Icon. O. Graffi. ti.
The first graffiti writer so far remains anonymous, so remains his crew. He or she began the movement, as far as records tell, thousands of years ago. Our entire, mighty, common ancestry shares this leaning towards tagging, synchronically in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. These brazen international squads graffiti-ed all the delicate majesty and intricacy of their respective cultural splendor, all over the globe. What they begat was an unquenchable passion for communication, not simply expression. They drew pictographs, they carved alphabets, they engraved syllabaries , up on yearning rocks and walls, without cease. They were inspired and feverish … well they were graffiti artists, look at today’s.
So graffiti is as old as human gestures , it seems to be an instinct as natural as hands that raise to welcome or wave farewell. The drive to graff, to paint, to write, is inherent, a vital gene passed on, one of our many memes, the origin and secret of which only heart beats and pulses can ever intimately know.
The history of past graffitis and the story which they tell, have helped us gain an insight into, and some understanding of, the dynamics of our cultures, past and present, and also to record our sense of History. We know ancient graffiti because we have archeological data and we know graffiti today because we’re here, but for certain, a far removed, puzzled future generation will look towards what their former folks’ spray cans materialized and will try to figure out what the blazes we were up to. Should we leave them a hint? If we leave a trail for the next sleuth there needs to be documenting; a trail wants witnesses, demands testimonies, its dresses and coats are facts.
Two writers and documentary makers, Ryo Sanada and Suridh Hassan, forgers of the future and engravers of the present, are doing this very documenting with a book and documentary titled ‘Graffiti Asia’ published in May this year. Both of them set out travelling through Asia to record interviews, photographs and to examine the extent and reach of graffiti in Asia. They have spoken to local artists, about each artist’s work, their environment’s attitudes towards the graffiti scene and the network of graffiti artists in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, the Philippines and China.
Graffiti Asia Documentary Trailer:
[vimeo 11838564 nolink]
I think that when one puts down a book or sees the last frames of a documentary and physically crave for more, then the makers have more than achieved their target. I am left aching to see, read, watch a whole lot more about graffiti in general and Asia in particular, and from a great distance but through this book’s pages and silver screen, I sense I came into almost palpable contact with these individual artists motivations and enthusiasm.
‘Graffiti Asia’ bears 350 illustrations that will ardently tease your inner thirst for colour and you’ll wish you were there in Asia to view many more, as many as you can gargantuesque-ly visually feast on. The documentary itself is twenty minutes with interviews that pick up on, and give context to, what is contained in the book. The footage of the documentary I particularly liked, it is bare, a little raw and scratchy, just as a spot for a graffiti should be before the bombing starts. It leaves its viewer an untouched taste of the environment captured on film. The film is often grainy, cottoned in silence or in ‘on the scene’ background’s sound and voices until graffiti artists start bombing walls. The soundtrack is worth the CD alone to my taste. Check out Goth Trad, Handsel the Unicorn (isn’t that a fabulous name!), and Memory9. In each interviews you hear the voices but the identity stays hidden. Darn… yet it is an aspect of the graffiti scene I really treasure, it’s always about the creation, not the creator nor her/his identity.
Want to take a bite of their work? Catch the trailer and check out their website www.thesrk.com and browse through many more of their books and documentaries.
Graffiti Asia Book Launch in Singapore:
[youtube kk8FMYbbj8w nolink]
So Ryo and Suridh, that was a proper eye-popping taster, may we have some more! How about a fully fledged film please?