Check out this video documenting graffiti artist Tilt‘s recent installation in a Marseilles hotel room. To find out more about the project, there’s a nifty Q & A with Tilt in the New York Times…. To Book a room, contact Au Vieux Panier. Tilt’s ‘Panic Room’ will set you back €135. If bubble letters give you nightmares why not spend the night in purgatory in the ‘Mass Confusion’ room instead? Nuff said, the video speaks for itself.
When the sleepy city of Tunis kicked off the Arabic Spring, little did we know what was to come: both for the better and worse. Hence, we lead in with a video collaboration from El Seed, the Tunisian-born, calligraphy graffiti artist… from little things, big things grow. (See the end of this post for a video interview with El Seed on his work and the Tunisian uprising.)
The rather dusty city of Tunis sprawls along the coast encompassing the pretty seaside villages and suburbs of Carthage, Sidi Bou Saïd, La Marsa, La Gammarth and La Goulette. Navigating between them requires a reasonable amount of patience for traffic jams. (Taking the train is probably more fun…) We’ve listed a day’s worth of eating and drinking and a few arty spots, the rest is up to you. See here for Hotels We Love in Tunis.
Brunch: We’re not for the international hotel chain, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Brunching outdoors beneath the sunshades and watching the sun sparkle on the bay is a delightful way to start the day. For this reason, we give the thumbs up to Mövenpick Hotel Gammarth for its French-style brunch buffet.
Wow, we’re not even sure how that happened. This blog started out as a way of writing about places we’d been, places we stayed and cool things we saw along the way…For our 100th post, we got to thinking about our art and travel highlights…Click on the pictures to go through to the original story. Thanks to everyone who has read this blog, followed this blog, contributed to this blog, befriended us on Facebook or just stumbled across it randomly while looking for something weird (to the person who – bizarrely – came to us after Googling ‘portable sex swing’, we hope you eventually found what you were looking for, albeit elsewhere).
With love from us,
…and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? If an artist makes a work of graffiti, and the work doesn’t appear on Google image search, does it exist? Spotted at Broadway Market in London Fields and published for posterity…
An exhibition in Paris at the Maison du Danemark elevates the anarchic mischief-making of yarn bombing to an evolved commentary on issues ranging from animal conservation and weaponry without losing the bite of it activist roots.
If yarnbombing grew out of the ironic revival of knitting and crochet clubs it found its voice in the graffiti movement. But whereas the latter is dominated by spray-can wielding types sporting XY chromosomes and low-hung jeans, yarnbombing is a decidedly more feminine movement. And if you will forgive us making a sweeping statement, it is smarter for it. Whereas some aspects of graffiti – such a tags and repetition of motifs – speak largely of territory marking – the urban interventions of yarnbombing seem more concerned with space reclamation, statement making or delight creating – in part perhaps because each object must be individually crafted.
The Maison du Danemark devotes a considerable portion of its presentational text to proving/defending the knitted objects as works of art. To be sure, knitting has usually been relegated, along with other ‘women’s work’, as craft rather than art. (The relationship of ‘craft’ to ‘Art’ being that of ‘cook’ to ‘Chef’ with the same gender implications.) For us it’s a moot point – whether art is made using wool and needles, steel and blowtorch or coloured pigments mixed with oils and dabbled about with a little hairy stick is irrelevant.
The show is dominated by Danish artist Isabel Berglund’s gorgeous tree. Rendering what is usually hard into something as soft and in need of support creates a Hans Christian Andersen -like fairy tale mood while engendering the desire to tree hug. Or should we say tree hygge? (Don’t worry, out supply of Danish themed puns is now officially exhausted.)
Also on show are French artists Art Oriente Objet’s lovely interpretations of endangered animals from their 1992 series, The Year My Voice Broke. Reflecting on issues of extinction and human’s approach to conservation whereby animals became subject to human laws (governing, we suppose, their movements, migration, procreation etc), the artists decreed it should be “The Year of Knitting for Animals” during which, according to their website, they “would knit as many animals skins as were asked of us”. The Panda and Stag on display are beautifully realised works reminiscent of the ongoing (and somewhat bemusing) craze for taxidermy.
