Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Beats in the Air, Art in the Streets: Street Art at the Encore Hip Hop Music Festival

After disembarking the ferry that carried my fellow hip-hop music lovers and me from Centraal Station, we arrived at a re-purposed shipyard for the Encore Hip Hop Music Festival. I was excited to see some of the musical performances by Kid Ink and other mainstream hip-hop artists, but I was also intrigued by the art present at the festival. Now, it’s no Coachella or Burning Man (festivals where the artwork is especially notable and prominent), but I saw several pieces that deserve a shout-out and analysis.


While we were making our way to other parts of the festival, we passed by a piece of art that I call “The Combustible Tree”. The piece is made completely of rusty, brown wire with a tall pillar as the center yet with an array of sticks protruding out in an astounding amount of different directions and angles in the middle of the pillar. This piece stood out – not just in the literal sense since it is one of the tallest objects at the festival – but also in the abstract sense. While everything around it was seemingly ordinary and normal, this art piece was disturbingly neurotic.
While the center of this piece (the pillar) is stoic and unperturbed, its middle is chaos personified. It looks as if the pillar itself was split open and thousands of little worms came sprawling out (like a dead corpse). Although it looks somewhat frightening and bizarre, the context of this piece softens it considerably. Right next to this piece is a group of people selling “Love is in the air” tote bags. Additionally, there was a table where they were selling other charming trinkets and jewelry. I don’t know if the organizers of the festival intentionally juxtaposed the charming sales table of objects with this outlandish art piece, but I think the two works blend together nicely. By looking at the words “love is in the air”, I can’t help but think of this art piece in a more positive way. Instead of viewing this piece as messy and ugly, one could imagine that this tree is so full of love and positive emotion that it’s inside was split open to express that happiness and joy. Yet what about the materials? Rusty, brown wire does not evoke a feeling of happiness or joy initially. Yet, when I looked at the piece a while longer, I thought about the symbolism of rust. Rust implies neglect or loss. Perhaps, this tree was created from pieces of lost, rusty materials that someone found in a garbage heap but gave them new purpose within this art piece. While these pieces were once thrown away and forgotten, they were given new life thanks to a resourceful artist.
Although this piece may not be the prettiest or most aesthetically pleasing, it provides an interesting juxtaposition of materials amidst the hustle and bustle of the festival.


What immediately caught my eye when I walked by this piece was the bold statement declared by the sign. “Paul Snowden is the best designer in the world” is quite a bold claim. This piece also brought to mind an array of questions: Who is Paul Snowden*? (I have to admit, I first thought they were talking about hacker-who-is-changing-the-world-in-how-it-talks-about-surveillance Snowden but that was not the case). What kind of designer is he? Why is the sign in English at a festival where most of the attendees speak only Dutch? Upon further inspection, I realized the high design quality in the very structure of the advertisement.
            In a place where there was a lot of activity and color, this ad stood out very well because of its monochromatic qualities. Black and white may seem like very bland colors, but the stark contrast between the two makes the work that much more noticeable and bolder. The size of the font also contributes to its eye-catching quality. Its very clean, san-serif font minimizes distractions and increases the flow and ease of reading the ad. The repetition of the poster also encourages readers to not only read the text but also remember the name. If this poster were only iterated once, it would not have as much impact. Yet, with multiple advertisements side by side, its repetitiveness ensures that the reader will have that name imprinted in their mind for much longer.

*After googling Paul Snowden, it turns out he runs a design agency in Berlin that makes some pretty awesome stuff. Maybe he really is the best designer in the world. Check him out at www.snowden.de.


I particularly liked this work of signs on a pole because of its whimsical qualities. Again, the pole is made of dark, rusty wire (perhaps scavenged and re-purposed by another resourceful artist?) but the signs pointing in various directions are what give this piece its charm. The signs are pointing to places outside of the festival (such as Nieuw en Meer which is 9.5 km away and OT301 which is 4 km away) so it wasn’t particularly useful in the context of the festival (Except maybe the park sign). The pointers all have different borders – some of them are wavy and jagged while others were perfectly smooth and straight. They also all have different end points – some have a hand, others have uniquely designed arrows, and some were predictable trapezoids. Additionally, they all come in different color combination and typography. There are no two signs that look exactly the same but they all seem to work within the same palette and tone.
            Usually, signs are all uniform and predictable, yet this pole carries signs with all different kinds of designs. However, they still work together and are utilitarian in that people will know where to go. Interestingly enough, all the pointers have the same beginning. They all have two screws going into this very long rusty pole. This common factor grounds this work immensely, contributing a strong foundation to parts of the work that are very different in style.


“Make art, not euro” is an interesting statement, especially for graffiti art on the side of an old shipyard building. The hip-hop festival is the personification of art combined with commerce. Many of the artists who performed make an astounding amount of money for making their art. In fact, many artists encouraged the audience to yell “Do it for the euro” during their sets. However, I like how this graffiti art encourages its viewer to focus on art making rather than the value of the art itself. Graffiti art is a great example of art with no direct correlation with monetary value. I especially liked the orange color, a great color to stand out from a bland brown building. I have no idea if the flamingo on the side is part of the work or not but I think it's a beautiful addition nonetheless.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the festival. The musical artists were fantastic, but the artwork gave the event a nice, visual, and authentic touch.

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