Archive for June, 2010

June 30th, 2010

If I Had a Tumblr


June 29th, 2010

More Writing on the Walls: Graffiti En DF Addenda

A few things to add to my recent post about graffiti in Mexico City


First, Said Dokins, one of my guests at Postopolis, writes to share some supplementary materials — in particular, documenting the role played by women in “arte urbano”:

También te mando unos links de los libros que nuestra editorial tiene actualmente sobre arte urbano hecho por mujeres, haber que te parecen, ahí también viene textos míos sobre el arte urbano en México y su relación con problemas de género.

Desbordamientos de una periferia femenina:

y La calle es de nosotras. La participación de la mujer en el arte urbano:

And while we’re on the topic of awesome online flip-page book scans (check that first URL above), this is a fine time to share a link to a flippy version of Tomo, the art/architecture/design magazine edited by some of the same DF denizens who were crucial in making the event an event (or a series of them). I’m happy to report that my post on graf en La Ciudad has been translated & excerpted to run in the latest issue of the magazine, devoted to Postopolis DF. Looks sharp!

Click on the picture below to view it flip-book style, or read selected articles right on the Tomo site, including mine.

my graffiti excerpt in tomo's postopolis issue

Finally, I want to append to the discussion another resonant passage about all the writing on the walls in Mexico. This comes from John Ross’s “phantasmagoric” history of Mexico City, El Monstro (p. 145-6):

Painting walls was a Mexican art even before the people had a name — ancient caves from one end of the country to the other are enlivened with prehistorical glyphs. The Toltecs embellished the walls of their short-lived empire with painted images of the gods. The Mayas decorated the chamber of their dead emperors with messages to the future. The Aztecs daubed the snake wall that fortified their sacred precinct with fantastic serpents. The messages advertised on these rough canvases often depicted the gods’ predilection for the peoples who had painted them and the peoples’ heroic supremacy over their hapless enemies.

Obregón needed walls to get the message out. He would turn them into billboards for the revolution. José Vasconcelos, his secretary of public education, had those walls.

Armed with Obregon’s largesse, the secretary of education contracted a trio of hotshot young muralists to stipple the walls of public buildings with revolutionary icons: Diego Rivera, just back from Paris; the stern and doctrinaire Marxist David Alfaro Siqueiros; and José Clemente Orozco, an explosive visionary. Of the three, Rivera was physically and temperamentally the most prominent. Over six feet tall and close to 300 pounds, with bulging eyes (his beloved Frida referred to him endearingly as mi sapo — my toad), Diego would cast a ham-fisted shadow over Mexican art for half a century.


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June 23rd, 2010

Too Much Island

I first met Benjamen Walker in prison in Jamaica. Either there or the hotel down the street. We were both in Kingston together, with a ragtag band of a couple dozen more, in order to, as best I can understand it today, sprinkle some internet magic on the place. (And help support some serious reform of the prison system.) Back then Benjamen was producing radio for Christopher Lydon while doing his own show, Your Radio Nightlight, on WZBC in Boston.

When Your Radio Nightlight morphed into Theory of Everything, I hardly skipped a beat, though I enjoyed Benjamen’s reinvigorated play with notions of fact and fiction, myth and reality. Grokking one’s way through Ben’s shows is always a fun hermeneutical exercise in that way. Since last year he’s tweaked the title once again, now offering Too Much Information every Monday evening on WFMU (right before /Rupture’s Mudd Up!) though the format — if we can call it that — remains similar.

Ever since meeting him and getting to know his voice, I’ve been consistently entertained and edified by Benjamen’s particular approach to telling the truth. But maybe the current WFMU teaser best hits the nail:

Too Much Information is the sober hangover after the digital party has run out of memes, apps and schemes. Host Benjamen Walker finds out that, in a world where everyone overshares the truth 140 characters at a time, telling tales might be the most honest thing to do.

