Exclusive Interview with Imminent Disaster Part 2Juxtapoz // Tuesday, 28 Jul 2009
Imminent Disaster, has been wheatpasting the streets of New York with historical characters since mid-2006. Her life-sized, linoleum prints of Victorian composites illustrate her fascination with the ephemeral nature of urban culture. This fragility is further reinforced by her medium—paper works destined for city streets.
Cheree Franco: When did you start pasting Victorian-era characters? Did you ever have a moment when you acknowledged the incongruity of your characters among the average street art cache?
Imminent Disaster: The Victorian-era characters were more of an early, less-developed product of my fascination of the layers of the city. In my recent work, I think you can see an obvious historical influence, but it's more transformed by my process of making, and less about being a character from a particular period. I was also aware of others doing similar and influential work: Shimon Attie, for example.
Today’s street art is sometimes considered an evolution of the graffiti writers of the 70’s—how do you think these two scenes are related?
I think they are related in the idea of getting up and their placement on the street. The kids that started doing it in the 70's had no idea that they would launch themselves into an internationally recognized "art movement" that would eventually bring their work into museums. For people who do work on the street now, it's hard to ignore these precedents, that street art is officially sanctioned by institutions like the Tate Modern, and the fact that putting your work up on the street is a giant billboard for your name or characters. The “getting up” rules still apply, but what was once a bunch of inner-city kids watching each others work on the subway lines is now an advertising gig for a potential career as a gallery artist.
Along the notion of “reclaiming public space,” why is street art is concentrated in “hipster” or gentrifying neighborhoods?
It's a valid observation, and comes up often in the street art scene. It probably has to do with the fact that street art is a scene with a different audience. There are obscure graffiti spots in abandoned buildings or tunnels that are more about the difficulty of getting to the spot and therefore, will likely only be seen by other writers. Whereas street art tends to prefer to be seen by the scene—people who watch, collect, curate but do not necessarily do street art.
The duration of the mediums also might factor in on this. If wheatpaste was a more permanent mark on a wall, street artists might be more exploratory with their placement and find more obscure spots that would get much less traffic but last much longer. A look to stencil artists might prove this theory wrong, however. Even though it would last forever, I've never seen a celebrity head stencil in Queens.
Didn’t catch the beginning of this conversation? Part 1 lives here.
Photos courtesy Jake Dobkin and Sabeth718.