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?

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

What’s Up with the Hanging Sneakers?

I had always assumed that they were gang-related.

True or not, the images of sneakers hanging from telephone wires in the neighborhood conjured images of gang territory. In this report from the BBC’s excellent Close-Up Series, filmmaker Ramon Goni seeks the answer. His interviewees have a variety of explanations for the shoes, ranging from memorializing a favorite pair of Chucks to gang violence to modern art pieces. The Murky Fringe offers a first-person explanation.

You can’t help but wonder if this earnest reporter is revealing his naivete–who’s going to admit the real meaning of the shoes, even if they do understand their true purpose? I imagine the reaction of the locals: What’s this reporter–from a news agency outside the Bronx–up to, asking all these questions?

Or, maybe the sneakers dangling from wires across the city aren’t related to gangs at all. Maybe they’re stretched across the sky by kids who want to simply say: We were here. This is our neighborhood. This is ours.

No matter their original design, the shoe couples–tied together by laces, light as air–are things of beauty.

Filed under: art, culture, new york, , , , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "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)
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https://rsiasoco.wordpress.com/about/

About Me

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

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