And so I was pleased once again to make an appearance in one of Ben’s shows for last week’s TMI episode, “The Island.” It’s a special episode for a number of reasons. You should just go and listen, but let me tell you briefly why I think so:

  • Benjamen recycles some really poignant bits from an earlier Theory of Everything show (inspired by some of our on-island adventures together several years back), but rather than sounding dated, it seems as relevant and resonant as ever, particularly the parts about Jamaica’s threatened sovereignty in the face of US drug-don extradition requests (!!!).
  • His storytelling remains as twitchy as ever, inviting listeners to identify and dis-identify with the unreliable narrator and to guess at what is real and what is not — and to think about whether it matters and why.
  • There are plenty of funny send-ups of island/Jamaican culture, especially with regard to outsider observers/enthusiasts. This latter camp is one that Benjamen, i&i, and Christina Xu all firmly fall into — not to mention the guy from the “Voice of the Revolution” soundsystem.
  • You get to hear my ol’ “boom-ch-boom-chick” routine once more, this time in the context of explaining how I’ve changed my line on the so-called “island rhythm” over the last several years of giving lectures on Caribbean music at Harvard. Bonus: much beatboxing throughout!

I highly recommend going and listening to the whole episode (mp3 stream | pop-up player). It unfolds in an engrossing way and I think there’s something important about the accretion of meanings over the course of the show. But if you want to jump right to my part, here’s a direct link (mp3 stream | pop-up).


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June 22nd, 2010

Speaking of Street Art…

this may be the best piece yet to appear on Modica Way, aka The Wall at Central Square


June 18th, 2010

Post Postopolis Unpacking, Part 2: Graffiti en DF


Since my first trip to Mexico City, I’ve been struck by graffiti in DF — the amount, the quality, the style.

From everyday tags to stencil ads, grand pieces to snarky jests, locally steeped and globally conversant, the ubiquity and diversity of graffiti in DF is quite stunning, as a few flicks from last week attest–

as seen on the street in la roma

Of course, the stencils above, especially the Upper Playground logo at the end, show how graffiti as hip-hop practice shades into what increasingly travels under the banner of “street art” / “arte callejero” as it dovetails with explicitly or hybrid commercial ventures (including DJ Ali’s promotions as well). Along these lines, it was interesting to notice that UP also puts up wheat pastey posters around town (or at least around “las zonas super nice” como La Roma, where I spotted this). Given these emerging practices, future studies of graffiti in Mexico will no doubt need to reevaluate the degree to which these techniques are inherently “transgressive” or exist outside of the market.

The convergence between graffiti, street art, art worlds, and commercial ventures — an increasingly contemporary phenomenon in cosmopolitan cities worldwide — offered a frame for the 2nd session I arranged at Postopolis! DF. I invited the people who run Upper Playground DF / Fifty24MX Gallery, Liliana Carpenteyro and Arturo Mizrahi, as well as two of the artists with whom they’ve worked, Saner and Wendell McShine, to come and talk about what they do and how it fits into the larger institutional matrix for art in DF (which is, of course, HUGE — Mexico City is brimming with galleries and museums). I liked the idea of hearing from both Saner and Shine, since they represent the gallery’s professed desire to exhibit both local and international artists, more or less equally — or “50/50” in Lili’s words.

By bringing this hybrid venture momentarily into the center of our discussions, and including artists/practitioners as well as curators, I hoped we might dig into some pressing questions about how DF functions as an incubator for innovative art and how transnational commerce (increasingly?) fits into the picture. (Watch the panel here.)

lili carpenteyro talks about upper playground
Lili presents as Saner (in plaid) and Shine and Arturo (right of picture) look on

In her presentation, Lili emphasized the ways that UP/Fifty24 supports local artists while boosting their profile by bringing in talent from abroad. She also foregrounded the degree to which their projects took place in public, outside of the gallery/store space, such as the painting of a bus by Seher, Sam Flores, et al. en la plaza Luís Cabrera.

