The November rain is pouring down, the wind is blowing hard, this is not a Saturday night to venture out unless you really have to, but the North East London basement space known as BSMT Space is packed once more. Another packed opening night in the Dalston gallery, this time for a show called The Right Side of The Tracks and three artists coming together in London to celebrate the act of just getting out there and doing it. There’s no print release or limited edition this that or the other, there’s no glossy coffee-table street art book to sign or any of the usual paraphernalia that comes along when the various strands of street art or graff culture take to the gallery. No bullshit tonight then, just three artists and their friends coming together and a celebration of several of the ever evolving strands of urban street culture, street art and graff-flavoured goodness on the edges of Hackney. on a Saturday night….
SHOW STATEMENT – BSMT SPACE will open a show like never before! Three Graffiti legends Kaos (Stockholm), Marr/Marvel (Malmö) and Rocco and his Brothers (Berlin) will be descending on London and shifting the gallery a gear in true Old School style!
Kaos is regarded a graffiti King, the original vandal in motion and a myth from the Swedish Graffiti scene. He will show us how Scandinavian writers have come to represent the true spirit of Nordic graffiti – playful, easy combinations with fast moves. He started writing in ’85/’86 with a compulsive urge to paint that hasn’t died over 30 years later! Kaos also started the Topdog crew in ’97, who as a crew and individuals has influenced more than one generation of writers.
Marr/Marvel/Eurotrash/Tropical Viking hails from Malmö, southern Sweden – a city famous for their purple commuter trains. Marr picked up on graffiti at the young age of 13 in ’94/’95 while hanging out skating in Industrial Malmö. Almost 20 years later with over 1000 trains and 1000 walls under his belt, Marr has come to understand Graffiti was the best way to find out about himself, the fast-working nature of cans and markers have shaped his style. Active in the most illegal forms of Graffiti, he says “You can always make something out of nothing – that is Graffiti”.
Berlin born Rocco and his Brothers has his roots in Graffiti and is still an active writer but his work has taken a radical shift in style – illegal installations that have been mystifying press and officials as they pop up all over Berlin in abandoned or restricted zones. These socio-political, satirical pieces are deeply rooted in Graffiti and they are about to be given an identity as this artist reveals who has been behind this controversy! Watch this space”
Of course a show like this is controversial, bloody vandals, look at the mess they make – not as messy as those gentrifiers ripping things down and lives apart – yes indeed, as with every inner-city artist, writer, (post woman, nurse, Clare Street car mechanic, train driver or shop worker) we’re fighting to survive in our cities. Gentrification and the destruction of communities, the destruction of people’s lives is an issue for almost every artist right now, the issue is taken on once again here – and anyway, while every inch of our cities, our transport systems and our daily lives are filled with corporate advertising and the “stuff” of officialdom, with huge street boards telling about the unaffordable homes replacing the ones we they tore down, the ones we lived in, worked in, painted in. When you can’t move for “buy this fizzy brown sugar-based drink” advertising or a billboard for the latest penis-shaped car or that new thingy or that perfume you need or cheese-burger you’re not cool if you don’t consume – when every wall and space is an advertising hoarding relentlessly marketing at you non-stop, relentlessly pecking away at your soul – buy stuff, consume, obey, don’t do this, so do that, consume some more, don’t ask questions, buy more things – when all that “stuff” is cluttering up every inner-city sight-line, constantly bombarding your senses with the “things” you are told you must consume – when all that is happening on our streets then bring on the street artists, the graff writers, bring on the vandals, bring on the creativity, the colour, the lifeblood of doing things rather than just consuming things. These advertisers, the stuff-pushers, the estate agents, they’re the vandals to worry about, the developers and marketers who don’t have to live this the cities they vandalise and don’t give two hoots about the people who live in the cities, the people they treat with such contempt…. Of course a show like this is controversial, a gallery celebrating lawless vandalism, brilliant, bring it on!
