A Graffiti Within
Written by Dewi Dian Reich together with the poetry of Mas Ruscitadewi and reflections of Sava Larry aka Istanbul.
The subject of art as a universal language, as a bridge of connection, is constant here in Sawidji. for the most part, we see the phenomenon of the creative process bridging social, cultural, emotional and mental distances. Perhaps it is a human precondition to want to establish separations. We are a species that tends to find comfort in our territories, often struggling to feel a sense of security in unfamiliar areas. Perhaps the segmentation that happens within social strata, academic, political and artistic fields is a byproduct of this inherent nature.
Yet we are seeking connection, we are not singular creatures. In the natural order, we are not a species that survives alone. We are social animals that contradict ourselves in our behaviours often.
Street Art, the Fate of the Outcast
When looking at how we categorise and judge criteria in art there is one segment of art that is perhaps the most prominent outcast. Positioned precariously on the outskirts of legitimacy often denounced. Graffiti and variations of street art have a history of being an undesirable, misfit. With all the connotations of anarchy and rebellion, it is mostly seen as a form of vandalism. It is the only segment of visual expression that is categorically in opposition to the law.
Over the last decade or two, as a subculture, street art has continued to grow, with growing understanding and appreciation. In itself, it is part of our collective social consciousness. Undeniably part of the whole, even when labelled ‘outcasts’, they are not separate. They represent something that cannot be denied as being part of our social identity.
Expression of Existence
At any rate, it is interesting to ask what compels individuals to channel a visual expression this way. Graffiti is synonymous with an act of protest. When one feels the frustration of not being heard or seen, there is then a rebellion to reinforce existence in the crowded masses. It is a statement that one’s voice matters and that we exist and there is a strength of insistence to be seen.
In conversation with Sava Larry aka Istanbul, we can appreciate the birth and developmental journey of Graffiti as a visual art It has its roots in very interesting psychological and social premises. Evolving through music primarily hip hop and other street subculture like skateboarding. From something that was born from existentialism subsequently taking various forms that have clear formulas and rules.
‘Tagging’, ‘throw up’, ‘toy’, ‘bomb’ and ‘piece’, are some terminologies unique to street art. Indicating a complex visual communication system has evolved outside of the normal construct. The emergence of street murals and community art are also sub-branches that were triggered in some way by the prolific growth of graffiti art.
Poetry and Graffiti, Errant Siblings
On the other hand, poetry is regarded as the most sophisticated genre of expressive literature with a quality of beauty and intense emotion able to inspire imagination and move the hearts of its readers. Books of poetic verse kept in many homes are cherished with a sentimentality,.. as they champion the silent sorrows, joys and desires of many hearts for which it champions.
In truth, it is such a special moment to witness, street artist Sava Larry ‘Istanbul’ and writer Dr. Mas Ruscitadewi interacting in the studio. Responding to each other. One accepted to be ‘vandalised’ and sprayed with Larry’s graffiti and the other the recipient of Mas Ruscitadewi’s intuitive and emotional poetry. Both physically mark the other with their ‘signature tags’.
In essence, these are two creative segments that stand on opposites of each other. All the while, it is not hard to notice the irony that both are propelled by deep emotional sentiment that needs to be heard. Often secret or in disguise. It may be said that it is an emotional propulsion that forges its way out demanding freedom in some way. One is set free by a spray can on a wall in a dark street, the other by a pen in a journal in the quiet privacy of one’s room.
Here they meet,.. how do they meet? Not only to greet and pay trivial social niceties to keep up appearances. They meet here and they touch. They exchange and they bond and they speak together.
A Poets Reflection
On this occasion, Mas Ruscitadewi exchanged thoughts with Sava Larry. She reflected on the images of Larry’s graffiti and subsequent works and shared her appreciation.
“There is a missing, for love and affection. He is trying to neutralise this alone, but acceptance is needed. I can see this as a form of poetry as well. A different type of visual poetry, expressive poetry, just not using words. Often people judge too much, and children are more often not allowed. Not allowed to scream, not allowed to act up. Beauty is when someone can accept themselves. They are allowed to speak and then at some point, they can speak with a better understanding of words. Otherwise, they will get tounge tied.. “
“From a young age, we are conditioned into defining forms.. human beings are forced into these shapes.. we have to look beautiful.. we have to look peaceful we have to look intelligent and wise. Even through the aesthetic ‘disorder’ I see there is harmony. There is peace as well…” ~Mas Ruscitadewi
I am Looking For You, For Sava Larry by Mas Ruscitadewi
I am looking for you,
on frozen walls,
who is silent
my heart of stone
even without words.
just with eyes meeting
isn’t that real?
I’m tired of searching
the time you have stolen
then let me run
until you come back
I am looking for you
of your imaginary reflection
It is important to mention that these unexpected turns may be the most meaningful. For example, today’s unexpected turn brought graffiti and poetry together, allowing us to experience each through a different perspective. Breaking down the separations that are so naturally present in our tendencies The tendency to categorise and judge unknowingly placing ourselves at a greater distance from many things that can enrich us deeply.
A Graffiti Within..
I never thought that just by looking at a visual work on the wall that she can see so much and create poetry that is so connected. Her words are profound, like she can see through me. Everything she wrote about my work is accurate and her poem truly captures me.. When you face the wall you are facing yourself.. your challenge,.. Your enemy is yourself.. she captures this in poetry with such beauty.. The graffiti that is seen as ugly and negative with this poetry, has become more as it holds these beautiful words within it..
She may have just now had a collaboration with someone like me but her expression is like she has known me for a long time and understood me.Sava Larry aka Istanbul
In view of all of this, thank you to both Dr. Mas Ruscitadewi and Sava Larry (aka Istanbul) for sharing this experience with a generous honesty. Leaving only a sense of wonder again at the beautiful reflections that we are given through art.