Sticking to it

We’ve previously featured examples of tape art on MadSilence: it’s appeal is perennial. There’s a certain magic that transforms common monochromatic tape into ephemeral works of art. And while it appears simple enough to wield we suspect the artist who uses tape as his or her medium requires a large  dose of creative imagination and artstic vision to get the job done…and strength of arm. 

The art of tape continues to capture our interest even as new works appear.  There’s a certain stick-to-ittiveness to the art form.  Ugh! 

The Huffington Post recently showcased tape art created by artist Max Zorn.

50-Foot Mechanical Spider Awakens

Recall The TelectroscopeThe Telectroscope was a project sponsored by Artichoke, a creative company based in London.  Now there’s La Princesse the giant mechanical spider.

As reported on the La Machine website:

La Princesse awakes

“It’s been three days since the giant mechanical spider, nicknamed La Princesse, appeared on the side of Concourse Tower. Since then Liverpool has seen an influx of French scientists, a crane, fire, snow and a lot of rain. Those thousands who braved the wet weather yesterday watched La Princesse being woken to an accompaniment of music from airborne musicians and, later, being bathed in Salthouse Dock. She is now resting beside the Cunard Building, ready to be woken again this afternoon. The spider is quite a character and is clearly enjoying all the attention she’s getting. If you would like to say hello come to the city centre this afternoon or evening, and you’re sure to bump into her.”

La Machine is a collaboration between artists, designers, fabricators and technicians who create projects of public, installation, performance and theatrical art.

Another Artichoke project:

The Sultan’s Elephant, Royal de Luxe. London, May 2006.   Photo Matthew Andrews, courtesy of Arts Council England.

Related links:
Liverpool spider 37 tonnes and a marvel of engineering. No, son, you can’t take it home.
The 50-Foot Mechanical Spider Awakens


All that is found is not lost

I’ve recently been introduced to the notion of “found art” by artists such as JafaGirlArt and Lisa Bachman. And no, I don’t mean art made from found materials such as described in Mary Lou Stribling’s book, Art from Found Materials: Discarded and Natural (a brilliant used book sale find), nor the assemblage works of the early 20th century modernists.

I’m referring to that romantic, generous, and inspirational activity whereby an artist creates art and leaves it in public places, to be found by the unaware, unsuspecting, and perhaps undeserving, to inspire, heal, and empower.

Found Art created by JafaGirlArt

The concept is defined at Found Art! A Global Art Project Using Art to Heal the World:

Found Art!strives to make the world a better place right now by empowering people across to globe to share on a soul level. We believe in the power of art to communicate and heal. We believe all people are creative and that the expression of that creativity opens the heart of both the creator and the receiver. Open hearts communicate at a deeper level, are naturally more compassionate, and are more aware and concerned about our global family.

Wink by artist Jan Lynn Sokota is an example of found art created for Art in Odd Places 2007. According to Sokota: “In a simple gesture, the bat of an eye, an unspoken signal or shared secret is instantly expressed, like a trace of gleaming light. Viewers may take a wink coin with them, one per person.

Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota

Go to artist Rosa Murillo’s Found Art Tuesdays website to learn about about “leaving art inconspicuously in public places for others to find. It’s a way to make art and share it. Please join me! The world needs good art!” Also check out Murillo’s Found Art Tuesday JOY video.

The same generous vision motivates “random acts of kindness” or “RAKs.” The Random Acts of Kindness™ Foundation inspires people to practice kindness and to “pass it on” to others. Through the dissemination of ideas and the development of materials and programs, they have incorporated kindness into thousands of schools and communities:

“As people tap into their own generous human spirit and share kindness with one another, they discover for themselves the power of kindness to effect positive change. When kindness is expressed, healthy relationships are created, community connections are nourished, and people are inspired to pass kindness on.”

Apparently acts of kindness can result in significant health benefits, both physical and metal. Read here how acts of kindness can be good for you.

Related links:

Found Art! project out to heal the world from USA Today

Found Art Tuesday from the blog Rediscovering Art


The art of the plastic bag

Subway Animals Come to Life via RubenMiller

Via Reuben Miller, here’s a story from the Wooster Collective about an artist who makes animal figures out of discarded plastic bags.  Tied to the ventilation grates above the subway lines, the figures jump up and spring to life whenever the subway rushes by. 

Here’s a video of the Air Bear and another of the Air Zoo from  Also the name of the artist:  Joshua Allen Harris.

A simple and creative way to deal with a chronic problem.  What to do with all those used plastic bags? The ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that the world’s consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.  More plastic bag facts: 

–The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.  An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags.
–Recycling rates for plastic bags are extremely low.  Only 1 to 3% of plastic bags end up getting recycled.