Danish artist Hanne G has taken history’s most common and iconic guns and rendered these objects of – let’s face it – masculine power all floppy and harmless. The Crochet for Peace (2007) series inspires the following un-woolly idea: let’s spend our defence budgets on buying wool for knitted guns and live in peace. In contrast her Lady Weapons (2007) series features feminine and domestic paraphernalia with a potentially violent application such as rolling pins, irons, stilettos and lady razors.
Also on display are knitted and knobbly landscapes captured from Google Earth by the Collectif France Tricot.
The Mailles: Art en Laine show continues until 19 November, 2011. Visitors are welcome to contribute to a communal knitting project and help themselves to cups of tea, bringing a touch of homeliness and sociability to this otherwise crisp, if lovely, space on the Champs Elysee.
For details: see the Maison du Danemark website.
“How long have you been waiting to vote?” I asked.
The answer was irresistible.
“Forty years,” someone said.
“Who do you think will win the election?” I asked another voter.
“Sir,” he said, “we will all win. We are voting freely for the first time. It means we have already won.”
—Extract Allan Little for BBC News (see full story)
Last Sunday Tunisia voted in its first ever free elections, with citizens choosing from a whopping 110 political candidates on the ballot paper. Eligible voter turn-out was high at 90% (thanks in part to clever voter registration campaigns like this one.) The verdict is in. The moderate Islamist party Ennahda came out ahead, but probably won’t be able to rule on their own and talks have begun with the moderate secular parties Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol. The vote comes ten months after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was bought down by protests triggered by public outrage over the self-immolation of a young, unemployed fruit seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, which ultimately kick-started the Arab Spring – now spreading into Autumn.
While the exhibition wasn’t entirely to our taste, the art is nonethless interesting as a historical document of this extraordinary time. (French speakers can hear the artists explain their work, motivations and feelings about the revolution in this film created for the exhibition.) We loved Wassim Ghozlani‘s photographs of burned out and tagged post-revolutionary cars; an explosive moment in an otherwise largely peaceful revolution. (Aside: the revolution provided loads of interesting street photography moments and you can peruse Ghozlani’s attempts to capture the moment and diversity of the protesters here.) Photographer Hichem Driss‘s work also struck a chord with his hip-hop aesthetic. His series Erreur 404 aims to document the diversity of Tunisians of all persuasions: colour, gender, sexual preference, class, religion and ethnicity. Will they get the representation that they deserve? In the struggle to create a new democratic system for Tunisia, Driss’ portraits are a reminder of the diversity and complexity of his nation’s citizenry.
Around the same time the Tunisian artists were attending the opening in Paris, some of their compatriots were busy rioting down by the local television station to protest against the screening of Persepolis, an award-winning animated film based on the memoirs of Marjane Satrapi. At issue, a scene where the young Marjane is talking to God as he imagines him: depicting God is a violation of Islamic doctrine. (As is depicting humans or even animals: hence the Islamic world’s tradition of using non-figurative geometric mosaics etc in decorative arts and architecture.) The film had screened previously in Tunisia without incident, though this is the first time the film had been dubbed into the local Tunisian dialect and the content of the film (how fundamentalist Islamisists hi-jacked the youthful, liberal Iranian revolution and created a dictatorship) was obviously pressing a few buttons.
The two contrasting scenarios – on one hand, young artists celebrating their personal creativity and freedom of expression in Paris, on the other, angry fundamentalists running wild and advocating censorship, reminds us of what we already know: democracy entails trying to get along with people you don’t agree with. It’s not easy. Good luck Tunisia. We leave with a sort of action video extracted from Marjane Satrapi’s film Persepolis, one day it will be Iran’s turn again.
Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive…
Click here for Hotels We Love in Tunis.
Sometimes simple is simply good. We just came across this video depicting an obscure installation by street artists Brad Downey and Akay… For the Fame Festival 2011 in Grottaglie, Italy, this year, they created a myriad of playful artworks, including a pasta curtain, a Tipping Point paint-meets-donimo effect street painting, shenanigans involving brooms and the deletion of cars (now that’s the kind of Tidy Town campaign we’d like to see more of). Hope you enjoy their little video for more details, see the FAME blog page here.
BTW Brad Downey and Akay’s tipping point installation reminds of this bit of shenanigans by the veteran Swiss artist Roman Signer. For the surreal and mechanically minded, it’s a cracker.
