Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Social Space Project, Phase 1- Jon Chambers

Line Graffiti (Working Title)

Graffiti has been one of the most aesthetically transformative forms of public artwork, or criminality, that has emerged in the last 40 years. It has changed the urban landscape and social space from dull, blank canvases to sometimes beautiful swaths of color, concept and design (although I think of tagging as a different category). In Chicago, you can’t buy spray paint, and there exists a clan of “Graffiti Blasters” that take to the street and claimed to have blasted over 1.6 million instances of graffiti vandalism. According to the City of Chicago’s website, “Graffiti is vandalism, it scars the community, hurts property values and diminishes our quality of life.”  How many of these 1.6 million instances were brightening the community? Graffiti has even become part of the art institution, with artists like Banksy, Margaret Kilgallen, Fab Five Freddie, etc. showing in esteemed museums and sold at auction houses. Who owns the urban landscape, the city or the people who live there?
            This project creates “graffiti” kits and consists of a material that would come with instructions on how to form different patterns along the lines of bricks. I chose bricks as the specific form because they are ubiquitous as building materials, create patterns, and have a dull, boring color. A standard brick will be used as the unit of measurement to create the patterns and instructions that are distributed with the kits. For instance, when creating a pattern, the first piece of material would be laid across, lets say, 6 and a half bricks. From that first piece, count four rows down from the right edge, then lay another piece over a certain number of bricks, and so on. Of course, once in the hands of a potential consumer or user, they can do whatever they want, but the true form of this piece would emerge from these instructions.
            The aesthetics of the finalized pieces take cues from conceptual art (Sol Lewitt), the architectural line, and color pallets from graffiti art. These simple lines, especially the corner design, accentuate the form and material of the building, and play with the public’s perception of perspective. As one would move around the corner, the lines would gradually change shape, something they may not notice with the dull color of bricks. This gradual change makes the building dynamic, a sort of animation or sculpture. I haven’t come up with a package design or distribution method, but a technique I was thinking about would be using the Internet. The potential user would then simply download the plans and use wheat paste. This distribution method would be free and open sourced, which would be more characteristic of graffiti. I was also researching tape or decals that could stick to the surface of brick. Using printouts, the lines wouldn’t be as shiny or clear cut as the tape or decals, but the they would be environmentally friendly. There are many bricklaying styles that could be formed into different designs, so in some cases, the design might be sight specific.

Here are two concept sketches:

The kit element of this project will consist of a box with the ingredients in it. I have included the templates of the box, the graphics that will be pasted around the box, and a drawing of what the box will look like when constructed. There is also an image of what will be in the kit, although the specific instructions haven't been planned yet. The paper won’t be dispersed in rolls, as I will cut strips to length. I’ve found rolls as cheap as $5. I will also create a simple website for the project where you can download the plans for each piece and submit photos of installed projects. Keeping with the ethics of graffiti culture, there needs to be a website for people who don’t want to buy the designed kit, and a broader culture may form through the submitted photographs. I have also included an image of what the website may look like. 


  1. I'm very into how serial/conceptual art is brought into a graffiti/street art practice in this project. If the idea is simply to get these things view-able in social-space and not necessarily transgress property laws (as is often the case in grafitti) I would suggest having that be reflected in your distribution method. That is, have it be a part of the process to collaborate/communicate with the owner's of the space you plan to put the work on.

  2. This piece seems very interventionist while also incorporating social (as in collaborative) art making.

    There is a definite use for a kit, I think the power of this gesture as a model of performance is as, if not more important than the overall decal itself. If you could find a common material that would allow users to customize their designs, this would allow a discourse of architectural intervention that isnt always discussed in graffiti cultural

  3. How much research are you planning to do into masonry design patterns as part of the project? A cursory examination of architectural examples indicate that the deliberate arrangement of bricks for decorative purposes appears to have declined steadily (although I wonder if it is declined faster than the use of brick itself). It would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between the decline of decorative elements in architecture and the emergence of highly visible public graffiti, or if they are unrelated phenomena.

  4. Check out the links below -
    DeMakersvan's Lace Fence urban interventions -
    Ndebele house painting:
    Islamic Tiling Patterns:
    Brickwork patterns:
    Chicago Brickwork patterns:


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