Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BOMB IT: A Film by Jon Reiss

A film that makes you wonder about spaces, public and private. Who "owns" what?  Who gets to decide what goes where and when? And how? Why?  Dig it!

BOMB IT (2007) ranges from Cornbread, Philadelphia's first major tagger insurgent circa 1967, to New York City in the 1970s, across to Europe and down to South Africa, over to Latin America and on to Tokyo, and then via LA and all over again to consider writing, tagging and bombing in a myriad of incarnations.  Let's not forget Shepard Fairey's musings, either -- well before the 2008 US presidential campaign and "Yes We Can."  BOMB IT also gives voice to anti-graffiti activists and their philosophies. 

I noticed in one shot that a New York transit cop -- who'd been working to contain graffiti -- had an arm covered in tattoos: which goes back to notions of public and private space. One difference between graffiti and tattoos: body tattoos are probably harder to remove or cover over than most graffiti.

BOMB IT, mercifully without any annoying narration, let's the people speak for themselves (in well-edited bursts).  Many thoughtful comments are made throughout the film. For example:

Dude in Paris: "I tag therefore I am." 
Woman in Amsterdam: "You can only develop by doing" (nice advice for anyone).  
Guy in São Paulo: "Taggers aren't selling anything. They only want to show they exist."
Tokyo: Society (as in London) is heavily monitored and "controlled, but it's full of holes." (And taggers are very resourceful in exploiting those holes).

I'm usually amazed by nicely wrought graffiti, modern or ancient.  For me, it's mostly a matter of aesthetics: is a wall or cityscape made uglier or better by said street art? That is the question.  Obviously, a lot of the impulse can also be channeled into community murals and "officially sanctioned" installations, but there's something wickedly irresistible about breaking the rules. 

From the website:

BOMB IT has shot in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tijuana, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Berlin, Cape Town, São Paulo, and Tokyo

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.


Charles Gramlich said...

My son did his share of tagging for a while, but got into some trouble for it a couple of times and learned to do his work more in private spaces.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks, Charles, for the comment. I wish your son well, and y'all, of course!

p.s. comment moderation for a while b/c of a massive spam attack -- the opposite of graffiti, because it's automated.

the walking man said...

I only know one thing...the day i got married (both time) was the first day i owned nothing. which has the benefit of not being owned by anyTHING. if ya get my drift?

Sheri C said...

hey Erik, thanks for the thoughtful review of Jon's film. Also know that he is working on Bomb It 2 at the moment, traveling around the world again for footage. This piece will be available around August 15 on Babelgum, an online channel. Just type in Bomb it to find it.

Ruby Doomsday said...

Oh man... I have heard so much about this film. I need to see it. Used to do my share of graff... the urge still gets me now and then. Thanks for the review.

Lana Gramlich said...

My sympathies on the spam. I had to do the same thing a while back. You seem to have escaped unscathed for quite a while, anyway!
I'm all for public art, but some grafitti is just NOT my thing.