Recycled plastic bag chicken from Wow! Imports

Wow! Imports offers one possible solution.  This recycled, fair trade plastic bag chicken is handcrafted by disadvantaged crafters in South Africa.  The chickens are made from a wide range of colorful recycled plastic.  No chicken is alike.  Some even have logos from Fanta and Coca Cola. 

Mark Jenkins’ How to Make a Plastic Bag Eating Giraffe

Artist Mark Jenkins takes a different approach.  Jenkins advocates making tape giraffes to eat the plastic bags. 

Argentinean designer and artist Marina Gryciuk uses techniques such as crochet and embroidery to reuse bags, cassette plastic tapes and old cloths.  These cushions are knitted from recycled plastic grocery bags.

The message is clear: Reuse and Recycle

Related MadSilence posts:  Tape Art Redux: the Aesthetics of Tape 


Toilet as Performance Art: The rush to the seat


Long term readers know that toilets have been a subject of intense interest for MadSilence, and not for the obvious reasons.  Now we have this report from The New York Times:

Artist Tommy Mintz unveiled the NYC Public Toilet Map, a laser-printed, wallet-sized fold-out map that he is selling over the Internet.  The map details locations of more than 250 public toilets in Manhattan.  For Mr. Mintz, this is not a vanity project.  At 21 he received a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, a condition that is caused by inflammation and sores in the lining of the rectum and colon, and causes frequent diarrhea.  Like Crohn’s, another inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis is usually a chronic, long-term disease.

Click here to view and purchase the NYC Public Toilet map.  For $2.50 (includes shipping), you’ll get a professionally printed and folded version of the map mailed to you that same day via first class mail.


The artist Tommy Mintz’s NYC Public Toilet Map uses two-letter codes to mark the locations of more than 250 public toilets in Manhattan.

Related toilet links:
Bathroom Diaries
Wallet size NYC public toilet map — $2.50  from BoingBoing
Urine Nation (a short movie about finding toilets in NYC)


Your Face Here: NYC’s Times Square


We’ll be attending a Celtic Woman concert at Radio City Music Hall on March 15th and marching in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17th.  And while in Manhattan we’ll be looking out for a new kind of public art project.  As reported on Channel 4 News

A public art project is letting average Joes appear on a giant billboard in New York’s Times Square.  The initiative, titled I in the Sky, is the brainchild of artist Raul Vincent Enriquez, who uses a series of still photographs to create a 30-second flipbook-style animation of his subject.  The clips go on display on an electronic billboard on top of a skyscraper in Times Square, and will also be posted on a website.  Within 15 minutes of having their picture captured in the I in the Sky photobooth, visitors can see their larger-than-life faces displayed to the world.  Several participants have taken advantage of the opportunity to hold up written messages—both personal and political.  Some have held signs in support of Democratic White House hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. 


“I find portraits to be a timeless and accessible art form”, said Raul Vincent Enriquez. “In each portrait, several photos are sequenced and animated, framed to create the impression of extreme eye contact. My goal is to make provocative art that captures viewers”. 

Related link:  Broadcast Your Face Above Times Square  from


Worlds Colliding: Bringing the outsider artists in

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The 16th annual Outsider Art Fair begins outside the confines of SoHo’s Puck Building.   The sidewalk on Lafayette Street is lined with art for sale.  Bucket of Babes, You Sexy Muthafucka, large canvases with bright colors, found-object sculptures, an art gallery disguised as a truck, vividly-colored alien spacecraft, crowds of the curious and the customer: there’s plenty of action on the outside.

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Seemingly only a dozen feet and a $20 entry fee separate the outsiders from the insiders, or at least the customers.  The gulf that separates the artists and their artworks is broader still, the divide a fitting metaphor for the contemporary art market.

Take Ross Brodar.  Brodar rents a 24-foot truck, loads it up with paintings, and parks it out in front.  Brodar may consider himself an outsider artist, but the committee of dealers that decides who gets into the fair disagrees.  It has ousted at least three artists for insufficient “outsiderness”. 

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“I get 50 artists a year who say, ‘I’m crazy and I want a booth,’” Sanford Smith told The Wall Street Journal.  “We only allow galleries, established galleries.  We want them to come with vetted artists that they know.  I’m sorry.”

2003 was the first year that the fair banned work by any artist.  The market for outsider art had become hot.  And as is true of most markets, increased demand leads to increased supply, often at the expense of quality.  The hotter the market became, the more artists saw “outsider” as a desirable label.  Dealers urged stricter standards to police the fair.  And for good reason—the flood of wannabe outsiders threatened the fair’s credibility, perhaps even the very market for outsider art.  Several artists, including Brooklyn artist Joe Coleman, were banned for not meeting “outsider” criteria—even though neither the fair nor the outsider art field have ever been able to specify exactly what those criteria are.