I would have liked to hear a little more about how Upper Playground DF, and its location in La Condesa, specifically served to reach a certain (and perhaps new?) clientele / audience. For as with DJ Ali’s parties in Polanco, UP/Fifty24 seeks to invite young people into art (including hip-hop’s artistic forms) through the draw of hip urbanity (or as the parent UP website puts it, by “representing progressive urban lifestyles”). Upper Playground DF — and Upper Playground more generally — is clearly betting that the “naco es chido” renewed appreciation for Mexicocity (if you will) will continue to stimulate contemporary art and commerce in the City.

Such an approach, not coincidentally, also manages to appeal to big international brands, and hence helps to fund such efforts. Obviously, introducing such a commercial angle is not uncontroversial. Some ideologies of authenticity in the art world and in certain schools of hip-hop strongly privilege economic autonomy and disdain corporate involvement or commercial success. (Notably, while discussing his own work and trajectory, Wendell McShine offered an interesting perspective on the question, pointing out that he had started in the more mundane and commercial world of animation but has sought to “crossfade” his work in that realm “into the art world.”)

Lili’s response to a question about this quandary was straightforward. As reported by Tomo (and edited/translated by me):

Question to Lili: What would the scene be without corporate support?

Lili: Well, it is seeking support from all sides. The money may come from the State or from trademarks. A billboard on Masaryk [the chic commercial strip in La Condesa] can cost up to 90,000 pesos a month. It is better supporting artists.

Like graffiti itself, the presentation about Upper Playground DF raised some contentious questions about how to make art public and “free.” An interesting addendum is that Lili’s partner at Upper Playground DF, Arturo, told me later that selling spraypaint is the big money-maker for the store, suggesting that graffiti in DF remains as much about on-the-ground practice as anything:

spraycan commerce

For some observers, Mexico City presents “a limitless canvass of concrete awaiting artistic reform” and today’s graffiti artists join a long line of critical practitioners of “el gesto primitivo,” including 16th-century dissidents who taunted Cortes with carbon etchings on the white walls of his palace in Coyoacán; for others, it is simplemente illegal, a sign of urban blight and disrespect. The latter camp view graffiti artists as the ubiquitous visual equivalent of squeegee men at stoplights — public molestations that should be cleared from the streets (as Giuliani Partners recommended to DF back in 2003 — though, clearly, DF’s anti-graffiti unit is making little progress). But as reviled as it is in some quarters, graffiti has also occasionally — and prominently — received official sanction from the city, such as for the work of Neza Arte Nel (fotolog | youtube) or the repainting of the boundary walls around el Estadio Azteca.

It’s no coincidence that Tomás Brum’s magazines are centered on graffiti, as opposed to MCing, DJing, b-boying, etc. Or that TT Caps carries a nice coffee-table book on the history of graffiti in Mexico —

DF rap/graf books

During his presentation at Postopolis, Brum asserted that “El brazo más fuerte, visible y que más me gusta del hip hop en México es el grafitti.” (“Graffiti is the strongest and most visible branch of hip-hop in Mexico, and the one I like most.”)

As a student of hip-hop’s global diffusion, this is not exactly a revelation to me. It’s remarkable how often graffiti (or breakdance) is the form of hip-hop that first seems to take hold in places outside the US (which suggests that visual / non-linguistic forms are more easily embraced and localized). Films like Wild Style and Style Wars have clearly left their mark in Mexico and continue to inspire, even, oddly, when they inspire people to tag their titles around town using rather little style at all —


Interestingly, many of the histories of graffiti in Mexico I’ve come across point to Tijuana as the first frontier for the form in Mexico, as Tijuana quite literally serves as the northern frontier, the border to the US. This is an interesting point, as it implies that graffiti was transmitted more strongly (and quickly) person-to-person rather than via the flow of media. If that’s the case, the paths of hip-hop in Mexico differ in some interesting ways from the more common global hip-hop trajectory whereby films such as Wild Style or Breakin’ provide the first artifacts (and de facto instruction manuals) in places outside the US. Of course, such a narrative — as opposed to one that situates graffiti in the broader local contexts of Mexico’s great muralistas and the Tenochtitlanian taunters of Cortes — allows the practice to be viewed, and dismissed, as a fully foreign import.

