprised and amused me. Leaving the cinema, I couldn’t help wondering if I, the viewer, was in fact the object of ridicule.
I’m not in the habit of taking on the role of film critic but Exit Through the Giftshop is something of a comedic masterpiece, in my opinion. At the very least, it made me want to look into the underworld of the crafts scene. Along the way I’ve happened across all sorts of movements from flash mobs to guerrilla gardening, street art and the like. It’s inspiring stuff and all in such good spirit.
While some may view these acts as vandalism, many artists argue that large corporations have taken over street spaces with billboards and advertisements and that reclaiming public space for art and beauty is important.
Consider this a call to crafty arms — let’s take back the city.
The phenomenon that is guerrilla knitting is reported to have originated in the U.S. when a Texan knitter dreamt up a use for her extra yarn. The trend quickly went viral, appealing to crafty renegades worldwide.
Member of London’s Knit The City graffiti knitting group and blogger Deadly Knitshade describes the act of leaving wooly debris around the city as “knitblasts,” while Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain of Yarn Bombing state their philosophy as “Improving the urban landscape one stitch at a time.”
Photos via kittypinkstars on Flickr
After putting out a call for submissions in the Etsy Forums, UK seller kittypinkstars contacted me about her personal experience in guerrilla knitting and her more recent project, Kitty’s Wishing Tree, in which people are invited to submit their hopes and dreams to a colourful installation in the woods:
“I’m inspired by Keri Smith, Canadian author of Wreck This Journal, and also by the belief that there is a little bit of magic out there. I want other people to feel the same — find the child inside you and have something to believe in! I love the idea of finding something special when you least expect it.
Sometimes it does make me feel a bit naughty, especially when my little boy comes with me to keep a look out! I moved onto the Wish Tree idea because, in a day and age when we all need something to believe in, I thought it would be a great way to give a little hope and get others involved in creating something magical! We now have hundreds of wishes on the tree, both from the Internet and passers-by. I also enjoy leaving little notes for people to find and messages in chalk and alphabet sweeties. It’s all in the name making the day to day a little more fun.”
Flash mobs stir a sense of surreal awe in me, so when I heard about Stuart Reid’s inspired proposition to recreate the famous slow-motion gunfight scene from Brit series Spaced in London’s Trafalgar Square, I couldn’t resist grabbing a moment with the guy himself to chat about how the recent event unfolded:
“It all started about six months ago, whilst in the pub with some friends. We were all in agreement about how amazing it’d be to have hundreds of people recreating the scene so I agreed to organise it. I did it out of my love for Spaced and everything the cast have gone on to do. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are my favourite films and meeting actors Pegg and Frost was one of the top 5 greatest moments of my life.
Photos via j0e_m on Flickr
“On the day itself I was really nervous. I’d asked everyone to arrive at 1 p.m. with the actual event starting at 1:15. I arrived at 12:45 and there didn’t seem to be many people there, which scared me a bit! I got a few knowing looks from people as I was standing around, which made me smile. Luckily, as the moment drew nearer, the square started to fill out. Now I was nervous for another reason — my dialogue! Sadly I fluffed my lines a bit but I think I got away with it.
“The turn-out was great and I loved every minute of it. If any more people had showed up I think the event would have been too big — I knew out of the 1300 or so people who confirmed themselves as attending on Facebook, only a small portion would actually show, so we were quite lucky really. The main thing was that everybody had fun and nobody got hurt. It only could have gone better if some of the stars had taken part!”
Richard Reynolds has been blogging his “illicit cultivation” around London since 2004, finding easy opportunities in abandoned flower beds, neglected traffic signs and tree pits. He has since gardened alongside hundreds of others and met many people who are doing the same thing all around the world. On the Pimp Your Pavement site, he writes:
“The local overlooked landscape — in both meanings of the word — forgotten about but also in great view is a space in which we can make a very tangible and welcoming contribution to improving our local environment, both ecologically and socially.
“Pimp Your Pavement is a way of giving people, particularly newcomers, a very tangible objective — transforming a patch of pavement and taking back responsibility from the local authorities who have plenty of other things to be concerned with on our behalf.
“The campaign will be a more palatable way of inviting the authorities who are in charge of most of our pavements to participate in this grassroots enthusiasm. In cities around Europe (Zurich, Berlin, Amsterdam, and to a much lesser extent London) I’ve seen how guerrilla gardening can change the authorities’ view of their responsibilities, and I’m keen that these examples are inspiration to encourage change in more places.”
Photos via tolentinoarts
St. Louis based Etsy seller, Justin Tolentino (a.k.a. toelntinoarts) has been involved in the hip hop and graffiti scene since the tender age of 15.
After graduating from Memphis College of Art and trying to secure a job in the corporate world, he decided to pursue the dream of becoming his ideal of a “true artist” — one who paints for himself. I asked Justin to shed a little light on the world of street art:
“The obvious message is to fight the system, to fight the power and get all ‘public enemy’ in your face. I think that each artist has their own message. When I first started writing on buildings and public property as a teenager filled with angst, my main mission with graffiti was to get entirely bogus — go as big as possible and make sure anywhere I went I could see my tag. The other purpose at that point was to make my presence known to all the other writers in the city (which didn’t happen to be my hometown).
“Nowadays my intent on the streets is more about making people think about the world they live in — who might spend the time to make the art, and why? If you think about the type of people who end up doing street graffiti, they are the talented, the intellectual, and mostly the lower or lower-middle class. The only way to look at life and the state of the world from that point of view is to use humour, to laugh back at it — make fun of ourselves and make fun of those we don’t agree with. We are the street smart alecs with our mouths closed. Our visuals are doing the eye kicking.”
Have you been involved in street art or a guerrilla craft project? Let us know in the comments.
Don’t forget to contact AmityUK if you’re inspired into action!