Back in January, I performed at The Moth storyslam in Brooklyn, New York City in front of 400 people. The theme of the night was ‘Cravings’ so I spoke for 5 minutes about being heartbroken, homeless, and hustlin’ on the streets of Europe. It’s basically the conclusion to this spoken word piece I performed at Spark London in the UK back in 2013. I got a standing-O from this crowd, and people were approaching me afterward to give me high-fives and fist-bumps. The crowd was so kind. As I’ve said before, I’ve developed a taste for Spoken Word and live-storytelling, so expect more from me on this front.
My life has been pretty strange over the past two years, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s never fucking boring.
Live a life less ordinary, munchkins. There are no rules to this thing. Go out and make it yours.
Fanks for watching.
A couple nights ago, I took to the stage at Raconteurs, a live storytelling/spoken word event here in Toronto. Many of you will remember when I performed at Spark London in the UK two or three times. Since then, I developed a taste for live storytelling, probably because it feeds into my need to be a ham, and talk about myself. Womp womp.
Last month, I performed at The Moth in New York City. That experience was probably the most exhilaration storytelling event of my life. There was easily 400 people in the crowd, and the massive standing-O and cheerful roar of applause after I was done was so galvanizing and fulfilling. They’re sending me the video footage of that night, and soon Raconteurs will upload the footage of my story to their YouTube. so stay tuned, munchkins. I hope to do Spark London, The Moth, and Raconteurs again. I listen to all of their podcasts, and am glad to be featured on there too!
Live storytelling feels like an obvious step in my evolution. I double-majored Theatre and Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree. Live storytelling combines them both, you get the performative aspects and the audience pay-off, but also you get to employ the nuances of language and creative non-fiction. I can pretend I’m one of those actor-writer types like Ethan Hawke (who has also performed at The Moth, fyi).
Expect to see more of me on the storytelling stage, my dudes. Dudebros. Brojangles.
Okay I’ll stop now.
Photography by 1nspireinc
I first photographed Icy and Sot in Amsterdam, both on the street at at one of their gallery shows. They’ve become street art darlings since then, with major turns at Norway’s NuArt fest in Stavanger, and also, it seems, New York City. I literally couldn’t walk through a single borough without running into their work. Most of these were in conjunction with the Bushwick Collective, but also, they were part of the Welling Court Project. Even still, some of it just seemed to be good, ol’ fashioned illegal graff. Good on ’em.
This delightful mural in South Williamsburg just went on and on….
… and on….
This massive, colourful explosion in Bushwick seems to depict suicide bombers in Iraq, but it could also be the way protesters are gunned down in Gaza. Or perhaps it’s Tel Aviv. Syria? Tahrir Square? I’m not really sure, but then again, the goal isn’t to precisely identify what the artist is trying to say. The point is to make it mean something to you.
I love how his arm reaches up and hangs off of the barbed wire on the roof.
Apologies for not getting a close-up of his hand. I should point out that I took these photographs the first week of January when it was about -20 degrees and removing my hands from my mitts to take photos was a race against frost bite. I could only take maybe two or three pictures before my hands would sting and splinter and redden and become numb. Graff hunting in winter is so much different than in summer. Le sigh.
Their famous portrait here in blue was a massive mural up in Queens, as part of the Welling Court project.
I love this cop and his shadow mural off of Meserole in Bushwick. It must have been erected during the Black Lives Matter protests, as it seems to be a direct comment on Police Brutality, and appearance vs reality when it comes to New York cops.
You know what’s funny of this walking boy of theirs? If you go on Instagram, everyone thinks this is Banksy.
No, beebees, just, no.
I will do anything you tellllll meeeee toooooooooo.
I had never photographed or heard of Vexta until this trip to NYC, but her work was everywhere and it was gorgeous, dark, haunting, emotive, and meaningful. I really liked her use of colour, and subject matter. And the pieces are just so provocative, you never forget them once you’ve seen them!
I found most of her work in Bushwick as part of the Bushwick Collective, but there were some pieces found in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, so just keep your eyes peeled when you’re walking around!
Post No Selfie.
Post No Bills, Give No Fucks.
Know Thy Selfie.
I Reeeally Dislike The Word ‘Artist.’
Fuck Your Phone – Keep Your Head Up!
I’m More Of An Internet Artist.
no more tears.
The Power Of Kanye Compels You.
All I See Are Naked Emperors. –Gilf
Never Let Go.
Loveless (I am not).
Black Is Beautiful – Jef Aerosol.
We’re all alone
Bound by fear
Seeking the mirage of love.
I photographed this three years ago. It seems the #FairyTalesfortheFatherless wheatpaste crew is still at it.
Sound familiar? Look to the right of this blog.
Aren’t we all.
In October 2013, Banksy performed a month-long outdoor extravaganza in New York City. He called it “Better Out Than In.” (Har har har). Each day of the month, he erected a new piece somewhere in Gotham. That’s a lot of pieces and a lot of work. I figured I’d see what remained a year and a half later. To my surprise, I actually found three pieces that remained. In street art circles, lotsa people really hate Banksy. With a passion. He’s reviled by most. I thought his work woulda been paint bombed or destroyed by now. I found three! I was delighted.
