With all due respect to each of the speakers on this years Carbon Festival line up, Barry McGee would have been one of the most anticipated. Being one the first graffiti writer’s turned contemporary artists, he covered a lot of ground for those in attendance, plus his work alone is phenomenal, both in the graffiti and gallery worlds. But, I think, like a lot of people there, I don’t really know a lot about the guy, interviews were scarce and it seemed that he lived a pretty recluse life. So being able to see the man himself talk about his art, made it one of the most packed lectures of the whole festival.
When his name was finally called, silence was held until I side door opened and the seemingly shy artist took to the stage. I’m the type of person who likes going into things, not knowing what to expect, life is definitely more interesting that way. Barry McGee opened his presentation with a slide featuring a tag, then a homeless scene from San Francisco, then a throw up, then about 5 pieces of his work, that were quickly scrolled through and then that same formula repeated and repeated and repeated. There seemed to be a little bit of uneasiness throughout the crowd as he candidly asked us questions, which were returned with no response, while also sharing stories that weren’t intentionally funny that the crowd laughed at anyway. The first 5-10 minutes were very confusing, even for me, a big time graffiti fan.
But then the ease of the whole situation kicked in, when an artist of Barry McGee’s caliber appears in your city to present a lecture, you’d probably expect him to discuss his art on the gallery side of things. But when you realize that he is actually talking to you about what he thinks of his original artform, his beginnings, it becomes an amazing experience. Sometimes I associate the culture with this blog so much, that I don’t get time to go out and do my own thing, so I forget to put myself in my ‘bomber shoes’ at events like this. When I did slip into my size 12’s, it became an amazing experience, he spoke of writers in San Francisco, graffiti in Brazil, what you really should be doing with buff paint and why people do graffiti in the first place. It’s been 5 days since that lecture went down and I’ve still been thinking about it… a lot. In some causes, its changed my perspective on what graffiti really is about and why I, and the people that I document on this blog, do it.
PS. Props to Stan, Bonez and Sinch for getting props from the man himself.
It was by far my favourite talk of the day and one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon, yes Barry McGee is an incredible street and contemporary artist, but it is merely an extension of what he loves, graffiti. It is expression of the purest form, but more importantly then that, it’s just something some people do for fun, it’s not about the beefs, hip hop or becoming an artist, you should be doing graffiti because you love it. I guess the intention of Carbon is to inspire you to go out and start your business or get a job in the field you love, which it certainly does, but it was Barry McGee who inspired me to get up and continuing doing something that I love, not for financial gain, but for myself.
Now the ex-student in me decided to hit record on my iPhone for this one, which I was going to share with you. But after a quick look up on YouTube a couple of days ago, I noticed that the slideshow he used for this event was roughly similar to the one he presented last year. So I decided to just chuck them together for your viewing pleasure. It’s certainly not synced up and there are some differences between the images, but you can get a sense of what being in that room was like as we saw one the world’s best graffiti writer’s basically show us his photo album. Enjoy.