Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Style Wars Restoration Project

The classic film Style Wars is by far one of the most exceptional documentations of our culture. An important restoration project is under way-- MARE 139 dropped some knowledge.

MARE 139: The Style Wars project is an integral part of urban art culture as well as a document of American art history as it chronicled a pivotal period of the art vs transit movement and the art vs itself epoch. The capturing of all these dynamic elements, which had been in play for years before, is a testament to the sociopolitical environment in which many young people who where disenfranchised found empowerment via this art called 'graffiti'. The film was a mirror for us who were active writers and served as window to the rest of the world of the conditions that forced us to use creativity and 'vandalism' as a self certifying means of expression. I use the term 'vandalism' lightly as one can see from the film the movement was a counterinsurgency to the economic and political 'vandalism' imposed on us by city governance.

This absence of resources gave birth to the Hip Hop movement and street art movement, it was an issue of scarcity and personal necessity that one can see from the vantage of the writers in the film. Keep in mind this is a time capsule in which Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant captured as much of what was in front of them as possible, the culture and art was widespread throughout the boroughs and it was a diverse group that was a part of it, the film manages to be honest for its time and place and though not meant to be an end all be all film about the culture it has many of its seminal players of the time and also captures a glimpse of what the future was to hold for the movement.

It is vital to understand the influence of such a film for the sake of history, culture history and cultural rights. We have in the past 20 years seen the culture bend and expand into new spaces and interpretations which is a double edge sword because so much of it has no reflective connection to the generations that proceeded it, this disconnect is apparent in today's youth so much so that it has created a great divide among young artist and the cultures pioneers. Also included is this dilemma is market of art which has no interest in the history of this art in particular, granted the world has moved beyond the subways and the art of the time to some degree but the implications of a movement like this and a film that captures it is vital because its global influence and affect on art and culture has transcended any period of art before it in artistic participation.

Saving the archival footage and including additional materials will safely preserve an important archive of NYC history as well as the individual legacies of those involved. It is important for people who are involved in the culture or interested to help preserve this film since there is no archive equivalent to it nor is there one as compelling. It is a part of a bigger puzzle being pieced together by our community to tell our story and to honor those before us and that is where cultural legacy and rights come into play because by and large these issues are contained by larger institutions that buy out and shelf these archives to later apply all kinds of restrictions to access and fair use. This is our history our story and we have a right and duty to preserve and share it accordingly. Those who want to get involved should visit the website and donate money or time to the effort. We are scratching the surface but I feel that as we continue to engage in self determination and through the cooperation of the public and the creative community we can see this project restored and preserved for future generations.

Go to for more info.

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