The first was this piece at 79th and Broadway on the Upper West Side. The owners of the wall put the piece behind plexiglass to stop people from destroying it, but that hasn’t stopped people from dropping their business cards down there. If you look closely, someone’s house key is stuck in there too.
Now I walked by this wall on Delancey near Bowery many many times as I was hunting street art and didn’t think much of it, until I gave it a good look. What struck me as odd about it was that the rest of the wall had been painted except for this perfect little square of what looked like random tags.
Ahhh, but look closer. Do you see the words “The Musical” embedded in there? Banksy did this thing where he added the tag “The Musical!” to random tags. For example, one tag had said “Dirty Underwear” and he added “The Musical!” This is New York after all.
For reference, this is what the wall looked like before it was heavily tagged:
Playground Mob, The Musical!
And I found this piece by accident 🙂
Finding this piece was a rare treat! It’s Banksy’s Geisha Girls and tree. I was searching for it in Bed-Stuy and couldn’t find it, until I came across one of those rolldown grate thingies on this wall. I figured the piece had to be behind it, so I went inside the business that owns the wall, an optometrist, and asked them politely if I could see the Banksy behind the rolldown grate.
They said sure, came out with the keys, rolled it up, let me take my photographs, and chatted pleasantly with me. And that was it!
Ask and you shall receive, people.
Check out my Banksy category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
As I’ve mentioned previously, last year Space Invader came out with an app called Flash Invaders. It turns graff-hunting into a real-life video game. You take a photograph of his work you’ve found, and the app will award you points. Get enough points, you’re in the high scores! It’s like living inside a 1980s arcade game! Anyway, I’m in the High Scores (naturally! I peaked at #25, but last time I checked, I had dropped to #50 because there are no ‘Vaders in Toronto!) and you get an extra 100-point-bonus for every new city you flash, so I was excited to go hunting in NYC considering he has put up hundreds in the city over the years (previous examples here and here). The last time he visited NYC was in 2013, but since then, people have ruthlessly cut his work off of the buildings and very few remain! Here are the ones I managed to find. I understand that there are some I have missed, so if you’ve found some recently that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below!
‘Vader has been collaborating A LOT with Cost and Enx as of late (check out my ‘Vader post from Paris, you will all of their collabs there), and this massive piece worth 100 points on the app was in Bushwick in the heart of the Bushwick Collective area.
Space Invader does Snow White! He loves doing this big characters. From my Paris piece, you’ll remember he’s done Picasso, Mona Lisa, Robin Hood, the Pink Panther, Star Wars, and many others. This was in the Lower East Side and I had to stand in the middle of busy Manhattan traffic just to get this shot. Totally worth it.
Also, it was freezing outside, so taking my fingers out of my mitts to wield my camera was really painful and I lost feeling in my hands many times, so I hope you appreciate my dedication here!
Super Mario Brothers! If you remember the video game, Mario would get sucked into those tube-like things, so it’s funny that he placed this mosaic right underneath a tube, hahah…. not so funny that it’s next to a baggie of dog poop. I found this one just north of the Meatpacking district on the West side.
An actual ‘Vader, probably dating back a few years. This was on Bowery, and I kicked myself for missing this one so many times, as I walked up and down Bowery a gazillion times before finding it.
A 3-D ‘Vader! I had intel on this one, but then my intel got damaged and I had to throw it out (specifically, the cat I was looking after pooped on it) and I had written this one off. But then one night I was walking along the High Line (which you really should do in Winter as there’s no one on it in Winter so you have it all to yourself!) and I found it while looking at the view of the city! Totally stumbled upon it by accident, and worth 50 points too!
This one pissed me off because I had the location and intersection for this one and searched and searched for it to no avail. Until one day I decided to go a bit south of the indicated location and found it! My intel had been wrong!!! I hate it when people aren’t specific!! They had told me it was at 17th and 10th. WELL IT WASN’T.
Another one I found by accident. This was in South Williamsburg. It’s half-destroyed, but I figured it might still be flashable, as many of the ‘Vaders I found in Paris were half-destroyed but still flashable. I was right!
Oh and this sweet lil’ thang was in the Museum of Moving Images in Queens!
Check out my Space Invader category for all of his pieces that I’ve photographed from around the world!
If you’re a Torontonian, it’s almost certain you have, at some point, walked past a wall and seen the lady-faces of Anser spraypainted up on a city wall. I used to think he might live in the Dundas and Ossington area because I had found 10 pieces within one block. But I had never found his work outside of Hogtown. So this past month in NYC, I was delighted to find that he had dusted off his passport and taken the time to tag Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn!
This was in Bushwick
This kind of East Williamsburg, bordering into Bushwick.
Check out my Anser category for more of his work that I’ve photographed.
