Re-imagining Space: Krump, KAWS & UCLA Mediascape

An1ken & Zainab Razaq. Krump It (2010).

An1ken & Zainab Razaq. Krump It (2010).

I’ve taken a more flexible approach to the head’s up display or HUD which is what kicked off this blog in the first place – using HUDs to interact in a space, both physical and virtual. HUDs are transparent, usually computer-based interfaces that present information (content, artifacts) without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. Camera-enabled and touchscreed iPads, smartphones and other mobile devices are one way to see content overlaid on physical space, as well as become immersed in virtual worlds. HUDs aren’t always virtual or computer-based. The content that humans can read, or interact with can come from being immersed in physical space, as well. This can come from the human experience of moving around and through physical (public, urban, etc.) spaces.

Jessica Koslow’s Krump Dancers Reimagine Public Space is a great example of the evolution of performance in urban space.

The 818 Session (krump dance session) reimagines the use of this public space, which was created to facilitate capital and commerce, and transforms it into an opportunity for creative expression, emotional release and community building. The dancers, for a variety of reasons, including lack of money and available community space, do not have a more formal meeting place. This weekly performance ritual allows this dance community to gather and express themselves on open, safe ground.

Koslow notes the increased scarcity of public space where “less can be used for community interaction and play.” Thus, dance and the space in which it is performed can “facilitate cross-cultural exposure, understanding and the sharing of ideas,” resulting in the growth of South Los Angeles street dance into a global phenomenon. In this case, motion creates the content that is read or scanned by a person or a device (think: Dance Central with Kinect for Xbox). Razorfish’s Surface Physics Illustrator (DaVinci) uses Kinect to track a user’s’ motions on screen to create and manipulate objects (artifacts). Imagine. The technology now exists to track and study performance in physical space using mobile devices. Graffiti, maker and other subcultures can use technology in ways that reveal specific effects of the urban environment.

Streetwear. Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography (2010).

Streetwear. Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography (2010).

Skateboarding in New York City is a singular experience. It is impossible not to feel the magnitude of the landscape, and with the city in constant motion, skateboarding is both exhilarating and extremely dangerous. – Streetwear

In my recent blog post for Art21, KAWS Passing Through the High Museum of ArtI noted KAWS’ talking about his earlier experiences as a skateboarder/budding artist “passing through” public (urban) spaces; reading and creating graffiti tags, altered posters and billboards, etc. as part of another community of practice that is also global.

KAWS (Brian Donnelly). "Silent City,"2011. Photo courtesy High Museum of Art.

KAWS (Brian Donnelly). "Silent City,"2011. Photo courtesy High Museum of Art.

After waiting nearly six months my essay, Urban Metaphysics: Creating Game Layers on Top of the World, was published online via UCLA Mediascape. This was written before my more recent discoveries but it’s the original idea based on my early analysis of street (urban) art production as a coherent, multidisciplinary topic of investigation that conceives of a relation between material and virtual domains and the evolving style of graffiti artists – i.e. Rammellzee, Doze Green, Futura, etc.

My Rammellzee Gothic Futurism installation in Second Life (2010).

My Rammellzee Gothic Futurism installation in Second Life (2010).

Of course I’m interested in newer forms of urban art and performance (krump, turf, etc.) – i.e. multiple modes of interaction and communication in urban space. It’s great to see all of these threads interconnect and support my current research. At age 14 Futura came to my high school and taught me about spray can art (graffiti). The class worked on a mural commemorating mass transit. Later, as a undergraduate intern at Rutgers University I replicated the project with high school students.

Summer Arts Institute at Rutgers University (circa 1989).

Summer Arts Institute at Rutgers University (circa 1989).

Behind all this is the idea that urban life manifests as ritual performances, whether through dance or motion-based tagging and graffiti, and these performances are representations that can be passed on to future generations who build on the previous works. At the center of this organization is the maker/artist – whose brain contains a vast language – and the artifacts that are designed to mediate directly between her/him and the world. This representational system (world) is the next layer of development for culturally situated, multimodal interactions that construct meaning.

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