We’re in a run-down house put to artistic use in a large garden populated by mud and odd bits of broken glass. A sort of mosh-pit has formed under the veranda where Angelo Milano, covered in glitter like a grunge version of Gold Finger, is spinning like a demented top while the crowd thrashes out – bemusingly – to re-mixes of 90′s dance hits. Above us, a very big, very pink cartoonish penis has been spray-painted across the ceiling. The overall ambiance is akin to a fertility rite as imagined by Keith Haring and manifested in Italy via Google translator. The location is Studio Cromie, Grottaglie, Italy, an unlikely epicentre of street art. The occasion, closing night of the FAME Festival which had begun oh-so-civilly with a gallery opening and dinner hosted at Milano’s grandfather’s house.
Founded by Angelo Milano of Studio Cromie, FAME references both the Warholian 15 minutes and the Italian word for ‘Hunger’; particularly pertinent in this historically poverty-stricken part of southern Italy that still falters behind the prosperous north.
In the lead-up to the festival in September, the elite of the world’s street artists descend on Grottaglie to paint the walls of neglected buildings, apartment blocks and laneways in the historic quarter, transforming it into a maze of art, Big Ideas, strange tales, satirical jokes and unexpected presences. The festival centres around a gallery exhibition where attendees can purchase tangible artworks, chiefly prints, which helps fund the festival and keeps Studio Cromie ticking over. (If you can’t make it to the festival prints are available for purchase online and obviously the street murals are open all year around.)
ARTISTS: This year you can expect to see Italian artists BLU, superstar of the scene, Erica al Cane whose animal-themed works are incredibly cute and twisty and 108. The Euro contingent includes the witty and incisive ESCIF, wall-sculptor Vhils and the German artist Boris Hoppek. Brits include Word to Mother and the lovely Lucy McLauchlan (last year her works so pleased the neighbours that they bought her drinks and snacks while she worked). Also keep your eyes peeled for US paste-up star Swoon and the geometrically inclined Momo. See the FAME Festival website for a complete list.
TIPS: The festival is fairly organic so keep your eyes open and follow the crowd. In the event that you miss something crucial, e.g. the address for the closing party, try this technique: drive/walk around Grottaglie looking for hipsters and when you find some, just ask where the party is! (Grottaglie is a small town. ) Anyone wanting to visit the festival should check out the FAME Festival website but based on our experience, we thought we’d pull together some of the gaps with a bit of a travel guide for the uninitiated.
GET AROUND: The art is spread across the city and Grottaglie doesn’t do public transport. Plenty of people explore the murals on foot, but there’s no doubt that having a car will speed things up and also enable you to do some regional tourism. We rented a Fiat 500 and it was perfect for the region’s winding laneways. (Regional tourism lures include cutsie whitewashed villages, such as Ostuni and Martina Franca nearby, and beautiful coastline villages such as Gallipoli. Also note food is unbelievably good and cheap.) Failing that, a bike is a good compromise. (See here for info train travel in Italy with a bike.) The nearest international airports are Brindisi and Bari.
LOOK AT ART: Studio Cromie makes a handy little map to the town’s street art which you can collect from the gallery on the opening night. (Bottega Papocchia, Via Caravaggio, Ceramics Quarter, Map link: here.)
The spooky rambling Monastery on the edge of town has inspired some amazing art (watch our Monastery video) but can be tricky to find.
Look for a big red building up on the hill off Via 25 Luglio on your right hand side. It has a sign ‘Instituti Provinciali di Benificenza’ which you can glimpse on this map link: here.)
EAT & DRINK: Note that restaurant hours across Puglia are disconcertingly short – arrive too late and you’ll go hungry (arrive respectively by 1pm/8pm for lunch/dinner). This is particularly unfortunate at lunchtime when all the shops close for the afternoon siesta thus dashing your dreams of a quick bakery run.
Osteria Il Piatto Reale Enoteca: traditional family run joint with friendly service and excellent regional cuisine at reasonable (mid-market) prices. It’s extremely popular for Sunday lunch so book ahead, or be prepared to queue for hours – seated guests will go the full three-courses and then linger over the coffee while your tummy growls. (Via Cavour, 13, Grottaglie. Closed Wednesdays.)
