Recently I was invited on a personal tour of Station 16 Gallery in Montreal. I’ve been friendly with its founder Carlo for about four years now, ever since I facilitated an introduction between him and a local street artist. So when I told him that I would be back in my old Montreal stomping grounds, he took a couple hours out of his busy day to show me around the ever-expanding gallery.
Station 16 is located on Boulevard St-Laurent in the heart of le plateau, where the gallery’s presence has boosted the community’s economy and sprouted new growth and development for local businesses. Montreal was hit hard by the economic downturn, and there are still many empty retail spaces around. So Station 16 partnered with the annual Mural Festival to reinvigorate interest in this historical and trendy area.
The goal of Station 16 is to feature and promote local urban artists as well as international favourites. The great thing I noticed when I entered the gallery was how busy it was. Most art galleries are usually very quiet, with one or two patrons an hour, and the receptionists’ shoes usually cost more than your entire annual salary. For many people, visiting art galleries is an intimidating and perhaps snobby-elite experience that feels alienating and ostracising. Not Station 16. Kids, teenagers, families, tourists, street art enthusiasts, art collectors, and dealers abounded the ground-level gallery. It’s a very inclusive and welcoming experience, with a no-pressure enviro, and fosters a sense of community. I think that encouraging everyday people in the process of appreciating, critiquing, and collecting pieces of art is a good thing, and removes the exclusivity that surrounds the art world.
Pure Maple Sizzurp piece by What Is Adam, like an Warhol-throwback!
Took me a moment to realize those are guns.
Olek, my beloved guerilla-knitting-yarn-bombing babe with a clever turn of phrase here. This is actually a silkscreen of her work, but it comes out very 3D! It looks like there’s actual yarn in there! I’ve photographed her in Montreal, NYC, and London!
Le Diamantaire! You can’t turn a single corner in Paris without running into his street diamonds. They’re prolific!
Now this is my kind of toilet. The entire walls are covered in What Is Adam pieces, and what’s that on the loo?
It’s my boyfriend HANKSY!
Enzo Sarto is one half of my NYC favourite Enzo & Nio!
This is the back of Carlo’s computer! I see WIA, Stikki Peaches, Enzo & Nio, Shepard Fairy…. “Never forget how awesome you are.”
How could I?
Station 16 is located at 3523 Boul St-Laurent in Montreal, within walking distance from metro stops Mont-Royal or Sherbrooke. If you go, tell them Chris says hi!
As you read this, I am on my way back to Warsaw to catch a flight out of here, so that means my delightful #Polska14 adventure has come to an end! But what an amazing journey! Three delightful cities in one week, and an immersion in Polish urbanism, history, culture, gastronomy, innovation, exchange, economy, but most of all, wonderment! On our final day in Poznan, we basically had a free day to explore at will. So after a leisure morning in my posh hotel, I went out to discover some more street art gems! The above is just a section of BLU’s mural which I found by accident. I photographed him in Berlin this summer, but finding his work isn’t always easy, so I was delighted to find it. Soon I will post much better pics, these are just snaps made from my iPad. BLU is to talented, and this mural is overwhelming.
Water cubes, anyone?
I posted pics of this little Poznan character yesterday, and he seems to be everywhere!
So goodbye for the second time Poland!
Day 3 of this Polish extravaganza was jammed packed! Refreshed from my glorious sleep in the fancy hotel, some of the delegates took a walk through Poznan’s old town. And wow, what a glorious city. Unlike Warsaw, which was totally destroyed during the war and rebuilt, Poznan has original architecture dating back centuries, and while some buildings are in a state of disrepair, I actually really like the “urban decay” look. It gives the city character. And just because something is old, doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness.
I love how it looks like the fountain is vomiting.
After a leisure morning, we were ushered to the convention centre to attend the POLEKO conference. When it comes to being Green, this trade fair espoused the future of innovation. I was specifically interested in the recycling sector which presented products made entirely from recycled materials…
…lathering brushes and razors…
…and artisanal chaises.