Given this discursive backdrop, it was not surprising that most of the questions for Saner revolved around whether or not he was a vandal or a criminal. Before meeting Saner on Thursday, I was pleased to actually spot a few of his tags around town. Despite his success in galleries, he clearly remains active on the street:


To the question of how he labels himself and what he does, Saner responded: “Solamente hago lo que me gusta, no me etiqueto. Ni tampoco quiero etiquetar.” (“I just do what I do. I don’t label myself, nor do I want to label.”)

saner takes a question

Some considered this (reasonable and commonplace) answer a copout, an evasion, or worse, some disingenuous deception. In the halls at El Eco, I encountered some strong, if whispered, opposition to Saner’s embrace of the mantle of the underground artist. I was told that his commercial success (including a sold-out series of pricey vinyl toys for Kid Robot, exhibitions at Pictures on Walls in London, and invitations to paint in Europe) belies any real commitment to being underground (regardless of the gestures toward ephemerality and unobtainability represented by burning his work at the Border Gallery).

Obviously these are complicated questions, but grappling explicitly with them — and thinking about the economic and institutional ecosystem for young artists (especially those steeped in street art) in DF — was precisely my point in organizing this session. The same questions could easily be posed to another talented local artist, Seher, a sometime collaborator with Saner, and another favorite of Upper Playground DF, who has also enjoyed some commercial success tattooing vinyl toys and partnering with companies like Volvo.

One thing I feel the need to say, however, regardless of this vexing (but inescapable?) imbrication with commerce, is that the work these guys do is, to my eyes, just utterly fantastic, captivating, provocative, and rich. I know there’s not really any way to bracket issues of enmeshment in commerce, but somehow a consideration of aesthetics, of form and content and zeitgeist, too often gets sidelined when we attend to such “contextual” factors as $$$. It would be better — and a more truly holistic aesthetic approach — to somehow bring the two into dialogue with each other. I’m afraid we didn’t have the time in our session — 15 minutes is but a blink — but another reason I wanted Saner and Shine in on the conversation, is that I was hoping we could speak to issues of form and style and why it is that graffiti-related art seems to resonate so strongly in the arenas of high art as well as in the hybrid world of art & commerce that seeks to market “urban progressive lifestyles” even as it makes crucial space for young, contemporary artists.

said dokins shares his art
Said Dokins discusses his Avionazo intervention at El Eco

My final guest at Postopolis, Said Dokins, brought some trenchant thoughts to bear on all of this. Said has been praised in global street art circles for his work, but he is no Banksy-come-lately. Said has long been deeply engaged with the local graffiti scene, among other efforts producing a book about female graffiti artists in DF, and he also places his work in the storied tradition of anarcho-critical muralists in Mexico City, some of whom are his mentors and teachers.

He is also rather thoughtful — and self-consciously so — about the work that he does, and the work that it does (culturally and politically). For his presentation at Postopolis, Said delivered a strong statement about his art and how it expresses ideas about urban space, dystopia, power, subversion, and, among other specificities, how the omnipresent symbol of the skull in Mexico might represent the tragedy of history. (I quite like the idea of Benjamin’s angel of history wearing a máscara de calavera.)

Allow me to quote a passage that seems particularly relevant to the central questions of this post:

Desde que hago graffiti mi relación con lo no autorizado, con el acto ilegal ha marcado muchas formas en las que opero, trato siempre de salirme con la mía, de hacer lo no esperado, de estar en el límite de lo legal. En el caso del avionazo, no había una intención de acción directa contra del sistema hegemónico y el poder en un acto de choque, si no más bien aprovechar para que desde el sistema, es decir de los mecanismos de validación establecidos, ya que el proyecto en sí mismo fue apoyado, actuar como agente que de alguna manera señala problemáticas políticas y sociales, a través de la burla, infiltrando el desorden.

