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new york city. grew up in manhattan tagging a little from ages ten-to-sixteen, but didn’t really have the personality for it at the time because i was so paranoid and quiet. except for biting styles lol. my sketchbooks from that time are a compendium of letters and styles that i bit from what i was seeing on the streets and on the subways. then i did other things for a while, college, work, proofreading, computer graphic prepress production, corporate identity information design. eventually i got bored, felt exploited, went freelance, and practiced art more and more. as i grew up, my personality became more outgoing and assertive as well, a couple of traits important to bombing. then when the twentieth anniversary DVD of Style Wars came out with the new interviews of all the legendary writers as they are today, it dispelled the myths and lessened the hero worship that made me feel it was all beyond me. i realized they were just human and that i had been much like a lot of them and might as well go for it now. so over the past ten years i developed as a writer and then finally went all city with tags from 2011-2014. not a very well rounded bomber yet, just a tagger so far, but i hope to step up my game along the way. i got time. not dead yet. at first when i tried to go all city, i kept a map to try to hit every neighborhood, but fell off after a bit. did pretty well tho, mostly walking except for some serious car missions every sunday for a few months with the homie Fade1AA during the winter of 2013-2014. much respect to a 25 year legend. also traveled a bit, and went car tagging in san jose for four nights and los angeles for six in 2012. car is best way for all out coverage. if i have a car i’ll just drive all night, jumping in and out of the car, in any neighborhood. easy to go all city with tags in a week or two. when i was in philly with a car for a month, an older writer blessed me with a comment on instagram that the work i did “was like a storm of tags.” i also did london for two weeks and paris for three in 2013, just walking though. in those huge spread out cities, it was just a drop in the bucket though lol.
i remember drawing that goofy pirate and bird on cereal boxes when i was really young and sending them in. didnt win. took an animation class when i was seven and only drew like fifteen cells for my final project so it really was more like a boring cartoon strip than an animated cartoon. but after we moved to nyc when i was ten, a friend turned me on to graff on the back of the seats on a bus during a school trip and i was hooked. i was the kid that took the stuff i saw on the streets home and sketched and drew and copied stuff to bring in and show my friends later. like i said above, i was paranoid and quiet though, so i never really hung out or got up enough to be considered a real writer. mainly just obsessed over styles in my sketch books. not very good, but the love was there. like that kid says to patti astor in Wild Style as they push her stalled car, “we are all graffiti writers!” i was just one of thousands of writers dropping tags occasionally.
Early writers: LSD-Om, Futura, Zephyr, Rasta, Revolt, Crime, Aztec, Terror161, The Rebels, Rolling Thunder Writers…
Later: Rammellzee, Easy, Ket1, Ghost, SpOne, Ja, Trap, Rambo, all my NYC and Philly homies, 907, TTYL, Cost, Revs, Mare139, Poesia, PantOne, Jurne…
Overall: Science, Baudrillard, heavy metal and punk, David Foster Wallace, de Kooning, David Lynch, John Zorn, ee cummings…
in terms of graff, the past ten years, i just wanted to impress and connect with all the heads. i knew because i was just doing a squiggly line with no letters or style, that i was going to have to do a lot of work. and keep doing it. so i pushed myself to get up constantly for a few years. i also started a zine called SIGNAL! to support the community and promote the writers i respected, my friends, and the history of graff. i didn’t want to be just taking, but giving as well. i feel good being a supporter as much as i like getting attention for my own accomplishments. i try hard to be unbiased, not get into beef or gossip, and understand each writer for what they have accomplished, what their unique voice is about, and how they express themselves on the street. it’s fascinating how you can know someone just from how they get up, where they tag, the tools the use, the spots they pick, the visual interplay of their tags or pieces with others.
in terms of general aesthetics separate from the formal elements unique to graff, like anyone else in any of the art disciplines in any time period, i’ve tried to find a unique bag of tricks that emphasize my strengths, creating my own vocabulary, finding my personal voice. i started with work by people i like, then pulled and twisted what worked for me in particular. i know my limits and my strengths pretty well by now, so i focus on what i am able to do and leave out the rest. for instance, like some people are better at characters than letters, i wasn’t good at either, so i just reduced my tag to a symbol lol. although i respect all visual voices, it was important to find my own.
