Legality aside, this is pretty cool

1 Jul
“Abreast with the Times” – public Art?

On 18 June 2011, the people of Sofia, Bulgaria woke up to find the Soviet Army Monument in their city “defaced” by unknown street artists who painted them over, transforming them to  popular American culture figures like comic superheroes, Santa Claus, Ronald MacDonald and the like.  The city government responded with an urgent order to cleanse the monument. It was reverted to its original state on 21 June 2011.

When I first saw this last week, my reaction wen

t a little like this –

(Seeing it as Art)

“Cool! Wow! How interesting!”

And then –

(Seeing it as a symbol)

“But ooh.. it’s a public monument ain’t it? It means something to some people. What does it mean? And why do some people want to undermine it? Just some anti-establishment artistic reaction? Or an artistic expression of genuine public dissatisfaction?”

If you ask me if this is “Art”, I’d say yes.

But it is also graffiti, and also a political statement.

Loaded and open to all sorts of interpretation.

In my mind, I drew strange parallels to similar works in contemporary art exhibitions like the Australian Sculpture by the Sea or even the local Singapore Biennale.  But what makes “Abreast with the Times” different is that it is “vigilante”, i.e. non-sanctioned.  There is no official marketing,  artist profile, catalogue, maps and what not, preceding the event. It merely happened, seemingly spontaneous

(though probably pre-meditated) and anonymous even!

If you think about it, works like Abreast (if I can call it a work) which are of a politically sensitive nature, will probably never see the light of day in official approved exhibitions anyway. How else will it ever BE seen? And for it to capture the imagination of the city, its citizens, the online community, shows that it has definitely struck a chord somewhere, lending it some kind of value beyond its aesthetic beauty.

This is the kind of Art that excites me.

I enjoy Art in public spaces, outside of the “white cube” gallery and knee deep inside a living community.  Whether it is part of an official contemporary art exhibition or unofficial graffiti/street art (underground stuff), it doesn’t matter, I enjoy both.

As I say –

“If it looks pretty, good. If it makes me laugh, even better. If it makes me think, I’m sold!”

Sometimes I find myself wondering what the work means or what the artist is trying to say. Once my curiosity is piqued, often enough, it leads me to new knowledge. Which is always a good thing IMHO.

This reminds me of this one time… I was watching the film The Singing Revolution, which was shown at the NUS Arts Festival sometime ago. And mid way through the film, I turned to my friend and said (much to her astonishment and amusement) “You mean the USSR fell already???”

She thought I was joking but I honestly did not know!

SO yes, I found out that the USSR no longer exists almost two whole decades later.

Yes. You laugh. (Some of you also don’t know right?!? OK fine, I’m the only idiot.)


Anyway, after this random online encounter with Abreast, I was curious about why Russia was outraged by the act and wondered what the locals thought. I realised that way over there in another part of the world, people were having debates over the removal of soviet-era monuments like the one in Bulgaria.

War history is such a dense and heavy subject… 😦 Sometimes I just feel that there is just too much information out there for my little mind to study! Especially when I have the attention span of a goldfish (3 seconds!)… and the memory capacity of a circa 1980s Macintosh computer.

That’s why I like my facts random… like the trivia loving character Vincent Nigel-Murray in drama series Bones!

"Vincent. Or Vince, or Vinny, Vin... Vinchenza. Actually, uh, I had this girlfriend, once, who used to call me "Vino Delectable" because of how my - uh, you don't... need to know that."

And ya, he speaks with a British accent.

Completely random, I know. 🙂

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