Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roger Cummings

Roger Cummings spoke this past Monday night at Watertown's Arsenal Center for the Arts. I came into the lecture cold, but left with a much warmer idea about both his work and the work of street writers. What struck me the most, as he described writing in the context of post '72 big-letter aerosol tagging, is how the often elaborate and colorful names sprayed on walls and trains were, and are, not simply acts of vandalism. They are acts of identity establishment. If you don't have the resources to own space or travel, but your name is visible or traveling across the world, you have expressively made a space that reflects you where there was none before.

A few other topics he mentioned were:
1) environmental racism (the situation in which the physical infrastructure of an area re-enforces socio-economic and racial boundaries).
2) how imporant good writing skills are for everyone (especially street-writers)
3) how the system of mentors and apprentices is valuable both for the human contact and the skill tradition.
4) he said something to the effect of, "I don't mean to hate on Shepard Fairey, and he does what he does, hooray for him" after discussing how S.Fairey is not coming out of a tradition.

In general, the topics discussed by Cummings and the other speaker were under the lecture series' themes of the public good, public engagement, and of teaching (one's own) discipline.

R.Cummings agreed to sign my book - I want to show the class I co-teach what writing can be.

So then, of course, I also had to rock out during free-play and write my name. When one student asked what my picture was, another responded that it was what people did when they were trying to be cool.

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