Naturally, there were some tongue in cheek pieces, like an entire dining room set made of recycled materials made to look like Sigourney Weaver’s Alien and friends…
We were treated as honoured delegates from Canada and attended a business mixer to exchange ideas and thoughts with other countries and businesses. The conference, although young, is very international, with a big German and Scandinavian presence. There were school groups and very engaging booths with a highly stylized design. And free chocolates. Good GAWD, the chocolates!
As many of you know, I’ve been photographing Laser 3.14‘s street art for well over a year now. I’ve blogged his work so much, that him and I have become friendly. Friendly enough that he even gave me the nickname “Brows” because of my infamous eyebrows (they really are the only reason people like me, let’s be honest). Every time I’m in Amsterdam, he let’s me know the locations of some of his latest works so I can go on a graff-hunt.
Here are some of his newest works to be found on the streets of my beloved Amsterdam.
The future is already haunting us
Children of the electric funk
Promises of heaven
Giving us hell
I peel off my skin
So I can reach the inner me
The drapes are drawn
Our bodies entangled
(This one is my favourite, obvi)
My favourite thing about this photograph is the shadow of the guy next to me who took a swig from his liquor bottle right as I snapped this photograph, and the shadow of him falls upon Laser’s work, giving it a level of potency, methinks.
Welcome to (my life). This was number 1.
This was number 2.
Versace never reassured me.
This was particularly potent because the street it was on had some pretty upmarket high street shops like Gucci and Ermenegildo Zegna.
The certainty of uncertainty
(this to me is like the flip side of the ol’ Death and Taxes saying)
Yours too? What are the odds!
She controls the knob
Or as I like to think of this one, “She stoops to conquer.” Har har.
Laser told me this one is actually around 3 or 4 years old, so we’re both shocked it’s still kicking around!
Check out my Laser 3.14 category so you can see all of his pieces that I’ve photographed in Amsterdam. And the next time you’re in the ‘dam, make sure you check out his work!
This above and below is by Seth aka Globepainter, near Rue Mouffetard coming down from Place Contrescarpe. I love how expressive and bold they are, with the thick lines and rounded curves. And the childlike enthusiasm.
And the disappearing into walls…
Ha! Look at this slug trying to be a repairman! I think my favourite detail is the tool belt. I found this near Abesses metro station.
Nina Simone by Miss Me. The first time I found a Miss Me was in Montreal, but I also found her work in Berlin when I was living there this summer. She’s also in Paris! Good for her! Canadians are taking over the planet, just you wait. I found this in the hilly staircases of Montmartre.
TYPEWRITER PORNOGRAPHY. by WRDSMITH
J’ai demandé à la lune….
I suspect the artist behind this carebear piece is the same artist behind The Kiss (pixelated) that I blogged about last week.
The following, including this one, were all found on Rue Denoyez. The last time I blogged from Rue denoyez was 2 years ago, and this time the experience was much less enjoyable, because of all the disgusting sexual harassment that happens in the Belleville area. I literally had to run in, photograph, and run out. I was being hounded at every corner. Seriously Paris, fuck you. Do something about your sexual harassment problem.
Arbeit Macht Lazy, huh?
There was no artist name next to this one, anyone know who’s behind this? It’s great, wasn’t far from the Victor Hugo museum…
Ha ha ha.
It’s an animal menagerie at Porte de Vanves.
Check out my Paris category for all the wonderfully cool finds I’ve photographed over the years, from street art to writer-hangouts to relics of the past, and everything in between.
Everyone knows Tanya Chalkin’s famous photograph, The Kiss. Someone in Paris has taken it upon themselves to create the mosaic-pixel version of this near Etienne-Marcel.
This is not a Space Invader, although it bears some of his hallmarks. For one, the women have been updated with Video Game attire.
I don’t know who’s behind this piece of art, but if you do, please let me know in the comments below!
