Monthly Archives: December 2010

Mission 10: Secret Santas

If you live in any country in which both consumerism and Christianity and are rampant, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the Secret Santa. Perhaps you’ve even participated in one of these awkward exchanges. In case you haven’t, the general idea is that everybody is asked to give a lame present to virtual stranger. In exchange, everybody can expect to receive an even lamer present from another virtual stranger. The problem with Secret Santas, however, is neither lame presents nor strangers. In fact, both giving and receiving lame presents can be great fun, especially when strangers are involved! Their principle downfall is that they simply aren’t secret enough.

Oh sure, you might not know precisely who has been assigned to give you a present, but that’s about all that’s left up to the imagination. It’s no secret that you’re going to receive a present of some kind or another. You even know exactly when and where you’re going to receive it! And, worst of all, you know why the virtual stranger is giving you a lame present. It’s the same reason you’re giving another virtual stranger a lame present–because that’s what you signed up for. How much more interesting would it be if these details were left up to the imagination? That’s what this mission aims to explore. Let’s transform the act of giving from obligation into art!

Give a present to a complete stranger. Your gift doesn’t need to be anything special, but we encourage you to think about the delivery of your present as a performance. You could be anonymous or you could be really really open about it. For instance, you could mail your gift to a random address. You could also flag down your target on the street and, on bended knee, deliver your present along with a heartfelt a capella rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

Keep in mind, however, that society teaches us from a very early age to be suspicious of anything we receive from strangers. In other words, the more convincing your presentation, the more likely the gift will be accepted. Nevertheless, you should be careful to reveal nothing about your motives in giving it. That would take all the fun out of it!

Happy holidays and, as always, viva la revolucion!


Public Art Feature: Party While You Paint

[submitted by Where’s Waldo, Seoul, South Korea]

Most artists who paint without authorization in public spaces would rather not draw attention to themselves. They work quickly and quietly so police don’t find out. Police are skeptical of street art to the point that they don’t even call it art. More often they refer to it as graffiti or—gasp!—vandalism. Admittedly, the streets are full of graffiti but they’re also full of art, and what separates the two is more than authorization through official channels. Unfortunately those in control usually can’t discern the difference between the artists and vandals, so true street artists must learn to keep a low profile.

All of this explains why I was so surprised and inspired by the DRIPAN Art Walk last weekend. The event included stops at a number of galleries, performance spaces, and bars in and around Itaewon, the epicenter of Seoul’s foreigner community. However, the highlight of the evening occurred not in a chic gallery but in a dingy underpass beneath a busy intersection. Here a group of artists created some truly inspired artwork and— incredibly— they flaunted convention by working under the most conspicuous conditions imaginable. Not only did they invite all of their friends to watch—they also invited their friends’ friends, any random strangers lucky enough to wander by, and five-piece funk band! Upwards of 70 people crammed into the underpass, many with beer in hand, and applauded wildly at the completion of every new layer. The traditionally furtive act of installation quickly grew into a flash-mob party.

Much of the party centered around a work by jimmySK, a stencil artist from the UK who has lived in Korea for 3 years and has been producing street art in Seoul since September. I’ve included a shot of Jimmy’s art below:

I had the opportunity to chat with Jimmy after the show. “Having a crowd of onlookers was a double edged sword,” he explained. “It was great having them there but obviously having all that extra attention goes against the subversive nature of what I do.” However, he also admitted to feeling a certain safety in numbers. With so many artists and musicians working together, he reasoned, any police officer stumbling upon the impromptu party would have had a hard time deciding whom to go after.

The crowd dissipated as soon as the installation was complete so I didn’t get the chance to meet any of the other artists. However, I’ve included some photographs of their work and the crowd (courtesy of Sheila Bocchine)

(one of the artists installing her work)

(another great installation)

(the band)

(jimmySK at work)

(good crowd for an art installation)

What transpired in the underpass underlines an important moral. I suspect many of the onlookers didn’t realize that the art created before their eyes was anything less than legal. I suspect that if the police had stumbled upon the party they wouldn’t have realized it either. Why? Because confidence is contagious. When you’re involved in a sketchy activity the best move can often be to flaunt it. One guy in a hoodie spraying frantically in a dark ally screams illegal. A group of artists working to the grooves of a five-piece band before a huge crowd seems pretty official.

The underpass party was a first for just about everybody involved. However, I doubt it will be a last. The concept is simple and could be replicated almost anywhere in the world with ease. I hope that it will inspire all you artist-revolutionaries out there to dream large. Let your next mission also be the excuse for your next party!

Mission 9: Zappadan!

Every year there is an 18 day celebration honoring the late great Frank Zappa. The celebration begins on December 4th, the anniversary of Zappa’s death, and ends on December 21, the anniversary of Zappa’s birth. The explanation is simple–these are the days of the year without Zappa, in which he had died but not yet been born. Therefore it is incumbent on us to keep his memory alive in these days.

Or, as blogger “Bluegal” says:

“I love Zappadan. It’s like, the days of the year between death and birth, the ethereal time when there was no Frank, so we must celebrate him to keep his spirit safe until his birthday again.

Or it’s just a great excuse for a party that has nothing to do with the greed and debt festival known as Christmas in America.

In any event, I think Frank would be proud.”

The first night of Zappadan is known as “Bummernacht” or “The Night of Bummer.” Because, you know, it was a bummer that Zappa died. This night is usually celebrated with the fiercest acts of partying and devotion to the memory of Zappa, and the designated night for insane events such as swimming in the Atlantic ocean at midnight off the coast of Rhode Island.

So, your artistic mission during Zappadan? Get some friends together and throw a party. Make a work of art together at this party that Zappa would be proud of. Record a musical jam together, write a group poem, or collaborate on a work on art. Any way you do it, make sure you do it during Zappadan!

Meanwhile, we will be starting a list of sites celebrating Zappadan, so stay tuned for that. The original place I saw reference of Zappadan was on The Aristocrats but someone please let us know if they can find the origin of the celebration!

Picture credit: Guys From Area 51