Three artists, two from Sweden, one from Germany and transport paraphernalia “stolen” from all over the globe, timetables from South Africa, train maps from New York, bits from Gothenburg or Berlin – it feels real, compelling, authentic, it feels exciting. The films and videos are the real points of interest, the footage of trains actually running, the installing of sculpture in Berlin city parks (in front of the confused looking Berlin police watching on). True, the actual physical art, the actual graff on the train maps that’s hanging on the actual gallery walls in here tonight – when the actual art is reduced to just the drawings and paintings on a train timetable on a gallery wall – well then the actually quality of the art might not be of the very highest, but that’s really not the point and this isn’t a gallery show about artwork on a gallery wall. This is about work really out there, about lives, about art on the streets and when these artists are out on the actual streets and their work is in the walls outside – and some of those photos on the gallery wall are brilliant – when the art is out there on the advertising boards and train time tables living and breathing, then this is excellent art – this is art living and breathing, vital and far far more vitally exciting and worth of space in here tonight than just some over-slick street art type who never leaves the gallery (unless he or she needs to publicise their next gallery show or slick print release).
This is brilliant art, alive, vital, real, three artists our there and doing it, loving it, breathing it, walking it – and those trains do look exciting running on those tracks. This is the real deal, these days defiantly so – the anti gentrification paste ups, the anti AirBnB slogans – landlords really are kicking out tenants because they make more out of short-term AirBnB, something really is wrong… love these castrate gentrification stickers and paste ups.
Who are Rocco and his Brothers? What have they been doing in Berlin? Mysteriously installed rooms in German underground stations, statues in parks, actually, there’s a lot more than just a bunch of vandals gathering together at BSMT Space tonight.This art show might slip under the radar of pretty much everyone besides the vast graff/writing underground community (where’s the street art crowd tonight, lot of the usual faces missing), but these films of Rocco and his Brothers are important, this is important art, these rooms of his and his brothers. Who are Rocco and his Brothers? We’re not talking about a 1960’s Luchino Visconti film here, who is Rocco? Something important happening here, something a little more vital and important, art a little more important and a little more vital than a politely painted train set in the Tate! These mysterious rooms are Turner Prize good, this is important contemporary art, these things Rocco and his Brothers are doing are as vital in terms of contemporary art as anything that’s happening right now.
And so some artists from mainland Europe came together in an East London basement gallery, some London writers and artists came to see it, a show opened, a gallery was packed, the train-yard fence dissecting the gallery and forcing viewer to duck through the hole was a nice touch, probably best not to ask where the fence came from – “nearly everything in this show is stolen” said someone. An art show opened in a basement gallery in East London, an important art show, a vital art show -another one – a show that will probably go under most radars, and rather like that voluptuous Kambra Pfahler opening last Tuesday, you won’t be reading about it via the self-appointed art media who like to think they can police everything, an art media that appears to think it all starts and ends with the latest out-pourings from the art schools patronised by the establishment galleries who never ever think of stepping outside their comfort zones.
These are tough times, tough times breed exciting art, times like these are when art should thrive, when artists should come together, when things really do need to happen, times like these are when art really needs to challenge and as it was with Kambra Pfahler’s show of defiance in her tile-red apartment last Tuesday night, this opening tonight was another case of art defiantly exciting, connecting, caring, this was art challenging, art being vital, art alive and exciting, art engaging, challenging, this is communities coming together, four days on Kambra’s voluptuousness, this was another inspiring opening and another exciting East London art show…
Do go explore those films and photos, do go duck under the fence and watch those videos of those trains and that footage of those installations, go celebrate some graff legends, go and discover a whole lot more that just some “graff legends” a scene celebrating itself, this show is that, but this show is a lot more than just that. Who are Rocco and his Brothers? Four days on from kembra’s voluptuousness, The Right Side Of The Tracks, with Marr and Kaos, makes for yet another excellent East London art show opening… (sw)
Right Side of The Tracks runs at BSMT Space, 5d Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London N16 8BH, until December 1st.
Click on an image to enlarge or run the fractured slide show and get a little bit of a flavour…. .