Since I do graffiti, my relationship with the non-authorized, with the illegal act, has marked many ways in which I operate. I always try to get my way, to do the unexpected, to be on the edge of legality. In the case of the plane crash, there was no intention of direct action against the hegemonic system and power through an act of shock, but rather to benefit from the system, from established mechanisms of validation, since the project itself was supported — to act as an agent that somehow fingers problematic political and social issues, through mockery, infiltrating the disorder.

Given Said’s indisputably radical, if practical, attitude about his art, it’s worth noting that the first comment on Saner’s post about his Kid Robot success is from Said himself:


And while it’s tempting enough to stop there, I can’t resist adding yet another pregnant pic to the pile:

portraying the workers

This is painted on the wall outside the HQ of the Partido Popular Socialista (PPS) on Avenue Obregón, portraying the work of portraying the workers! It’s quite an image, especially the way it leaves one to imagine what on earth might fill the thought bubble beside the graffitero’s head.

Clearly, despite several valiant attempts to do so, the story of graffiti in Mexico City and Mexico more broadly is still being written (whether in books, at blogs, or on walls). The form and practice has undoubtedly been Mexicanized even as it continues to be influenced by waves of worldwide wild style and street art, and it is inspiring to see how Mexican artists continue to navigate local structures of support and opposition as well as opportunities abroad for the sustenance of their work and their lives.

Whether the trend toward a kind of commercial hybridization exemplified by Upper Playground DF makes a greater impact on graffiti in DF than, say, post-Guiliani anti-graffiti squads, sin duda, remains to be seen. (Or is that unseen?)


June 16th, 2010

Post Postopolis Unpacking, Part 1: Hip-hop en DF


The great irony of Postopolis!, as fellow blogger Nicola Twilley observes, is that the intense, consuming nature of the event itself tends to preclude much blogging about it. Add to the 60 or so presentations packed into 5 days the bewildering and inviting charms of Mexico City, and you’re lucky to make a virtual peep tweet at all. (To their credit, the Tomo folks made a valiant effort at live-blogging.)

But 140-char chunks hardly do justice to the immersive experience of Postopolis DF & el Districto Federal. So I’ll be taking a few posts to recap of some of the best things I heard, saw, and ate. And I heartily recommend checking out similar efforts via los blogs de mis colegas queridas: e.g., Regine, Daniel, Jace.

This antinomy, if I may, between realtime and online is somewhat appropriate given that Postopolis, despite its bloggy roots, seeks to recognize the importance of asynchronous internet discourse while creating a temporary space for material experience, immediacy, and the face-to-face sociality that the blogosphere generally lacks. This goal was achieved last week in DF, with bubbly success I think, and it was unlike any sort of event I’ve even been a part of. (“Conference” wouldn’t begin to describe it.) This is due in no small part to all the local partners of Storefront and Domus, namely Tomo, El Eco, and all the awesome architects, artists, students, y toda la gente who stopped by.

postopolis at el eco

The other thing that Postopolis does well — again mirroring the blogosphere’s criss-crossing modes, media, and methods — is to offer, as former Storefront head and now Domus editor Joseph Grima put it on the first night in DF, “a transversal reading of a city.” Having held Postopoles in New York and Los Angeles, Mexico City seemed a fitting and exciting choice for such a project. It’s an immense city, a “megacity” as they say, and, without a doubt, an American capital with few peers (São Paolo and previous Postopolis sites, New York and Los Angeles, spring to mind). If one finds David Lida’s recent chronicles of Mexico City persuasive, one might go so far as to call it “the capital of the 21st century,” given that, as Lida argues —

Mexico City isn’t so much loaded with poor as it is brimming with people slowly struggling to scratch their way out of poverty. The improvised and informal nature of the community is emblematic of the way a megalopolis functions. Most people in Mexico City — indeed, most people in the world — live in a place much like it. (53)

Crucial to our grand endeavor of producing such a “reading,” of course, were the 60 or so invited local guests who offered up the grist for our bloggy mill. From architects and photographers to sewer divers and human rights activists to experts on the history of grain and water in Mexico (City), I think it’s safe to say that the bloggers curated up one hell of a transversal portrait of DF’s diverse dynamism, of el Monstruo‘s seemingly unending series of distinct but overlapping worlds — as well as its imbrication with other worlds across space and time.

