Subway Art of War
Slavery is an artistic ensemble based in New York City. We are fortunate to have a representative from Slavery discuss their contribution to “Delayed Gratification” and their vision of art in the Digital Age.
The piece we've chosen to display is called Subway Art of War. Slavery comes from the graffiti movement, that is each individual in the collective used to scribble our monikers to show the world our worth, but recently we've become disillusioned with individuality and the mad race to the position of "king" (imagine trying to be "king" in a society that has rejected royalty, which just goes to show the slave mentality at work—where the slaves despise their condition yet yearn to be like their insufferable master), so we've dropped our aliases and assumed a collective name. It's not about U or I, it's about We. And We recognize that we are no more important than a blade of grass. We selected this piece to please the Gods.
What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist?
www.nationalbreastcancer.org. Women are sacred and need to be healthy to help the sloven slave men raise the children. We drink from the communal fountain and replenish it with our commitment to beauty and hard work.
Delayed Gratification reveals the power of patience, of the change that takes place when reward is not the goal but a byproduct of success. Please talk about your ideas of Delayed Gratification. What do these words mean to you?
This piece is a play on style and history. We took one of the most famous graffiti pieces known, Hand of Doom by Seen painted 30 years ago and displayed beautifully in Subway Art, and changed the words to Joan of Arc. Being children of the 90s, we as graffiti writers sought to free ourselves from the shadow left by our older counterparts and carve out a niche all our own. In New York that meant bombing and quantity over quality (although I would argue that the fill-ins we produced are artistically of equal merit to the 80s burners)—and it also meant shunning the past. We outright hated and made fun of the graffiti from before our generation, although secretly tried to emulate it on our own. Arrows, clouds, cartoon characters, and the like were as foreign to New York graffiti writers in the 90s as beepers and cassette players are today.
Back when collecting a great blackbook was a goal, I remember passing by Seen's tattoo shop in the Village and looking in the window and seeing that guy from Subway Art and “Style Wars.” My friend said I should get Seen in my book and I distinctly remember saying that this book was for real graf, no toys allowed. I see now that I was an angry young man who couldn't accept a father's discipline or an older brother's advice and of course Seen wasn't the toy but I was the insecure child desperately seeking approval on my stubborn terms.
Time heals all wounds and it's taken this long to admit that we were childish and suffering from the little-brother-complex syndrome with respect to the early graffiti writers. This Delayed Gratification or Delayed Graf-dedication is 20 years in the making. In a time when the hoodlum street rules are being reworked, mediums are evolving, and the global graffiti community is moving forward, we can't forget the artists that pioneered the graffiti movement.
On a side note we originally chose Joan of Arc because of the way the letters matched well with Hand of Doom (the project started as a way of remixing old school graffiti with historical figures) but then I started reading more and more about Joan of Arc and we think her life story (which we accept could be full of exaggeration and nationalism perpetrated by the French) was an incredible one. The classic hero archetype that so many graffiti writers can relate to. Hearing voices as a young teenager that compel you to do something big, then doing that something real big and maybe becoming too famous, and then being burnt by your own people, or burning out by 19. It happened to us all.
Edition One Hundred is founded with the idea of providing artists the opportunity to transform new technology into a tool to both produce affordable art while simultaneously connecting to non-traditional art collectors. What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred? Why did you decide to be involved? How do you see this as a platform to reach a broader audience for your work?
All the Internet coverage in the world is no make up for putting the work in, in the street, where art belongs. We are open to linking with others who connect to the spirit of soul expression. We like Edition One Hundred because they give to charity.
What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age?
Art is now judged, juried, and executed by all. For the people, by the people. It used to be that art was commissioned by the church, hence all the early religious art masterpieces, then the king wanted his portrait and portraits of the rich, then it moved to the state sanctioned work which is still alive and well in famous dictatorships (i.e. North Korea and Staten Island where that ProudFascistAmerican buffs out everybody's graffiti with the red white & blue), and today art is free to be created by the not so wealthy in gold.
Art is free to be what it wants to be because we're rewriting the rules for the world today, sans religion sans hierarchy sans class. An interesting thing is that as people claim they want change and a new world, they still cling to the old world & high priced paintings of wealthy people are still a hot commodity. I'm confident all of their portraits will burn in the collective bonfire.
Do you collect art? If so, who do you collect? And if you had all the money in the world, who would you buy and why?
At our studio, Slavery invites artists over to paint and we try to keep something, if not a physical piece at least a lesson. Collecting art assumes that one has space, wall space or storage space and in New York that is rare. If we collected art, we would collect graffiti in the street, by unscrewing vandalized signs and pulling off tagged up siding from buildings. We would collect art from God, a blooming flower and when it died, throw it back to the dirt. Used syringes, and contemplate the pain and the fleeting ecstasy it was a part of. We would collect pictures, not digital but real pictures, of graffiti from any year, rummaging through collectors photo albums.
We were raised to believe that an artist suffers for their work and so it is hard for me to collect the work of established and appreciated artists, we have no use for them. If we had the money we'd find all of the under appreciated artists alive and pay their medical and rehab bills and ask in return for them to teach and share with the next generation. We don't believe in private property or ownership, take your paintings and drill them into the wall at your train station.
Why should people buy art?