I’ve spent the past month in New York City; lots was seen, done, experienced and felt. Joyous, ephemeral, exhilarating, but I will get to that in later posts. The only thing I want to talk about right now was my visit to new 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Centre complex. It’s free on Tuesday evenings if you don’t mind lining up outside in the snow for a while (the line moves quickly). In most sections of the museum, photography isn’t allowed, so I couldn’t capture the artifacts procured on display (pieces of the airplanes, filing cabinets, destroyed firetrucks, twisted metal and steel support beams…) or the personal belongings to many of the victims (almost blemish-free wallets and purses, bifocals, photographs, watches, bracelets and other jewellery)… But I must say that most of the information contained within the museum I had already seen on YouTube. In fact, I think I’ve seen more on YouTube than contained within the museum. However, the transcription of the blackbox flight deck recorder was really interesting, especially the translation from Arabic to English of the terrorists. And the reconstruction of events was really helpful. Each room has a box of tissues in it too, which I thought was a nice touch. It can get rather emotional in there. If you decide to go, prepare yourself for the worst.
All that’s left of the North Tower antennae from the roof
In any case, I went back a second time after my night visit to the museum to check out the names along the two memorial fountains in the complex where the North and South towers once stood. I find it rather appropriate that fountains with a massive drop of water should symbolize the towers and the people as they fell. The names of the almost 3,000 people who died are engraved on the sides of both fountains.
What I wasn’t expecting was how many of the women murdered on 9/11 were pregnant. It’s actually really disturbing.
Vanessa Lang Langer and her unborn child.
Jennifer L Howety and her unborn child.
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her unborn child
Renne A May and her unborn child
Dianna Lynn Galante and her unborn child
Dianne T. Signer and her unborn child
Sylvia San Pio Resta and her unborn child.
Rahma Salie and her unborn child
Patricia Ann Cimaroli Massari and her unborn child
Helen Crossin Kittle and her unborn child.
See what I mean?
Since it has been over 13 years since this event, we’ve all had plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with some of the names of 9/11. As I was reading the names off the fountain, I actually recognized some of them.
Betty Ong was a flight attendant on Flight 11, the first plane which crashed into the North tower. She was on the phone with American Airlines emergency line when her plane crashed into the tower. You can hear her right up until the plane crashes, then you don’t hear anything, except the AA crew on the other end of the line confirming they’ve lost her. It’s not disturbing per se, it’s more haunting.
Edna Cintron has long haunted me. Her’s is a strange story. When the first plane hit the North Tower, it is believed that everyone on the impact floors were killed instantly. But then in the footage, if we magnify, we can see a woman standing in the gaping plane-shaped hole, waving for quite some time. She has a shock of ginger curly hair, is wearing a black shirt and khaki slacks. Here is footage here and here. At first when I came across this story years ago, I thought it was the work of some of the conspiracy truthers that populate YouTube (and there are many of those nutters).
But when I was at the museum, they showed this photograph and the caption said that the museum had confirmed with her family that that was indeed her, based on what she was wearing that day, her hair, and where she worked in the Tower. She died when the North Tower fell, but somehow survived the initial plane crash. That gaping plane-shaped hole should have been thousands of degrees hot because of the fire, but as I’ve learned, the fire caused by the jet fuel would have actually burned out really quickly, it was the secondary fires engulfing the furniture, drapes, paper, and other items within the towers that kept burning and caused the collapse. It is impossible to tell if she was injured by the initial plane crash, but I would wager that since she waves her arm for over an hour, doesn’t fall off the ledge (thus no head-trauma causing dizziness and no smoke-inhalation causing unconsciousness), and her clothes appear to be unscathed (not burned off from fire, or ripped from debris), she seems to be okay. Such a haunting, strange story.
Kevin Cosgrove. I remember him because he was on the phone with emergency workers when the towers fell, and you can actually hear him dying. This is extremely disturbing and so please use your discretion.
Mark Bingham was on the United 93 plane and is believed to have orchestrated the plan to overtake the plane from the hijackers, preventing them from crashing it into the White House. He was one of the first heroes of 9/11.
Now I’ve been to New York lots and lots of times. The first time I was there in 2007, Ground Zero was still a gaping hole, barely cleaned out and still under construction. I’ve walked the streets of lower Manhattan countless times, over and over again. But now that the Freedom Tower is finally completed, and the WTC memorial complex is open to the public, this visit to New York, for me, was somewhat different. There just were no more visible remnants of what happened there. You can walk Lower Manhattan and, yes, while there is still a lot of construction happening in the area, you would never know a massive terrorist attack happened there. You would never know lower Manhattan was blanketed with twisted steel, sulfur, dust, debris, paper, and body parts. It’s so strange to walk Vesey or West Street or Greenwich or Church or West Broadway. These are the places that were completely blanketed. Life goes on, people move on. I just wonder how does anyone look at their scars and not hate the world?
By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.
And I win.
Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!
Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.
Dancing on the streets of Bonn.
Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.
The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)
The Berlin eyes have it.
The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows
Art imitates life imitates art.
Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.
Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)
Where’s the Space Invader?
I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”
I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How… brave…”
I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”
I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”
How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.
How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen
How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)
Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…
Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.