Indeed, when my own guest, 2phase, a DF-based rapper and producer, invoked Tlaloc as the sky threatened to open up on us, it seemed a poignant gesture to the wider worlds we inhabit. Mexican rap? Sho nuff —

2phase performs (as Camilo looks on) at Postopolis! DF

As I’ve explained previously, it was my aim, given the awesome power of invitation, to assemble a slate of guests who might help sketch out how hip-hop makes space for people working in its forms in the City, how it helps to constitute a scene or set of scenes, how it enters into commerce and local institutions of various sorts — basically, how it manifests and represents, to employ some apt rap parlance. Mi colega Regine Debatty, of We Make Money Not Art, is being generous when she asserts that I “drew a picture of Mexico’s hip hop and street art culture.” But I do feel that, together, mis invitados and I — with the constant & indispensable assistance of Camilo Smith — were actually able to scratch through some surfaces over the four sessions I presented.

The first discussion I hosted was maybe the liveliest, thanks in particular to the entertaining riffs of Tomás Álvarez Brum, a local hip-hop impresario who publishes two graffiti magazines, Rayarte and BlackBook, and perhaps more importantly, runs TT Caps, a hip-hop shop in El Centro Histórico that sells pertinent books, magazines, spraypaint, t-shirts, CDs and DVDs — often on consignment for the artists producing them — and includes a tattoo parlor to boot. The store also hosts readings (incl for this, which I picked up) and live performances. Clearly, TT Caps — and Brum more broadly — is central to the scene in many ways.

TT Caps

Brum is a total character, and I’m sorry I don’t have the video to share (or review) at the moment; I’m hoping they’ll all be viewable soon thanks to Domus. I’m also sorry that so much of his talk went over my head, as he was speaking some rapidfire and at times rather chilango Spanish. Take this bit conveyed by Daniel Hernandez, for example, which, significantly, seemed to receive more laughs and RTs than anything else Brum said:

Discussing the hip-hop subcultures of Mexico City with Wayne Marshall, Tomás Brum Alvarez of Rayarte, a D.F. graffiti magazine, broke down the lack of public space and media outlets in the city for hip-hop nacional. While doing so, he made a pointed dig at the old guard at El Chopo, whom he argued are resistant to incorporating hip-hop into the scene there. He referred to himself jokingly as a "choposuario," and then said, no, he's an "artesángano."

Couldn't help laughing out loud. "Choposuario" is a compound slangism that describes the graying old rockers who still guard El Chopo like it's some kind of countercultural holy grail (which it is), but also connotes a kind of nostalgic delusion for the old days of the tianguis — which is now almost 30 years old. But artesángano was totally new to me. Sángano is another slangism that describes a lazy figure who leeches, or hooks others into doing his will. So what's an artesángano? An artesano, artisan seller, who hustles without shame? Whatever its intended meaning, I'll definitely be using it when inspiration strikes.

Brum was joined on stage by DJ Ali of Masare Records, who I wanted to bring into the conversation as someone using hip-hop to tap into other sorts of commercial channels — among others, sponsorships by the likes of Rane and Serato, not to mention local brands and institutions, and residencies en las zonas “super nice” como El Polanco o La Condesa. Importantly, while Ali may in some ways leverage hip-hop to support his commercial efforts, he also quite clearly leverages these efforts for the sake of local hip-hop. I was told by several locals that Ali is a stalwart booster of the scene, constantly shining light on local MCs and creating opportunities for them to perform.

As an interesting contrast/complement to Brum’s daily grind, Ali promotes hip-hop in DF by staging grand events such as the I <3 Hip Hop concert he put on last November, for which he brought Jazzy J all the way down from Brooklyn. The event, as noted in my walks around La Roma, continues to enjoy some “street team” style promotion —

I &lt;3 HIP HOP

Since Brum and Ali were able to speak to a certain level of institutional scaffolding for hip-hop in Mexico City, I was hoping that a second session on hip-hop, involving practitioners at the level of performer/producer, would help to flesh things out further. And I think that 2phase and his Poblano labelmate Lil T’ko — in conversation with Camilo — did so with panache and detail.

