Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Prestigious TED Prize Goes to Graffiti Artist

"Women Are Heroes in Kibera Slum," J R's sprawling installation in Nairobi, Kenya, in early 2009.

$100,000 to a street artist?

The celebrated TED Prize, previously awarded to humanitarians like Bill Clinton and Bono, was awarded to Parisian artist J R, who paints elaborate, king-sized murals of local people in the world’s poorest slums. Like many street artists, J R remains anonymous because of the illegal nature of his work.

According to the New York Times, the award is prized just as much for the publicity it raises as the cash:

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

"Portrait of a generation," Paris, 2006.

Banksy and Shepard Fairey are household names, with commercial work and museum retrospectives. Now, J R joins Bill Clinton in an award for humanitarian work.

Is mainstream acceptance toward street artists changing, or are the artists themselves forcing change?


Filed under: africa, art, politics, racism, social justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

A New York Streetscape via iPhone

I’ve blogged about artist Jorge Colombo in the past. He’s got a wonderful eye for the dynamism that is New York and uses his iPhone to sketch fast, evocative images of the city.

In this new video entitled “Traffic Light,” check out Colombo’s process as he sketches a typical streetscape at night. Small things–like the choice of painting in purple and blue hues first–intrigue the non-visual artist in me.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: art, technology, , , , , , , ,

The Utilitarianism of Art

…in revealing politics.

Banksy offers up superb social commentary on a tourist boardwalk in Brighton. I love the way that this mother obliviously takes photographs while her children take glee in riding a dolphin leaping over an oil barrel and the remains of BP’s mess.

Good stuff. Banksy strikes again.

Filed under: art, oil spill, politics, , ,

Look Up: Objects of Beauty, Stylized Graffiti, Social Commentary

Above, an ingenious street artist whose iconic image is an arrow pointing towards the sky, has hit Los Angeles with his  art. The video above is a nice introduction to his work and influences (growing up in apartment buildings, saving money to go to Paris at 19), while the video below (titled “Movie Star Arrow Mobiles“) is less a tutorial and more an art object itself.

The artist’s new self-described project includes images of 100 Hollywood celebrities, dangling from electrical wires throughout the famous city:

Above flew to Los Angeles for 12 days and hung his new revised “Movie star arrow mobiles” in the heart of Hollywood giving Los Angeles a large dose of exactly what it obsesses about; movies and the actors that make the city of Los Angeles so uniquely scandalous.

Happening upon one of his mobiles, created from wood and stenciled with one or two-word directives, is a thing of beauty. Catching the shadows of these spinning art objects or watching people’s faces as they engage with the eponymous work is just as intoxicating.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Filed under: art, consumerism, culture, , , , , , , , , ,

Two Must-Sees: “Dead Man” and “Blue Velvet”

I knew there was a reason I liked A.O. Scott.

In the Times‘ “Critics’ Picks” series, Scott lavishes praise on two of my own favorite films: Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995) and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). One is prophetic, mysterious; the other, dangerously sobering and full of threat.

Dead Man is Jim Jarmusch’s best film (among many) because of its singular vision. Neil Young provides the glorious, atmospheric soundtrack (a forerunner to the eerie soundscapes created by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood). For the story, Jarmusch channels the voice of William Blake and grounds him in his own surreal version of the Wild West.

In Blue Velvet, David Lynch skirted niceties and held a knife’s blade to the viewer’s throat. Kyle McLachlan is full of longing despite his naivete; Isabella Rosellini does not flinch from vulnerability as a woman abused by a maniacal Dennis Hopper. It’s disturbing, to say the least. Something that will haunt you and never let you forget its imagery. Everything cinema is supposed to do.

Cheers to A.O. Scott for reviving these modern classics.

Filed under: art, film, , , , ,



» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
March 2018
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Pics from Africa 2010

About Me


About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More