part of that voice, in terms of this question, is rebellion, which is why i love graff. it is pure direct cultural rebellion and can even be revolutionary, as exemplified by people expressing themselves in other countries that are living that struggle on the streets daily. even here where we don’t have a war going on in our streets right now, when anyone breaks the law to make an unsanctioned mark on the streets, no matter the personal impetus, it is inherently civil disobedience, an expression of individualism, standing up to the system that is society’s laws and morés, a protest against the status quo establishment, a signal to alternative like-minds that we are here and support each other. these anonymous blips on the radar of the matrix mutate the system with fist-in-the-air molotov-metaphor protest resonance. these unsanctioned marks remind me not to be passive and complacent. these illegal aesthetic manifestations remind me that there are others who are pushing for freedom and redrawing the boundaries of our world. there are many ways for people to make this statement through politics, journalism, education, but as an artist with my certain personality type, who grew up in this time period, this form of aesthetic expression seems to be an instinctive behavioral mode that i was attracted to the first time a friend gave me a Niji to write with on the back of a seat on a school bus. when i was ten years old with a can of spray paint on the streets, i could not have explained my actions the way i do now, but that fact makes it all the more pure in motive and drive as a valid pure form of an innate human means of expression of our age.
no matter what i do down the line, i hope i am always guided by the inspiration of the pure act of writing graffiti itself. it’s so lame when someone does a lot of work, other things start happening, and then you never see them up again. i always want to remember the initial impetus, the excitement to get up, the feeling of the thrill of transgression, the expansiveness of going all city, spreading the message, connecting with others who i never met but felt respect for and community with, the power of initiating an anti-status quo visual virus creating resonant vibrations as a cultural change agent and alternative community builder like a grain of sand that irritates the inside of an oyster and causes the system to spit out a pearl. watching as other things sprout from this aesthetic action, everything that has happened in terms of having exhibitions, meeting like-minded artists to collaborate with on and off the streets, the reading and contemplation about what it all means, the theoretical underpinnings of my work now, the arts journalism, has been the result of being obsessed with the actual act of writing graffiti, and the drive to be a bigger and better graffiti writer. everything else followed out of that impetus. at first the impulse to get up was instinctual like when i was ten years old again, but over the past twelve years it has also become a lot of other things. i hope i always stick to what it’s really about, because if i change the focus then the gifts that writing graffiti have given me won’t be the same. the medium is the message so you gotta remain devoted to the original broadcast medium or the message will change. sometimes you see an artist or musician who changes over time and it makes you sad because the original energy and purity that was so fucking powerful in their work dissipates as they lose their focus and separate from what drove them in the first place. like watching as Metallica became more and more mainstream, even eventually calling themselves “hard rock” instead of “heavy metal” and their work became deflated and their focus became diluted. i mean, how much money and recognition from an audience that doesn’t really care about or understand what you are doing do you really need anyway?! i just want to become a better and better graffiti writer always challenging myself in that arena, and figure how to keep that as the central guidance system for everything else i am doing now and in the future.
i feel very lucky that the ekg pulse has had a cross over appeal without that being my initial intention. i just wanted to be part of the graffiti community and get some attention from the hardcore heads. i actually was scared that not even graffiti writers would like what i was doing. some don’t lol. but i guess maybe because i operate like a writer and am obsessed with writing and support the community with my zine SIGNAL! and my social media feeds, a lot of heads seem to accept and even like what i’m up to and can see that i’m not just a come-and-go street artist gallery type or a culture robber. for me, there’s nothing more meaningful than the pure instinctual act of making an illegal mark on a public wall and stirring shit up. there’s nothing like the joy or strength of graff. i revel in the power of the fucking tag! graff rules!
illegal aesthetic manifestations create an anti-status quo connection, communication, collaboration and community as they splice, transmit and mutate through the aetherial circulatory system ad infinitum. go all-city, all-universe, all-time-and-space: bomb the semiotosphere! revel in the power of the tag, the human mark, the identity avatar, the monitored action, the new millennium painterly gesture. we are the heartbeat of the city, the pulse of the populace, the voice of the people. david flinging pebbles at goliath.
photos from “EKG<heart>NYC: An All Hallows’ Valentine’s Eve Celebration of Misfit Love, Mutant Science, and Aesthetic Rebellion”. by “Katherine Lorimer aka @lunapark“