Camilo Smith talks cholo rap w/ Lil T'ko

Because he grew up in Chicago, I was able to follow 2phase a lot better than Brum or Ali. Several years ago 2phase relocated to Mexico City (if I recall correctly, he was born there), to attend audio-engineering school, picking up some skills that have been instrumental in his success as a producer and as someone now running a studio that aims to serve a clientele beyond the local hip-hop community. His own transnational experience is typical of the “cholo rap” scene in which he participates, connecting Mexico proper to trans-border Mexican sites such as Chicago, California, and Texas.

2phase and Lil T’ko, before closing with a rousing rap that may have been an energetic high for the Postopolis! stage, discussed the ins-and-outs of running modest record labels, putting on shows, and sustaining their careers as artists and producers. Camilo did a fine job of interviewing, asking 2phase to elaborate, at one point, on what he meant by “mainstream” in Mexico/City. (He meant: on radio or TV.) Among other things, I was thrilled to hear 2phase talk — without any prompting — about DLing music production software and watching how-to’s on YouTube, especially since these very activities keep cropping up in my present project on music industry in the age of internet. Although they spent more time discussing local, material efforts than those in the virtual realm, they’ve clearly got their MySpace game on full-blast (note that 2phase’s page lists DJ Ali and TT Caps as friends). To wit: even the mixtape they handed out at the end of their presentation has its own page.

One interesting question from the Postopolis audience was concerned with how some of 2phase’s peers from the same audio engineering school he attended can’t seem to get jobs doing punk or rock work, and yet, 2phase has managed to sustain a career and build a burgeoning label, studio, and production company around hip-hop, which is by all accounts a smaller and far more marginal scene than rock or punk (indeed, the words underground or subteráneo got thrown around plenty in our discussions). Interestingly, this suggested to Camilo that marginality may have its upsides. As he wrote to me via email, “hip-hop is marginal in the D.F. music scene, but at least these guy can carve their niche, thanks to that.”

Margins are spaces of their own — & it can be easy to lose sight of that.

But if hip-hop still remains in some ways marginal or underground or subteráneo in Mexico City, graffiti is quite the opposite. Graffiti is everywhere. It transcends hip-hop, tattooing toda la Ciudad —

just another graf-filled wall in DF

My next recap will build on this post to discuss how graffiti relates to and departs from the local institutions of hip-hop in DF. Hasta entonces —


June 4th, 2010

Terrorists Party on Chatroulette and Messing with People

This video mostly speaks for itself, and speaks volumes, but here are a couple key items:

  • The weapons are not real! We don’t support violence. Also fake picture.
  • Song used: Punjabi MC – “Jogi

The range of reactions are absolutely precious. Does this mean the terrorists win?

h/t ebog


June 3rd, 2010

Plans to Postopolise My Time


Next week’s Postopolis! DF happening is shaping up to be super stimulating and utterly exhausting. The schedule has been posted, and it boasts an array of guests that range from art/design-world titans to a dude who’s been diving DF sewers for three decades, and pretty much everything between and beyond.

The diversity of participants is really quite stunning, and I’m especially looking forward to encountering perspectives and practices well outside my typical spheres of interest. Should be a mind/myopia-blowing event in that way. But I’m also excited, obv, about some of the guests that strike closer to home, such as those invited by Jace, to whom readers need no intro, or by Daniel Hernandez, a DF-dwelling journalist who writes an excellent blog and is just finishing up a book, which I’m keen to read, about the “emo riots” that went down a couple years back. (In fact, I think I discovered his blog because of his coverage of anti-emo violence in Mexico.)

