Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Graffiti

For those of you who haven't noticed, Crew Design has Olympic Fever. We just can't get enough of the design, the sports, the glory... and even the controversies. From that poor little buck-toothed girl who wasn't "cute enough" to sing the national anthem, to the debate raging on over the ages of the winning Chinese women's gymnastics team, this summer Olympics has had no shortage of scandal. But the more serious and politically charged controversies have been playing out in an arena other than the media: street art around the globe.Print magazine and the Guardian both had interesting online articles about the Olympic-inspired graffiti (both pro and con) being made around the world. Beijing has created a 200-foot long mural, referred to as the Olympic Culture Wall, as a state-endorsed celebration of the games. The wall, perhaps the longest piece of graffiti ever made, is covered in images of the cuddly Fuwa, caricatures of athletes, traditional Chinese masks, "Love China" hearts, and more. The mural has been embraced by locals, but the Western media is somewhat perturbed by the amount of government supervision that presided over its creation, calling it a "propaganda" piece.The Chinese Communist party typically keeps a tight reign on this type of public expression, and even the seemingly harmless Fuwa have an underlying political charge (one of them is a Tibetan antelope). In pieces created by graffiti artists opposed to the games being held in Beijing, discussion centers around China's control over TIbet (and its inclusion as a scheduled stop along the torch relay route), freedom of speech for the press, and the rights of the Chinese people in general. The graffiti works above are found in Prague and Milan (respectively) and the work below was created in London by the renowned British street artist Banksy. ••••

3 comments:

kate said...

interesting and topical post tess! thanks for fueling the olympic fever!

USpace said...

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Great piece, thinking about China being given the Olympics really is maddening. At least more people will be talking sooner rather than later about how there are really two very different Chinas in one.
Maybe in the future it will be in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.
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absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
just host sporting events

communists must always seek
planetary approval

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absurd thought -
God of the Universe loves
corrupt governments

denying outside help
with tragic avalanche

.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe loves
capitalism's faults

but prefers communism
with its many miseries

.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
never admit mistakes

cling to false ideologies
brainwash your countrymen

.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
cause food shortages

implement price controls
destroy all family farms

.
All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. Without freedom of speech, there can be no real freedom.
.
Philosophy of Liberty Cartoon
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Help Halt Terrorism Today!
.
USpace

:)
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Robert said...

i think this is fairly fascinating -- the ways that artists who live in a restrictive culture have found to subversively comment on that which is regulated so strictly by the government is interesting [the tibetan antelope in this example, expatriate literature from those in exile, the latin american women who, unable to express themselves otherwise, make tapestries and blankets]. while outsiders may decry the culture wall as a propaganda piece [and i'm sure that in many, many ways it is], it shows the intersection of design and anthropology and its analysis could be very fruitful. i also think it's shortsighted to assume that all graffiti that appears on the mural is necessarily the product of the government's forcing positive imagery for china -- many chinese citizens [as oppressed by the government as people may think they are] are happy with their lives and with the fact that the olympics are being hosted in china. i think it's important that we look carefully at both the graffiti of which the government is proud and the graffiti that has managed to slip through the cracks, subtly subversive pieces which give glimpses of the civil unrest latent within the chinese population.