Chicago gallery owner Ann Nathan dropped out of the 2003 fair after she was asked not to show Coleman’s work.  In the same year, Carolyn Walsh’s Sailors Valentine Gallerywas disinvited in part for showing the work of artist Matt Lamb, a “savvy and successful businessman with a keen awareness of the art world and marketing techniques” that disqualified him as an outsider artist. 

The contemporary art world is fueled by marketing and money.  Art functions as a product in our consumer society, governed by the inescapable law of supply and demand.  The value of an artwork is based upon repute: of the artist who creates it, the galleries which market it, the critics who sustain it, the collectors who buy it, the organizations that advocate for it, and the museums that collect it.  Since each of these participants benefits from an increase in the price of the artwork, once the work enters the system, value must be maintained, or the reputations and judgment of the players are threatened.


“This material is very collectible,” Carl Hammer, a Chicago dealer on the fair’s advisory committee, told The Wall Street Journal.  “What happens when people collect these artists and spend thousands of dollars and then find out they aren’t really outsiders after all?”

So what’s the problem if the market for outsider art is driven by the same market forces that drive the contemporary art market?  Who gets hurt?  And why should we care?

•  First, the art suffers.  The great appeal of outsider art is its informal nature.  It’s unfettered by conventions and laden with powerful, sometimes bizarre, imagery.  It’s exotic and challenging.  The very attributes that make the art unique are being subsumed into the art establishment.    
•  Second, the creative process suffers.  In labeling the artists and art as “outsider,” we risk seeing the creative process of the outsider artist as different to that used by “normal” artists.  Outsiders remain on the outside.

Might it be better to stop using the label “outsider artist” entirely?

For me the answer is simple.  Our local mental health association administers the annual exhibition of artworks created by persons with mental illness, mental retardation, and developmental disabilities.  I’ve attended the exhibition in the past and had the opportunity to meet with the artists and their families.  The true outsider artists?  I don’t think they would view themsleves in those terms.  Just people like you and me, struggling with life’s problems.  This year I think I’ll buy some of their art.  The prices are cheap compared to the NYC fair, but that’s beside the point.  My purchase is an act of affirmation, a statement of inclusion. 

Let’s end the debate about the meaning of outsider art.  Let’s bring the outsider artists in.  

Related links from The New York Times:
Visionaries in a Bubble, Safe From Convention  by Ken Johnson, January 25, 2008
Outsider Art Fair 2008 Slide Show 

Related MadSilence posts:
Inside Out – NYC’s Outsider Art Fair
Liking It Raw


Street Art & Railway Melodies of Japan

Via Underwire,  Pink Tentacle  provides links to images of Japanese manhole covers.

TAB says:  This is a great example how good design and art can be integrated into everyday items.  Surprisingly I mentioned this to C and she had already started her own collection of pictures.

CAB says:  I never realized there were so many collections of manhole cover pictures online!  I’ve only got a few myself but here’s a quick sample:


On the left is the seal of Hakusan City (formerly Matto City) featuring the city flower, the morning glory… actually spray painted on pavement, but it’s the same image as the manhole cover (which I couldn’t get a very good shot of). 
Hakusan is my Japanese home and lives up to its motto:  The City of Flower & PoetryChiyo-Jo, a poet born in Hakusan City in 1703, wrote this haiku:
the morning glory-
the well-bucket entangled
I ask for water
  On the right is the seal of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawago featuring the gassho-zukuri-style traditional farmhouses it’s so famous for.
On the top above is the seal of Anamizu, a small town on the Noto Peninsula, home of the delicious Kaki (oyster) Matsuri, about which I’ll report on in the near future.  Below that there’s proof that other countries have “street art” as well. This one’s from Kraków where I visited last Christmas.
Now, if that wasn’t enough of strange collections, how about train station departure melodies?  Here in Japan almost every station has its own little song, and some people have gone to great lengths to record them all.

Tape Art Redux: the Aesthetics of Tape


Space of Suspense #2by Mark Khaisman, 2005, packaging tape on clear plastic, 36” x 48”

In an earlier MadSilence post (The art of tape, 10/31/07), we learned of American street artist Mark Jenkins and his artwork made of packing tape.  Now, thanks to weblog REUBENMILLER, we learn of tape artist Mark Khaisman.  Interestingly, while Jenkins uses packing tape to create three-dimensional sculptures, Khaisman applies multiple layers of packing tape to a Plexiglas canvas.  When suffused with light from behind the affect can be dramatic. 

