Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘world’

15 AUGUST, 2011

7 Essential Books on Street Art

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What Japan’s manhole covers have to do with Brazil’s favelas and the timeless tradition of Arabic calligraphy.

Street art is a frequent fascination around here. Today, we turn to seven stunning, intelligent books that examine street art from a variety of angles, from the artistic to the sociocultural to the political and beyond, to glean holistic understanding of the ubiquitous, important but often misunderstood medium for public dialogue and civic self-expression.

TRESPASS

WoosterCollective is among the most authoritative blogs on street art. Last fall, its founders, Marc and Sara Schiller, poured years’ worth of expertise and insight into Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art — a gorgeous and thoughtful anthology that covers everything from Guatemalan guerrilla gardeners to icons like Banksy and Barry McGee that’s as much an exhaustive compendium of compelling artwork as it is a modern manifesto for activism, democracy and freedom of speech. And since the lavish 320-page volume comes from Taschen, easily the most visually ambitious publisher today, it’s an absolute treat for the eye.

What makes Trespass different from other street art books is that it’s not a street art book. It’s a book that certainly includes street art and graffiti but goes beyond that to also address performance, protest, sculpture, and the whole goal of the book was to really look at the context of street art in a much larger historical perspective.” ~ Marc Schiller

Originally reviewed, with video, here.

STREET SKETCHBOOK

One of street art’s most characteristic features is that it’s so fundamentally public and in-your-face. But what goes into the private creative process of a street artist? That’s exactly what Tristan Manco examines in Street Sketchbook: Journeys, the follow-up to his 2007 Street Sketchbook: Inside the Journals of International Street and Graffiti Artists — a rare peek inside the sketchbooks of 26 of the world’s hottest new artists, and one of our 5 voyeuristic peeks inside the notebooks of cross-disciplinary creators.

Originally reviewed, with more images, here.

ARABIC GRAFFITI

It’s no secret that the the majority of street art coverage in the media, from blogs to books to films, has a severe geographic bias, with a tendency to focus on Western lettering and imagery. Arabic Graffiti is a breath of fresh Eastern air in the global dialogue on street art. The ambitious anthology by Berlin street culture tastemaker Don Karl and Lebanese typographer Pascal Zoghbi explores the use of Arabic script in urban context, curating graffiti artists and typographers from the Middle East and around the world who incorporate Arabic calligraphy styles in their artwork — a beautiful intersection of tradition and contemporary creativity.

Part cultural anthropology, part study in creative ingenuity, Arabic Graffiti is also a timely and needed cross-cultural bridge of visual communication in the context of today’s global political climate. (For more on the subject, see the fantastic Cultural Connectives.)

Originally reviewed, with more images, here.

STREET WORLD

What makes street art so fascinating is that it isn’t an isolated discipline — rather, it’s the confluence of a myriad cultural phenomena, offers commentary on countless social issues, and borrows inspiration from a multitude of other creative domains. In Street World: Urban Art and Culture from Five Continents (which you might recall from this old piece on Beautiful Losers, the excellent documentary about contemporary street art culture), Roger Gastman, Caleb Neelon and Anthony Smyrski examine street art culture from a holistic standpoint, as it relates to other forms of urban expression — skateboarding, bike messengering, DJing, fashion, gang politics, music, design, photography — and explore how the advent of the Internet has fostered a new global street culture in less than a generation. From New York’s back-alleys to Brazil’s mega-cities to South Africa’s townships, the hefty tome is divided into more than 50 topics, each illustrated with dozens of photographs.

STREET KNOWLEDGE

Today, street art is so ubiquitous it’s easy to forget it’s a fairly nascent form of urban dialogue. But where did it begin and how did it make its way around the world? That’s exactly what King Adz explores in Street Knowledge — a fascinating encyclopedia and insider’s guide to street art culture around the world, tracing the evolution of the movement from its groundbreaking days in 1980’s New York to the bleeding-edge work of modern-day Middle Eastern artists. From old-school graffiti legends to modern street art icons, including film-makers, designers, DJ’s, writers and poets, the book reveals the deep and lateral propagation of street art across just about every aspect of contemporary culture.

From interviews with some of world’s most influential street art talent, including Banksy, Quik, Shepard Fairey and the Obey crew, Martha Cooper, David LaChapelle and Tony Kaye, to profiles of up-and-comers from across the globe, Street Knowledge also places the featured street art in the context of the cities where it appears, doubling as an underground guide to the hottest art, culture, music, fashion, dining and film spots in some of the world’s most exciting cities.

Originally reviewed last year.

URBAN IRAN

In 2008, our friends at Mark Batty released the excellent Urban Iran — a gripping, visually stunning anthology by photographers Karan Rashid and Sina Araghi exploring the rich spectrum of street art across Iran’s cities and countryside.

Alongside the lavish visual spreads are illuminating essays that examine the artwork in a sociopolitical context, bridging this faceted visual landscape with the cultural undercurrents that power it.

What makes the project particularly intriguing is that it came mere months before the 2009 Iranian uprisings, but the content and context of the street art themes featured in the book — censorship, rebellion, political disillusionment, a yearning for justice and democracy — presage what was to come.

Originally reviewed, with more images, here.