Found this on the streets of the Marais, just in time for this.
Say it with me now, class:
WOMAN, MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?
Sorry for not blogging for almost 3 weeks! It’s been crazy around here. I went from Berlin, to Regensburg, to Amsterdam, and now I’m in Paris, where I will be situated for the next little while … ah, the life of resourceful nomad. Expect more photojaculations about all of these adventures!
Anyway, you, my little munchkins, might remember the last few times I have blogged about Laser 3.14, the graff-poet of Amsterdam. Well, I let him know that I would be in Amsterdam for a week, and he sent me all the locations of his most recent bombings. The work, as always, is thrilling and moving. Dude speaks exactly what is on my mind and in my heart, and he has recently had a few gallery exhibitions and openings that have been met with lots of press and accolades. Dude is going places.
This one I found on my own. Someone had wrapped up the tarp & knotted it through itself (see the hole right before the 3?). I had to unravel it just to photograph it. Almost get yelled at the home owner. Totally worth it.
Found this one also by mistake. It’s part of an older batch, hence its poor state. It says “blind idealism destroys reason.”
Found this by accident. It’s one of my favourites.
Another from his older series. “Don’t just murmur your insanity.”
Again, an older one that I just stumbled upon. It says “Travis the streets are swept.” You’ll see in some of these pieces I’m about to blog that he likes to use the names of his friends in his tags….
“Oh you’ll know when it’s too late.”
When I found this one in the pouring rain, that red bike was blocking the piece. I had to pick that fucking tank up and move it out of the way. It was obvious that bike hadn’t been moved in some time because of the cobwebs on it. I’ve seen some pics lately of others photographing this piece and the bike is where I left it.
YOU’RE ALL WELCOME!!!!
“This panorama is for you.”
What a panorama…. cough.
“Mind control is everything, everything is mind control…” upside down.
“Things don’t work that way Timmy.”
Remember what I said about the names?
“Nobody believes the media… except when it’s in their own interest.”
“Reap the tame heart, and all.”
This was on the other side of the previous one! Two tags on one corner= my idea of christmas.
As I’ve noted in past blogs, Laser 3.14 almost exclusively only tags construction boards and tarps. My guess is that he does it so that no one’s property is damaged by his tags. Those tarps and construction boards are only up temporarily. Also, they seem to provide an awfully potent frame for his poetry. The boards act like excellent frames, and the tarps give his words a kind of ethereal beauty. Lately I find myself extremely disappointed when I pass a construction site and cannot find his work.
And this one was on the other side of the previous. It’s like a poetry corner!
“Wrong underdog, try the one next door.”
Again with the friends’ names 🙂
This has to be some inside joke, I don’t get it. Who’s egg man?
This one is my absolute favourite and really speaks to me. “Too much love for after the fact.”
Yes, yes, GOOD GAWD YES.
BACK OFF, GET YOUR OWN IDEALS!
So nice, he tagged it twice.
“The Goggle age questions your ideals.”
As you’ve seen from this huge haul of his work, Laser 3.14 is interested in online privacy, the theatre of the media, capitalist ideals, the state of Europe, personal agency, and of course, as always, matters of the heart. This is what good street art is, people. TAKE NOTES.
Check out my Laser 3.14 category for more of his work that I’ve photographed.
The 48 hour Neukölln arts fest is very much like Nuit Blanche in Toronto, except it lasts for 48 hours, and it’s not in the freezing cold. Berlin has always been known for its arts scene, and for welcoming artists from all across Europe into their embrace, so this was a perfect way to induct me into the wonderful German hipster dudebro artistic experience.
Obvi, I adored it.
I got drunk on it.
I ate that shit up.
First we found these artists who gave us a tutorial on how to make street art stencils. Of course, I plopped down to make a masterpiece. *cough*
This was a guerilla poetry space, where thousands of newspaper headlines were chopped up for us, and we got to fashion poetry… like one would fashion an anonymous ransom note! Or like refrigerator magnet poetry. Or like found poetry.