Pizzeria il Forno: Excellent cheap pizza (from €6) in an enormous, rustic barn-like room. It’s very popular with families on a Friday and Saturday night (and why wouldn’t it be?) so arrive early for a quick bite or book in advance. (Via Sicilia, 14/Via Foggia, 12. Tel: 099-5638-927. Closed Tuesdays. May be closed at lunchtime.)
Caffè-Libreria Nomine Rosae: An atypically minimalist arty book store meets drinkery with pared back wood interior and bright red chairs. This is where to find the cool crowd. (Via Risorgimento, 5-7, Centro Storico.)
Vine Caffe’ Di De Giorgio Maria: a typical low-key joint to grab coffee or drinks in thee historic quarter – in good weather you can enjoy the terrace on the plaza.(Piazza Regina Margherita, 16, next to the Salita Immacolta church. Map ref: here.)
SLEEP: Grottaglie isn’t tourist central, so the level of accommodation is not as exciting as that available in some of the more scenic villages elsewhere (eg: Ostuni, Martina Franca). However, if you don’t have a car – or even if you do – it’s definitely the most convenient option for festival go-ers. On the upside, the pricing is very reasonable starting from €35/40 for a single room.
Il Bato B&B: A characterful 18th century house (pictured above) featuring locally made ceramics and materials (we like the looks of the antique floor tiles). It’s situated behind a church in the historic quarter, is very reasonably priced and has free wi-fi. We didn’t stay there, but this could be the pick of the bunch.
Sogni d’Oro: The rooms are plain, but you can bet they’ve been scrubbed to within an inch of their life. The drawcard here seems to be the view and roof-top terrace and a bit of a ceramics theme, given it’s location in the ceramics district.
Maschere Grottagliesi: Situated in a Renaissance building in the historic quarter, it offers three rooms named by different colours. Thanks to the traditional architecture, the bedrooms might be a little on the dark side, but the website does say “the rooms are all furnished with gusto and creativity and respect the ancient structure of the house…making you feel comfortable and cuddled.” We like the sounds of feeling ‘cuddled’ especially when coupled with comic sans.
Gill Hotel: Angelo organises a special rate for FAME festival guests. It’s a serviceable hotel outside of the historic quarter, rooms are spacious and comfortable enough and perfectly clean. It won’t win any awards unless there’s a prize for ‘exhaustive use of the colour coral’, but it’s central and does the job. Avoid the dismal breakfast area – just around the corner you can have coffee, pastries and juice at the friendly and extremely popular neighbourhood cafe Zelig Bar (Via Amendola, 15, 74023 Grottaglie). The exterior is unpromising, but it’s nice inside. Hotel booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
TAKE A HOLIDAY: Grottaglie is surrounded by lovely villages (Ostuni, Martina Franca, UNESCO-heritage listed Alberobello) –which are quite well set up for tourism. If you have a car you could stay somewhere a bit more exciting (like a hobbit-like trulli house or glam masseria) during the festival – or tack on a holiday at the end of it. Follow this link for info about tourist jaunts and alternative accommodation in Puglia.
GET EXCITED!: Check out the video we made about FAME Festival 2010 for Babelgum below.
After writing about the retrospective of Australian Street Art held at the NGA in Canberra, Australia, we were excited to attend the launch of Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A in London. With MOCA’s blockbuster Art in the Streets show currently grabbing the headlines in LA and beyond, it was great to see another major international gallery attempting to connect with the growing street art movement. Interestingly, the show wasn’t held at the V&A itself, but at street art gallery Black Rat Projects in Shoreditch where most of the works on display were originally published, and where the drinks flowed freely and the music was way more pumping.
One of the first things that struck us about the exhibition was that the V&A had chosen wisely. There’s no doubting Blu’s genius when it comes to large-scale graffiti walls, but sometimes the prints and sketches we’ve seen on offer (at elevated prices) have seemed a bit half-baked. Not here. Both of the Blu prints on display illustrated why this Italian artist has become the scene’s true superstar. Gaza Strip, playing on the mobius strip, was pithy, witty, poignant and absurd. The second, CMYK (pictured top), revealed Blu’s wry humour and love of fantastical machinery, the likes of which we recently witnessed in Grottaglie. Continue reading