Sunday, June 3, 2012

Graffiti from Seoul and Bangkok

Anytime we visit somewhere, I seek out graffiti, which I consider to be real public art (in contrast to shitty corporate art that denotes the entrance to skyscrapers and hotels). The downtown of Seoul was pretty clean, but as we ventured away from the city center toward insa-dong we began to see more and more. We found Monsieur Chat on a doorway in an alley and several bad tags that we see everywhere. I was perplexed to see most everything written in the English alphabet and not in Korean, although we did find a few tagged in the local language.

One thing that Koreans seemed to adhere to is leaving "was here" notes in places. Like the locks, many of the sites and restaurants had post it notes and signature walls that people would write on and leave mostly little hearts and love notes in a sort of public version of the Korean cute aesthetic.

They are building a new art museum in insa-dong and the walls surrounding the construction space have been sprayed with the words "art is for everyone" (among other populist phrases) in many different places accompanied by really well done tags and paintings from local crews. The city seems to be embracing graffiti culture in this way, as all the work was obviously done legally as it is right in the heart of the government district.

Walking up one of the side streets and ducking into some alleys we found what appeared to be original Keith Haring work, with it's paint peeling and faded.

Bangkok was quite different. There is graffiti everywhere. Walking through the tourist district there were a lot of obviously foreigner tags and stickers, which the more I saw the more juvenile they seemed. There was some good local stuff though. In a bombed out building near our hotel (that motorbikes used as a toilet) there were huge tags covering every bit of the exposed block. One name I saw in a lot of places was "shock" always written clearly and in a similar bubble style. There were not a lot of images, mostly freestyle tags. The only stencils were done by Americans. But bangkok's graffiti had the same eccentricity as the city itself.

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