And so on.
This was ours. “I think to be seduced is the right solution.”
This was someone elses. The wall behind it said “Courage is…” so this poem finishes the sentence with “…unlikely to result in vaginal dryness.”
I’ll get my coat.
Courage is… “What was going on in the East German sky without us.”
Chris, there’s a giant frog with a cell phone growing out of your back.
Then this tenor emerged from his balcony and sang Nessun Dorma to all of us down below. It was the crowning moment of the fest, for me.
There were 1000 origami cranes. There was a pillow fort where we affixed our adult dreams to. There were shopping carts woven into a circle. There were art-convenience-stores. There were angel-birds. There was sunshine. There was FIFA. There was dancing and music.
There was Berlin.
**Unless bearing my watermark, all pics are copyright Moneim Eltohami.
Germans, in general, are super tall (bless ’em). Everyone towers around me because I’m a bite-size pipsqueak. So I’m wondering if local artist Mij K Do is trying to comment on the height of Berliners with his super-long-legged subjects.
FINALLY SOME ATTENTION!
WAR IS COMING!
I TELL YOU, IT’S COMING!
Don’t mind me…
A street art photographer-blogger like me always dreams of photographing the work of Os Gêmeos, and even though I have travelled the world over, I have never been fortunate enough to find the Brazillian brothers’ works! UNTIL NOW!
Os Gêmeos BABY!
This Moonman, located near Kottbusser Tor, is by Ash.
The Pink Man, near Oberbaumbrucke, is by BLU.
These two massive murals on Schlesische strasse are also by BLU.
I’m pretty sure this is by Miss Van. It was near the East Side Gallery.
Is that my beloved Vhils? Why yes it is!
My beloved C215 and his signature kitty-cat.
Is is a peace sign, a high-five, or a fuck you?
What we do know is that it’s by Case Maclaim
The last time I photographed Miss Me was in Montreal! Had no idea she’d been here!
It’s my beloved Jimmy C aka James Cochran!
Jimmy’s heart (obstructed by some idiot’s fat head).
And Jimmy’s lovely tribute to Anne Frank.
And my beloved Stik! (Yes they’re all my beloved…. WHAT OF IT?)
More Stik behind bars.
And Stik behind trees!
Ain’t that the fricken truth.
Bending Berlin Baby! And it’s a picture of Bender from Futurama! Space Invader has a version of this in Brussels, which I photographed last year, check it out! This is by street artist ambush and you should check out his website!
That’s good advice, you guys.
Well if it isn’t my old Cologne-pal Decycle. I photographed this exact same piece over in that forsaken city, but glad to see he’s taking up a much more civilized and cosmopolitain area.
Jessica Rabbit. “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”
Well, it doesn’t say much, but it’s to-the-point and I salute it for it.
I found this near Hermanstrasse in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin.
This will be a sombre, solemn post. I thought when I decided to spend the summer in Berlin that I’d be more fascinated with WWII history (and believe me, I am), but I was unprepared for just how much Cold War history would really affect me.
Throughout the 20th century, Germans have been REALLY good at building walls. First they built walls to create Jewish Ghettos, then they built walls around concentration camps, then they built walls to separate their own people. If you just so happened to be living in the wrong part of Berlin, you were suddenly forbidden to visit your family and friends on the other side of town. You couldn’t even wave across the wall, or they would blind you with reflecting mirrors. The Soviets wanted to prevent people from moving freely from one side to the other, so they built a wall, and would kill if you dared cross. THEY WOULD KILL YOU. And this isn’t ancient history, people were being killed in 1989 for trying to cross the wall. IN 1989.
And I find the sections where the Berlin wall is still standing especially haunting. Because, really, the wall isn’t that high. It wasn’t really the wall but the kill zone in between East and West Germany that is horrific.