I’m very interested in the way that something like “emo” (especially broadly construed) or, closer to the heart of this blog, tecktonik or jerkin find their way to Mexico, not to mention how or why they resonate and what kind of cultural work they do. I would have loved to find the right person to represent TCK MEX or even some Zócalo flaneurs to come down to El Eco and, come se dice, baila bn chidO xD

I didn’t have much success there, however, maybe because, basically, TCK has already come and gone. (Ah, the ethnography of ephemera!) Also because YouTube mirrors are not great gateways to actual people. And perhaps p/q this too: despite bloggy appearances, I still really need to work on my chatroom Spanish. At any rate, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears out while there, and I can’t wait to pick Daniel’s brain about how the discourses and practices of “emos” and “tribus urbanas” in DF might shed some light on how YouTube dance culture is itself received and reshaped in La Ciudad.

That said, as I reported in a previous post, I did manage to find a great group of people to come and share some of what they do with us. Allow me to recap and expand on that initial announcement, complete with dates & times for those of you who will actually be in town.

  • Tues 6/8 (7-8:30) — At some point during the kickoff evening, alongside my fellow blogger-curators, I’ll talk briefly about my blog and how it relates to what I do. Among other things, and speaking abstractly, I plan to highlight my interest in local institutions and translocal exchanges, the interplay between material and virtual cultures, and how various kinds of architectures and arrangements support and constrain the work my guests / collaborators / consultants are doing. More concretely, I’ll likely show some screenshots and YouTubes and talk about floggers and hip-hop.
  • Wed 6/9 (6:30) — In the first of two local hip-hop related panels (mil gracias to my man on the ground, Camilo Smith), I’ll be talking to DJ Alí, who puts on a lot of shows around town and runs Masare Records & Tomás Brum Álvarez, who puts out a rad hip-hop mag called Rayarte and is responsible for producing and releasing DF hip-hop.
  • Thurs 6/10 (4:00) — I’ll be talking to two visual artists, Wendell McShine and Saner, both of whom mix media and Mexican iconography (among others) in distinctive and provocative ways, as well as Lili Carpinteyro, one of the people behind Upper Playground Mexico, an interesting instantiation of an international venture that collides curated, contemporary art with cool commerce.
  • Fri 6/11 (5:30) — In the second DF hip-hop session, Camilo and I will chat with longtime local (but Chicago deportee) 2phase about making hip-hop happen in Mexico City, with a focus on spaces and access to resources and such, but also aesthetics no doubt.
  • Sat 6/12 (12:00) — My final guest is definitely one of those last-but-not-least guys: Said Dokins, among other things, makes public interventions in the shape of giant paper airplanes admired abroad as “street art at its best.” He’ll be talking about his recent piece el Avionazo of course, but also about something he calls “La máquina distópica de habitar,” along with some thoughts about graffiti, calligraphy, and calaveras (namely, how skulls stage death for the establishment of political regimes), or so he tells me.

If that’s not enough, I’m also going to be playing music no fewer than 4 times over the course of 5 days. Sounds nutso, no? But when you’re asked to warm up rooms (or calentar motores) for DJ /Rupture at various clubs in and around Mexico City, alongside other good friends who are great DJs, you just don’t say no. At least, I don’t. So here’s how that’s breaking down, FYI —

  • Tues 6/8 — Postopolis! opening party hosted by Noiselab at Rhodesia, w/ Rupture & local guests
  • Thurs 6/10 — I’ll be joining DJ /Rupture and N-RON, again at the pleasure of Noiselab, at the CCE (Centro Cultural España)
  • Friday 6/11 — A non-postopolis party in neighboring Toluca w/ Rupture, N-RON, and Dutty Tally
  • Saturday, 6/12 — After all is said and done at El Eco, where some of us will throw down some tunes for the closing party, I’ll be playing a later-night party alongside Rupture, N-RON, and Taliesin again, this time in DF (place TBD)

And that’s it. ¡El fin! Not sure that I’m going to be able to do much of anything else, much as I’d like to explore new corners of DF once again. Oh, there’ll be some fieldtrips for breakfast and lunch and such, but, man, this is gonna be one tight schedule. ¡Vámonos!



I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com


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