When considering the works of Jenkins and Khaisman it becomes difficult to dismiss tape as a “punk medium.”  Khaisman, an experienced mid-career artist, discussed in a 2006 interview his preference for packing tape as artistic medium:

Q: Why are you using this technique?
A: It looks right
Q: Is your art all about unconventional medium?
A: No, the overlapping of the layers of tape gives me the effect that I can not achieve otherwise,
Q: Let’s say you can achieve the same effect with some traditional medium, egg tempera, for instance, or thin layers of oil, what will you loose besides the light?
A: The feeling of instantaneousness 


Beyond Love by Mona Superhero

Beyond packing tape there is…duct tape.  Artist Mona Superhero uses relief-cut, brightly colored duct tape to sculpt images that are “dangerously sexy and thought provoking”.


Pavement art by Buff Diss

Buff Diss is an Australian artist who uses masking tape to create designs on the pavements of Melbourne.  Apparently the decay of the tape wearing away is part of the appeal of the piece.  Take a look at this YouTube video of Diss making his masking tape art.


As transient as it may seem, a masking tape sign inside Shinjuku Station showed passengers the way around a construction site for several weeks. This is the next ‘exhibition’ of Shuetsu Sato’s gaffer tape art, as seen currently at Nippori Station: A sign leading to the ticket booth. From PingMag.

And from PingMag we have the story of railway employee Shuetsu Sato who took matters in his own hands and started taping signage in huge Japanese characters with masking tape in clever ways, just so passengers could find their way around.  His transient tape art became so popular that film artist collective TrioFour eventually made a documentary about Sato’s unique guide system.   


Alien.  Lesson to be learned: one can not judge the intentions of aliens.  From Tape Art Live

Finally, some educators and artists recognized tape’s potential when applied to colaborative community-based public art projects that empower others to draw.  Tape Art Live “practices and teaches a method to create temporary, large-scale murals and installations designed to interact considerately with both viewer and environment. Tape Art demonstrates a dynamic, collaborative process that invigorates not only the drawn-on space, but the viewer’s perception of that space’s possiblities.”

Note:  Check out REUBENMILLER.  This cool weblog “dedicated to collecting and presenting the most interesting and noteworthy design, art, ID and sustainable designs” is definitely worth a visit. 

Related links:
Mark Khaisman Tapeworks


The art of tape


Fairfax, VA. January 2005

Thanks to the Cabinet of Wonders I recently learned of American street artist Mark Jenkins. According to Wikipedia:

Mark Jenkins (b. 1970) is an American artist most widely known for the street installations he creates using packing tape. His work has been featured in various newspapers and magazines including Time Out: New York, The Washington Post, The Independent, the book Hidden Track: How Visual Culture is Going Places, and on the street art blog Wooster Collective. He has shown indoors in galleries in the U.S., Europe and Brazil and is represented by Lazarides gallery in London. He maintains the website and teaches his tape casting process in workshops in the cities he visits.


Appropriately enough, the artist is profiled in ASI Magazine, the periodical of the Adhesives & Sealants Industry. In an August 2007 article entitled Tape Artist, Teresa McPherson discusses the artist’s sculptures made of (what else?) tape.

Jenkins’ work can be found on the streets of New York City, Baltimore and throughout the world. He has been formally exhibiting his work overseas, and when there’s time, he displays work in cities he travels to. Once the pieces are placed, a variety of things can happen to them. Some get “adopted” by passersby; others are picked up by city workers. Either way, they get a reaction from the people who see them. “People are quick to come up and ask what I’m up to,” Jenkins says. “They want to know what the works are made of and how many rolls of tape it takes to make a tape man.” Jenkins says he favors a packing tape from 3M called “super strength” to cast his pieces. “It makes sturdy clear casts and I work with this type of tape for most of my projects.”

Jenkins’ work is labeled street art since it’s exhibited in public spaces. The term public art also applies.    


Tape sculpture, Call Waiting

And while I’m not a big fan of graffiti and many forms of street or public art, the products of humankind’s infinite creative potential are always entertaining.  Check out Jenkins’ website and learn how tape is used as a sculptural medium all around the world. To quote Marc Schiller, the founder of Wooster Collective:

[I]t’s a great time to be creative in general. Creativity is so accessible now. On the street and off, on the Web, the barriers to being creative have never been lower.” 

Related links:

High-Tech Graffiti: Spray Paint Is So 20th Centuryby Geeta Dayal, The New York Times, June 25, 2006 (source of Mark Schiller quotation)

Mark Jenkins Street Installations

Wooster Collective (a digital gallery and as clearinghouse for street art on an international level)

A tape casting tutorial.



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