This is a photograph of 18 year old Peter Fechter. He was an apprentice bricklayer.
And this is the last photograph ever taken of Peter Fechter as he lay dying from a gunshot wound to the stomach when he tried to cross the wall in 1962. The East Germans shot him and left him there for over an hour to die.
This marks the spot where he died.
You know, my pictures of this murder don’t do the horror of this event justice. Here is a short film about the erection of the Berlin Wall and the murder of Peter Fechter (I know no one likes watching videos, but it’s only 9 minutes long, and it’s actually really good. The voice-over feels a bit dated, but I would highly encourage you guys to watch this. There is footage of Peter Fechter being carried off as he dies, and other footage of people trying to jump the wall, or even jumping out of buildings just to get to the West.).
What you’re looking at here is a preserved section of the wall and the kill zone, with an intact guard tower. You can see the Berlin TV tower near Alexanderplatz (in the West) in the background. If you lived here on Bernauerstrasse in the 1960s, you could see into the west, you could hear the rumble of the trams and S-bahn, you could even hear their voices. But, for over 40 years, you wouldn’t have been able to see your family living there.
It’s obscene how recent this history is.
As you saw in the video above, if you lived on a building facing the West, before the wall was built you could just jump through your window and run to the West with all your things.
But then they started to build the wall, first with barbed wire, then with bricks.
Even the East German guards were swept up in the wall-crossing fever. You have all seen this photograph before. His name is Conrad Schumann.
Schumann was a young East German guard, overseeing the border when it was just barbed wire. As the story goes, on the West was a van full of West German guards who called out to him, and said, “Come on, join us!” So when the moment was right, he hopped the wire, dropped his gun, and dashed into the waiting van which drove off. The East German police scrambled to grab his gun, and then all hell broke loose.
Here is a short video (put it on mute, there’s some obnoxious voiceover on it) of that moment. Some lucky bastard had his camera rolling at that exact moment, and caught it all on tape.
Schumann became a posterboy for West Germany. The sad thing – he was petrified his entire life that the Stasi would arrest him or seek retribution for his act. Even after the wall fell and Germany was reunified, he lived in constant fear. He committed suicide in 1998, by hanging himself from a tree.
Here’s another guard tower around the corner from Potsdamer Platz. The wall was so ridiculous, it literally cut the city in two via asinine regulations. For 28 years, nobody was able to pass through the Brandenburg Tor, because it was situated in the killzone between the East and the West. Now, the Brandenburg Tor is a huge tourist draw and everyone passes through it. If you tried to do that in 1984, for example, you would have been shot.
When the wall finally fell and the East Germans walked into the West, they said it felt like “madness.” This above photograph I took last week.
Here’s something new. In 2006, this is what a section of the wall near Wilhelmstrasse looked like. I took this picture back then.
This is what that exact same wall looked like last week.
The trees are gone, and they paved over most of the cobblestones in favour of asphalt.
Because on the other side of the wall, they have put in an open-air museum called Topographie Des Terrors, as that is the location of a former Gestapo prison. The ruins of the prison cells are down there.
Now the former border is either marked by cobblestones in the road, or by these beams.
Or, the best way to commemorate a political travesty…
Welcome to the East Side Gallery! The stretch of the Berlin Wall that had such provocative street art, it encouraged the revolution of the people, and the destruction of the DDR. It now is a protected wall, and these original murals from the late 80s serve as a reminder to the power of the people, and a people torn apart.
I’ll let these images speak for themselves, shall I?
The caption says “My God, help me to overcome this deadly love.”
This is a satirical depiction of a famous moment when Erich Honecker (leader of the DDR) kissed Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev. This is perhaps the most recognizable image from the East Side Gallery.
This says, “He who wants the world to remain as it is, doesn’t want it to remain at all.”
Why is that Thierry Noir? I FINK SO!
In fact, it is the wall which made Noir famous. He put up these infamous faces in the 80s, and they became a symbol of the people separated. Along with the Honecker kiss above, it is one of the most recognizable symbols of the wall.
