Posts Tagged ‘swapbox


An ongoing update…

It has been a while, hasn’t it? First of all, some new stuff is coming. I have been rather sick these past two weeks and am only now starting to recover.

Secondly, “The Art of Swap” is heading into final editing. I’m tweaking some written sections to include more references for interested readers to check out, playing around with cover designs and finishing up the swapbox blueprints.

As for Ottawa, a number of interesting things have happened since I was last there. Alas, I am much too busy working on a plan to go to Burning Man to write a long, drawn-out update about them…but that is coming at some point…

EDIT: Montreal art show and sale this Canada Day (aka the real Fete Nationale) 10-4 PM, St. Philip’s Church grounds (corner of Sherbrooke and Connaught Streets), Montreal QC. Come one, come all! Over 50 artists and artisans, including MaksWerks!


New Orleans thoughts, Part one

Working on reconstruction projects in New Orleans always leaves me feeling somewhat pensive and conflicted. The first time I was in New Orleans post-Katrina was in December of 2006, fifteen months after the storm. I went down to offer up my skills as a drywaller, house gutter and cook. I saw it as being a learning experience as well. I’ve never had to face the bigotry, poverty and institutionalized racism that contributed so greatly to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of poor black New Orleans neighbourhoods, and part of me wanted to challenge my view of the world by seeing its impacts up close.

I found myself feeling rather wary about staying in the city’s Lower 9th Ward, a historically working-class black neighbourhood. I felt like an outsider, a privileged university student who doesn’t have to deal with the everyday frustrations and tribulations of their lives let alone all the problems caused by the storm. I don’t have to worry about a rickety-looking levee crumbling and washing away my livelihood.

I also found myself thinking a bit about street art and its entry into both popular culture and the mainstream art world. Despite the anonymity of streetart, how much do colour and gender barriers still play a role in who gets noticed or who sells? It’s inspiring seeing streetart and graffiti becoming a truly international art movement and non-North American artists (such as Os Gemeos and Jace) getting noticed.
But I remember flipping through a newspaper last year and seeing two stories on adjoining pages- one of which was about how a Banksy piece on the side of a house sold for a record amount, while the other was about the unexplained death in police custody of a black youth arrested for spraypainting.

And that’s what I keep coming back to.

Turns out I just stumbled onto some old Swap Box pictures I hadn’t seen before, from Knitnut… I’m starting to select pictures for my yet-untitled streetart book, and some of these might just make it in.

Inside the box Larger pic
Bigger pic


Swap Box Project in the news!

It looks like the Swap Box Project got some press. In the Montreal Gazette, specifically.

“First, there were random acts of kindness.

Then there was book crossing – the practice of leaving a good book on a park bench or a bus seat for a stranger to discover and enjoy.

The latest concept in the tradition of small acts of humanity in the urban jungle is the swap box – a receptacle for small gifts that invites people to help themselves and pass on the favour by leaving a trinket for someone else to find.”…

The reason this article reads so choppy and disjointed is that I wound up being interviewed via e-mail for something which was being rushed out. There are a couple flubbed or poorly chopped quotes of mine there…for example, while I love the Reflectorman Project I’ve got no intention of copying its robot characters. I have some ideas for using similar materials though…

On the topic of the Champ-de-Mars station redesign, I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of what a public park designed by a street artist would look like. I don’t want to mention too much and give too many ideas away, but I’m looking at interactivity and year-round connections. It has to be engaging, fun to look at and be in and open up a section of space to a wide range of possibilities.

Quebec has policies in place to give design contracts to sculptural and visual artists, and I’m definitely considering the question of what kind of public art to bring in. As I’ve said before, the problem with public art is that most of it is bland, useless and puzzling…

How then can one go from ephemerality to designing something semi-permanent? The former’s my art of choice. And this is the question that’s rattling round in my head.


Thinking about a book…

Well folks…

It’s been a hectic week in urban planning land, and the pressure is only going to ratchet up as the end of term approaches. Right now I am swamped in notes about form-based codes, zoning regulations, bylaws, potential initiatives and subsidies. Did you know that the City of Montreal has a bylaw prohibiting street vending and has recently passed another which will effectively eliminate the beloved horse carriages of Old Montreal?

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into putting out a small street art and idea book in the new year. I’ve been thinking of how there is little overlap in terms of practical ideas on streetart, public space planning and design, and architecture, and the little bits that do exist are inevitably geared towards official, bureaucratic channels.

I’d like to put out a small, 40-page-maximum book with pictures of some of my streetart pieces, bits of writing about the Swap Box Project, and maybe pictures of other Swap Boxes that others have made around the world. I’d also like for it to include some ideas about what can be done with interactive street art and people/groups/organizations that one can network with to get more done…

I’ve also had a photojournalism student friend of mine follow me around on a streetart mission and take some pictures of a Swap Box in use…so when she gets back to me I’ll post some actual professional-quality pics.

(photos by Hadas Parush)


Swap Box time again…

You can find this one over near the intersection of Roy Est/Coloniale...

And today I will be talking to you about Toynbee Tiles.

What are Toynbee Tiles, you might ask??
Toynbee tiles(also known as asphalt mosaics) are a street-art form that first appeared on the streets of early 1980s Philadelphia, where folks began noticing linoleum blocks bearing the words "Toynbee's Idea in Kubrick's 2001- Resurrect Dead on Planet Jupiter" embedded in the city's streets. Think Space Invader's tiles, only embedded in asphalt rather than mounted on walls. They're one of those city features about which a lot of theories have been tossed around but which there's no concise explanation for...just like pairs of shoes thrown over telephone wires.

Their durability and interesting location has resulted in the Toynbee tile medium being used by street artists worldwide. Here in Montreal, someone has been using them to embed robot figures in crosswalks (which look like they're the work of the Reflectorman project

Toynbee Tile group on Flickr

How to make a Toynbee Tile


Street Art Updates coming soon…

I’ll be uploading pics of one of my newest projects within the next couple of days. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some action/installation shots as well.

I’ve recently gotten into grad school and will be starting a 2-year urban planning program in September. Now I’ve been thinking of the ways which street art might be harnessed in the service of urban planing and design. How can I draw on an art form whose beauty comes in part from its transience in order to build something more permanent?

I’ve been reading the book “Deleuze and Guattari for Architects”, which looks at certain key ideas of the two French philosophers in an architectural context, recently. One phrase in particular has been running through my mind for days.

“Vitruvius inscribed a square and circle around the human figure, and these forms were seen to embody something important about the human form…Renaissance drawings show grids of squares with human figures superimposed across them, which turn into the ground-plans of churches, and in doing so embody divinely ordered proportion. The body in the Deleuze-and-Guattari world is utterly different. It shits and fucks, is engaged in processes of production and consumption, and it connects in multifarious ways within itself and with its surroundings”

Working from this, how should we design our environments for what we really are rather than for an idealized image of ourselves?


SWAP: The City is Breathing

Well, folks,

At last…the director’s cut of the Swap Box Short Film is complete and online.

Catch it at the link above.