EBook Release “Viral Art” and Interview with RJ Rushmoreby Graffuturism on Dec 8, 2013 • 12:36 pm
Having followed many blogs, art websites, critics, etc I have always looked for an acknowledgement from the contemporary art scene about Graffiti/Urban Art’s impact. Time and time again I have seen not only a lack of understanding of the art form but a failure to even recognize the impact of what is happening globally with the art form. I have now changed my stance and have concluded that it will be our own writers and possibly writers that will come from within our generation that will tell our story accurately. One of the writers I see leading the way is RJ Rushmore who also runs the website Vandalog. RJ continues to cover the graffiti/urban scene with great commentary and real insight. RJ will be releasing his first ebook “Viral Art” Dec 16th online at ViralArt.net. We were able to ask RJ a couple questions about his new ebook which you can read below.
GF: First I want to congratulate you on your new Book Viral Art and also thank you for taking the time to write about the artform. What motivated you to take on this endeavor?
RJ: My friend Stephanie Keller had seen a few posts I’d been writing for Vandalog about street art and the internet, and she suggested that those might form the basis of a book. I think we were both frustrated by the lack of scholarly material out there about street art and graffiti. I’m not saying Viral Art deserves to be published through Harvard University Press or anything, but I like to think it brings a bit more to the tabled than a well-curated set of pretty pictures.
GF: Your book focuses on the history of street art and graffiti and how they have shaped communication technologies. Is Street Art and Graffiti more susceptible to Viral art in some way compared to other artforms?
RJ: Street artists and graffiti writers have spent generations developing eye-catching styles, so they are more prone to having their artwork go viral than a painting by an artist who hasn’t had to compete for attention in the same way. But animated GIF art absolutely crushes street art and graffiti in its potential to go viral. So, it’s a spectrum. I chose to focus on street art and graffiti in my book because it’s what I know.
GF: I read your excerpt on Hyperallergic from the book and although very well written it reads as more historical or documenting in nature, was telling a story about the history as important to you as communicating the concept of Viral Art?
RJ: The first half of the book is about stories, and the second half is more about concepts and a close examination of styles. I think both are important. You can’t understand why a style is the way it is without history, and there’s little point in history without explaining why it matters.
GF: You will release the book online for free versus publishing it through traditional channels, is this your way of engaging the public space?
RJ: It just made sense to me that if I was writing about the internet, I should release the book online. Also, I wanted to be able to show people the videos and animated GIFs that are mentioned throughout the Viral Art. You can’t show an animated GIF in a printed book, but you can in an ebook.
I decided to release it for free for two reasons: 1. Much of research was done while I was being supported by a fellowship through Haverford College so it’s not like writing put me into debt, 2. I would rather have 1000 people read Viral Art and pay me no money than have 10 people read it and pay me $15 each.
GF: The last part of your book statement states that you will argue that the future of graffiti and street art may lie online versus physical space. Contemporary art has been talking about this and attempting to do this for awhile now, why do you feel Street art and Graffiti will also follow their lead?
RJ: If public space exists on the internet and the artists we love have spent their lives intervening in public space, why wouldn’t they intervene in digital public spaces? The internet is where artists can find eyeballs today just as it used to be that artists could find them by painting on trains or walls. And street artists and graffiti writers have a huge advantage over most artists: they can take the tactics they learned on the street and apply to them digital spaces. We’ve already seen this to varying degrees with people like KATSU, Saber, Evan Roth and John Fekner. All of those guys have strong ties to street art or graffiti, but they’re also intervening in digital space in some way that’s reminiscent of their outdoor work.
Of course, traditional mark making also has its place. Swampy might never make art for Twitter, and that’s fine, because maybe his art is more about saying “I am alive and present in this space in this moment and here’s a drawing to prove it,” than it is about something like Saber’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore” attitude that can be expressed in the formed of upside down flags on Twitter.
GF: Going into this book and researching your initial thesis, what were some of the surprises you uncovered along the way?
RJ: This book has really made me question my role as a blogger. It inspired things like Illegal August. I’ve had to ask myself: am I really promoting street art and graffiti, or am I simply regurgitating press releases containing photos of murals that were always made to be seen online in order to sell a screenprint of the same image? And that’s something I’m still grappling with.
GF: In ending leave us with a thought for the future of graffiti and street art.
We have to avoid confusing the tools that artists have used to make street art and graffiti with the goals that they are ostensibly trying to accomplish. Many of the goals can be accomplished just as well online. If everyone starts to think street art has to be done wheat pasted posters and graffiti has to be done with spray paint, in ten years we’re all going to end up looking like the writers who travel to NYC to paint trains that will be immediately buffed just because writers in the 70’s painted trains back when it was the best way to get your name across the entire city.