A touch of home! There’s a 2009 mural here that is captioned “Je Me Souviens” which is the slogan of Quebec! And underneath it references the student protests in Quebec. It has the red square that was the symbol of the protestors, and it says Fuck Charest, Fuck Harper.
For those of you who don’t know, Charest was the premier of Quebec, and Harper is our stupid Prime Minister.
Jodie Foster from Taxi Driver. I saw this wheatpaste in London, must be new.
The dust of walls torn down has settled in the hearts of men. How will you keep them from rising again?
This is all fun and stuff, but let’s not forget that people died. People were terrorized. And this is a reminder of all-too-recent history.
As promised, here is the second instalment of my Copenhagen street art photo dump. The above mural of a woman cycling is exactly what Copenhagen is all about. Just like Amsterdam, everyone cycles here. The bike lanes are huge and dedicated, and the city is green. Love this.
In the last post, you saw a huge iron gun made my TEJN, the above is by TEJN as well. It was on the Louise Bridge in the Norrebro area of Copenhagen. It’s a peace sign that needs to be wound up…or locked up…whichever, it’s pretty sweet.
And this was across the street from the TEJN piece, again on the bridge. I don’t know if it’s commissioned by the city or the work of some secret artist. It says “The Earth Bears Your Mark” and then again in Danish underneath.
Hahaha. Run Nazi, Run!
Another Kid Acne that I found in the Dybbolsbro area.
That’s like the mantra of the mafia, or something.
Just like in the last post, more KissMama! “I hate my wife because I’m boring.” Yup, that’s every husband.
“Let me steal your heart.” YOU DAMN WELL BETTER.
It doesn’t need one either.
I can’t tell if that’s a man & a woman, two men, or two women. It doesn’t really matter. It has that Grecian feel to it, classically-cool.
“Street art isn’t dead, it’s only sleeping.”
This is by KissMama
The construction boards all around Copenhagen have provided unlimited canvases for the city’s street artists. Case in point, this gorgeous mural by Zed1.
This giant iron gun, chained to a mailbox, is by TEJN.
You can read Shepard’s account of the attack here.
This EuroTrash is pretty impressive.
Stop Graffiti? That’s so meta.
That heart above the pillar is made of guns that were taken off of the streets.
We want to live together
More to come!
I’ve been on the road for three weeks now, and I’m so glad I decided to throw off the shackles of suspended animation and stationary living that were cutting into my skin (In short, paying rent is for suckers). I’ve been a backpacker for nine years now, and even though I have been to so many places, and learned a lot, I always seem to discover new places and learn new things. So far all the cities on this journey are places I have been to/lived in before (Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and soon Berlin), but it’s hard to be bored in these cities. I’ve forsaken flying, and have been taking the delightful European trains like a civilized person. I’ve been Couchsurfing and house-sitting, which has allowed me to make new friends, snuggle with some snuggle-pets, and take the time to really explore without feeling rushed. My days consist of drinking sweet lattes, writing in my journal while sneaking glances at the pretty bearded hipster dudebro behind the counter, walking around a European metropolis in the sunshine, taking photographs of provocative street art and urban art, indulging in Pain au Chocolat’s without a trace of guilt, going to flea markets, spending hours at enthralling museums, rocking out to Nils Frahm, and partaking in SO MUCH EUROVISION (I had no idea when I came to Copenhagen that I’d be here at the same time as the Eurovision Song Contest, but boy has it been fun! Go Conchita go).
A friend of mine recently sent me this message:
I am forced to agree.
Here are some highlights and urban art from my travels this past month.
