What is it?
Cue the pretentious discussion on art is life, life is art. But hold up. I live in Bethnal Green and on my walk to the station or to Uni I came across some poetic graffiti, ‘A BREIF EXCERCISE’ ‘THE DISTINCT SOUND OF LAUGHTHER IN THE DISTANCE’ ‘ALL THESE BONES REMAIN UNCLAIMED’ and also, the less poetic but equally striking message ‘NAT HAS HERPES’ which was even spotted by Radio 1 DJ Greg James.
The most amazing part was that being in the local area you can become immediately aware to any changes, so ‘all these bones remain unclaimed’ popped up one morning and within two hours was painted over. I took these photos because I felt there was something more to this graffiti, there was a recognisable style and they were all within streets of each other. There might have been more that were painted over before I noticed, or some still out there that have remained untouched. I noticed the mispelling instantly in ‘EXCERCISE’ but it was only the other day that I realised ‘LAUGHTHER’ was a misspelling despite having walked past it for about two months.
I raved about this weirdness to my friends but they weren’t quite as taken in by it. After a couple of weeks of being puzzled someone was advertising a new exhibition at UNIT 5 gallery on Yorkton Street, E2, titled ‘THE DISTINCT SOUND OF LAUGHTER IN THE DISTANCE’. I knew instantly that all answers would be revealed here.
I made my way to the location where I had the whole, small but spacious, gallery to myself. So what was going on? This exhibition displayed two artists, ‘Edwin, an artist and writer living and working in London, and Dont Fret, a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Chicago, have over the past year been sharing words, text and ideas via social media. These texts are then scrawled, spray painted, tagged, and rolled onto walls, unsanctioned, in each artist’s respective city. Dont Fret communicates a text to Edwin and he in turn tags it onto a wall in London, and vice versa. What began as a simple experiment in social communication, activism, and a ‘graffiti pen pal project’, has expanded with the events of 2016.’
Of course the gallery couldn’t bring in the graffitied walls, so I felt like much of what I had experienced wasn’t being fully told, but the space displayed both artists works with visible and notable links to their pen pal communication. Edwin’s constant referrences to Nat made her a famous character within the gallery, but as one of the “magazines” asks ‘who cares?’ and why is this such a big deal? Or does it have something more to say about the language and personality of the graffiti writer than we might otherwise care to think about?
Dontfret had an amazing collection of provocative painted posters surrounding a bizarrely set up scene. Eyes peer out from a brick painted box watching an unplugged screen. Canvas pieces paint street scenes with further immersing speech bubbles expressing the everyday deep thoughts and concerns of people passing you by.
For what might appear gimmicky and cartoony, graffiti not having the best name in art but yet a very valid platform this exhibition had levels into social and political ideas. Check out the gallery’s page on these artists for a short insightful read and videos in to the daring life these artists lead on the street. You can also check out their instagram pages for a quick look at what they’ve been up to. Edwinonwalls and Dontfret.