DRAINSPOTTING

Street art is considered a subculture in and of itself, but the fact remains that it’s divisible into a great diversity of subgenres itself. Among the most fascinating is Japan’s unusual style of manhole cover graffiti, cataloged in Drainspotting — a stunning photographic anthology of the remarkable street art gems found across nearly 95% of the country’s 1780 municipalities. With their bold colors and dramatic motifs, from doves to dragons, the book’s 100 photographs capture the best and most visually compelling of Japan’s 6000 distinct manhole cover designs, part of a 20-year beautification program, orchestrated by what’s essentially Japan’s version of the WPA, aiming to make manholes reflect the uniqueness of each city — its mythology, its aesthetic sensibility, its legacy and essence.

The cherry on top? There’s also a Drainspotting iPad app, a beautiful homage to the classic Japanese intersection of art and technology. The app uses geolocation, inviting users to drainspot Japan, scavenger-hunt-style, and discover more examples of this unique visual subculture that didn’t make the book.

Originally featured here last spring.

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08 AUGUST, 2011

Where Children Sleep: James Mollison’s Poignant Photographs

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What the Amazon rainforest has to do with the Kaisut Desert and Fifth Avenue luxury.

On the heels of this morning’s homage to where children read and learn comes a curious look at where they sleep. That’s exactly what Kenyan-born, English-raised, Venice-based documentary photographer James Mollison explores in Where Children Sleep — a remarkable series capturing the diversity of and, often, disparity between children’s lives around the world through portraits of their bedrooms. The project began on a brief to engage with children’s rights and morphed into a thoughtful meditation on poverty and privilege, its 56 images spanning from the stone quarries of Nepal to the farming provinces of China to the silver spoons of Fifth Avenue.

From the start, I didn’t want it just to be about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive, about children from all types of situations. It seemed to make sense to photograph the children themselves, too, but separately from their bedrooms, using a neutral background.” ~ James Mollison

Perhaps most interestingly, the book was written and designed as an empathy tool for 9-to-13-year-olds to better understand the lives of other children around the world, but it is also very much a poignant photographic essay on human rights for the adult reader.

7-year-old Indira works at a granite quarry and lives in a one-room house near Katmandu, Nepal, with her parents, brother and sister.

4-year-old Jasmine has participated in over 100 child beauty pageants and lives in a large house in the Kentucky countryside.

4-year-old Romanian boy who shares a mattress with his family in the outskirts of Rome.

8-year-old Justin plays football, basketball and baseball. He lives in a four-bedroom house in New Jersey.

Alyssa lives in a small wooden house with her family in Appalachia.

8-year-old Ahkohxet belongs to the Kraho tribe and lives in Brazil's Amazon basin.

9-year-old Dong shares a room with his parents, sister and grandfather, growing rice and sugar cane in China's Yunnan Province.

9-year-old Delanie aspires to be a fashion designer and lives with her parents and younger siblings in a large house in New Jersey.

9-year-old Tsvika and his siblings share a bedroom in an apartment in the West Bank, in a gated Orthodox Jewish community known as Beitar Illit.

9-year-old Jamie shares a top-floor apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue with his parents and three siblings. The family's two other homes are in Spain and the Hamptons.

10-year-old Ryuta is a champion sumo-wrestler living in Tokyo with his family.

12-year-old Lamine sleeps in a room shared with several other boys in the Koranic school in their Senegalese village.

11-year-old Joey, who killed his first deer when he was seven, lives in Kentucky with his family.

14-year-old Irkena is a member of the semi-nomadic Rendille tribe in Kenya and lives with his mother in a temporary homestead in the Kaisut Desert.

14-year-old Prena is a domestic worker in Nepal and lives in a cell-like room in the attic of the house where she works in Katmandu.

14-year-old Erien slept on the floor of her favela abode in Rio de Janeiro until the late stages of her pregnancy.

15-year-old Risa is training to be a geisha and shares a teahouse with 13 women in Kyoto, Japan.

Mollisey is represented by MAP and Flatland Gallery, and published by Chris Boot.

Where Children Sleep is reminiscent of Peter Menzels’s voyeuristic tours of the world through people’s diets and possessions, and JeongMee Yoon’s look at the conditioning of children’s gender identity through the color schemes of their bedrooms. The book’s glow-in-the-dark cover, a-la Radioactive, is a wonderfully playful cherry on top.

All images courtesy of James Mollison via The New York Times

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05 AUGUST, 2011

Move, Learn, Eat: Around the World in 3 Timelapse Short Films

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What an exploding volcano has to do with incredible edibles and a terabyte of globe-trotting footage.

From Rick Mereki, Tim White and Andrew Lees come three poetic and ambitious short films shot over the course of 44 days in 11 countries across 38,000 miles by way of 18 flights, exploring movement, learning and food — no better way to enter the weekend.

It’s also noteworthy that Rick doesn’t appear to have a personal site or Twitter account or any centralized online presence, and even sports a Hotmail email, yet he was able to produce some of the most creatively compelling footage I’ve come across in a long time — a lesson in not judging a proverbial book by its (digital) cover.

(That, or the whole thing is a viral hoax that will eventually turn out to be high-budget production promoting the recently rolled out Vimeo PRO. But let’s stay with the earnest, non-cynical take for now.)

via Gizmodo

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