In Brussels, of course my first stop was the Jeu de Balle flea market to spend hours upon hours rummaging through boxes to find some love letters. Remember this? Anyway, I found 10 love letters written between a husband and wife from 1956-8 in Brussels. He was a military doctor and so he was stationed away from home quite often. Look at that lipstick kiss in the letter! They totally got it bad for each other. I also found a letter written during WWII (it’s undated but I’m guessing from the letters’ contents that it’s from about 1944) written between cousins about how “les sales boches” (aka The Nazis) have invaded Belgium and the family misses their homeland. They are in exile in an area of France that was not occupied by the Nazis and 12 family members are living in a small flat. The cousin writes to the other cousin, begging him to join her, saying, “we will make space on the mattress for you.”
I love you, Jeu de Balle.
Jef Aerosol has an ongoing exhibit just around the corner from Jeu de Balle.
Of course no trip to Amsterdam is complete without going hunting for a few Laser 314‘s 🙂
I also spent a great deal of time at Amsterdam’s Resistance Museum, and then following a map to all of the important locations in the city during the Nazi occupation, including where Jews had to buy their Star of David armbands, the theatre converted for mass deportations, the Carlton hotel that a war plane smashed into, the bombs that dropped on a home on the Herengracht, the air-raid shelters, and more. Highly recommended if you’re into WWII history like me
This is Laser’s nod to 1984.
When you take the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the train (which is only 4 small carriages) goes ONTO THE FERRY. No one ever believes me when I tell them this.
Ah, Copenhagen. I was last here in 2006 (read my post from that time here, and this post has all my photographs from back then). If I’m being honest, my memory of my time here in 2006 is rather hazy, so I’m glad I’m spending a good chunk of time here.
This is wonderful. An underwater sculpture in one of the canals.
The boats have to be careful, otherwise their propellers will be destroyed.
Hans Christian Andersen’s grave!
I swear, Copenhagen is filled with so much antiquity, and so few people, that sometimes, you can walk down a street, preserved in detail for 200 years, and wonder if you’ve stepped through time, without the presence of cars and technology to distract you.
I’m still in Copenhagen, so this section is a work in progress. More photographs to come! I have SO MUCH STREET ART TO SHARE!
In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).
Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:
#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show
I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:
Read my blog post about my experience here!
But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.
I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.
When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.
#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!
Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free! And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!
#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event
(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)
I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.
#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!
I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.
#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!
As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!
Read my blog post about that experience here!
#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!
Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.
So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!
Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!
I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…
This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!
There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.
My table looked like a Star Trek console!
Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.
TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.
They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!
Here was the awesome menu!
And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.
I met some awesome people there too!
This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!
LOL at “interphalangial.”
Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.
You go girl.
The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.
Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.
Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!
So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.
As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.
I hope I never fucking see you again.
All of these were erected last year for the Dulwich Festival… still standing, so take a wander around Dulwich in South East London if you’re ever so inclined!
Just like The Triumph of David…
Here are some of the gems that I found whilst cycling around Amsterdam for two weeks. Some of these artists I know, some I don’t, but it’s all really great work!
Once again, I have to reiterate that there is so much of your city to discover if you just keep your eyes open. Cultural activities don’t require tickets. All you need is a keen sense of direction, a bike or a walking shoes, a camera, and a curious nature. Art is free! It’s on your walls! Go discover it!
Someone blighted her face. FOR SHAME.
Is that an Ewok? YUB-NUB!
A day without laughter is a day wasted…. I dunno, sometimes a cry feels pretty good.
I don’t know “Karma” but I like that idea.
Boxhead is quite literal.
Why, it’s KID ACNE! I’ve blogged his work before in London! He’s very YAY!
See her? DO YA?
Don’t mess with her, she’s bad to the bone.
Great job Kid Acne!
Tyler the Creator is terrifying.
Haha, there’s a Dutch joke in here. “Albert Heijn” (pronounced HINE) is the name of a supermarket in The Netherlands. So, here they have Albert Heijnstein! WOCKA WOCKA WOCKA. They even changed E=mc(squared) to E=ON(squared)… the “ON” is the logo for the Albert Heijn “on the go” basic shops.
This image is really pretty.
