November 20, 2006

Dot Masters

A recent festival in Stavanger, Norway entitled NUART brought the Dot Masters to my attention. Below is a description of their reclamation of icons for further debate and debauchery.

Mona smiles
As vandals strike in gallery attack

The Dot Masters present a series of curated popular fine art masterpieces for the urban environment. The twelve-month project will see classic images from the world of fine art, half toned, stencil cut, then sprayed and defaced in and around urban city centers. The season kicks off with MonaDot an oversize rendition of the Mona Lisa developed in New York in a transatlantic collaboration between C6 and GRL.

Why certain works lend themselves to endless popular reproduction is a complex one. The creation of these iconic visual stars has been dependant on historical, political and financial variables; factors which when broadcast through various media ensure that these images keep their elevated public status. Even the remix and appropriation of these images is guaranteed by the nature of their supposed divinity.

Graffiti is an act of vandalism. Does making the subject of that criminal damage an image of merit question its classification as a crime? Can beauty be used to damage property? Is the vandalism of a white wall greater than the vandalism of the image?

As the worlds of graffiti and fine art collide the dividing lines become blurred. The crime becomes a valuable commodity steeped in credibility for those involved.

Attitudes to graffiti have changed; the media's coverage of certain graffiti stars has resulted in the reporting of graffiti as tales of daring acts. The small man against the big corporation? Big deals are made in both the corporate and fine art worlds as companies and celebrities jostle for attention. Prints and ephemera change hands forever increasing sums as ebay spawns a new generation of bedroom art dealers. Names are widely known and brands created by artists currently engaged in a practice still categorized by law as vandalism.

It is ironic that there are supposed police task forces employed to document and pursue these artists, yet dealers and celebrities find it easy to court the attention of these nameless hardened criminals? Have the streets have become a wider arena for expression? Are cultural practitioners taking back the space that has previously only been in mainstream media's control? Or are their goals the same? Diverse tactics, styles and messages separate these invasions of territory as the media savvy battle with kid scrawlers, billposters and the law.

Galleries will be targeted in this worldwide stencil campaign, which during its first week, rather by accident than design, the first targets were London, UK and Stavanger, Norway. Other locations will be added along the way with cultural centers galleries and media savvy spaces bearing the brunt.

The public is invited to report on the removal and cleaning of these works in an on going survey of gallery curatorial policy. A goggle map tour of these sites is in development and the public is requested to call the buffing the hotline on +447092809377 specifying where and when they saw a Dot Master disappear.

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