Even prettier when you take into the account the gorgeous building it’s on.
Sexist graffiti. Not a fan. I don’t enjoy this. NEXT.
YES. That’s better.
Because it’s torn, there’s no way to know if it said “should” or “could.” I think both are apropos.
I’m on the fence about this one.
I saw a lot of Fabrice’s work in Amsterdam, and I chose not to photograph it all because it seemed to be commissioned. I’m more of a fan of spontaneous art, rather than state-sanctioned art, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty and well-done.
Hey look it’s Albert Heijnstein! He’s even wearing a jersey and carrying a bag with the supermarket’s logo on it.
This kid is the supermarket superhero, apparently.
Some people go to Amsterdam for the pot. Some go for the ladies in the red-lights. Some go for the bicycles.
I went for Laser314 (whom I have blogged about before). If you don’t know, Laser 3.14 is a street poet. He sprays his unique and original lines of poetry (yes, they’re his words) all over the city in English. Most locals tend to appreciate his work, as it is not seen as typical narcissistic vandalism. The poetry is moving, heart-breaking, ephemeral, and packs an emotional punch. When I found this piece last summer, I needed to sit down on a nearby bench. I just tried to breathe.
It was a glorious two weeks.
I was lucky enough, through the magic of the webernet (heehee), to get into contact with the elusive Laser, and he instructed me to go graff-hunting in certain areas of Amsterdam, where I found many of these pieces.
But I also found many of these pieces on my own, just from using some intuition, a bike, and good pair of walking shoes 🙂
After a while of hanging out in Amsterdam and finding Laser’s work, I started to easily identify possible places he might have bombed. He seems to favour either the tarps that go over construction sites, or the plywood that protects constructions sites. There are very few instances of his poetry-art appearing on anything else (although I have seen photographs of his work appearing on skips and industrial garbage bins). If I were to hazard a guess, I would say he does this because, this way, he’s not permanently damaging anyone’s property. Those construction tarps and boards will come down, eventually. No harm, no foul, no clean-up, no damage. Everyone wins.
Travel beyond the shroud.
I adore this one.
We are always on the verge of something.
Vermin gnawing holes in democracy.
This one was the hardest to photograph because half of the piece was covered by cinder blocks and construction. It says, “Days of confusion precedes the age of reason.”
And the horses waited to be tamed…
Life can be such a lonely place.
Ha ha ha!
Vote Nixon, he’s dead.
Progress. Regress. Regrets.
Hello, I’m your assassin!
I wish I was someone…
I hope to find more on my next journey to the ‘dam. Well, if I’m hoping for things, I hope to meet someone who’ll spraypaint poetry about me one day …. but one step at a time, Chris.
Ah, so much Amsterdam-Awesomesauce.
More street art pics to come from my time in the most magical city on the planet… just you wait.
STIK! Found in Dulwich (obviously), his work here is based on An Unknown Couple by Thomas Gainsborough.
Look at ’em. Just chillin. All suave.
And they complement the sky.
Woah, what’s this in the alley? I almost missed this!
This is based on The Guardian Angel by Franceschini.
Man, the sky was gorgeous when I was finding all these Stiks!
Hahahah! Dude on the left is all, don’t touch me bro!!
This is based on The Fall of Man by Pieter Coecke van Aelst.
Woah, now he’s allowed to put them on houses??!! People always ask me, “if you love street art, how would you feel if someone came and did this to your home?” Well, clearly, this is a prime example that that would rule.
I love how she’s just leaning on his knee… I mean, I dunno if this is a man and a woman, so I’ll just assume.
This is based on Elizabeth and Mary Davidson – Tily Kettle.
This was just a few houses down.
This is based on the Linley Sisters by Thomas Gainsborough.
Moving out of Dulwich, I found this Stik up in the Bethnal Green area that I’d never seen before. I’m sure it’s super old, but it’s new to me!
Check out my Stik category for more of his work that I’ve photographed!