Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday ProFiles: UNDENK

For a little rabbit, Winston sure gets around. In Israel, he greets visitors at Capharnum. Perched on a sign along Australia’s Rabbit Proof Fence, he is the one bunny that got away. Atop the Petronas Tower, Winston wafts in the breeze. After a day of wandering England’s Natural History Museum, he peruses souvenirs in the gift shop. Breeding like, well, their own species, Winstons nestle into the landscape and and gently observe their surroundings. 
Winston is the brainchild of Herb, a member of German collective Undenk, who works in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Köln, and Berlin. As a child, Herb recalls “clearing tan-bark to make a drawing space at the kindergarten playground and painting my room’s walls.”  The desire to beautify his surroundings never subsided, and he eventually took his work outside. As a street artist, he started Undenk, choosing the name because,  he explains, “It is German for ‘doublethink,’ a major theme in Orwell’s classic novel, 1984.” With a name and a plan, he developed his trademark character, Winston, and spread him across Germany and Australia.   “A great campaign subversion or interaction with the public gets me out there,” he says, adding cheekily, “Chicks love it.” In the future, Herb hopes that street art will continue to evolve with urban landscapes. “It may be more subversive, like the billboard subversions in the UK. People may use street furniture and large scale urban artifacts to re-decorate their surroundings. Whatever it is, I hope it’s something intelligent, appropriate, and stimulating.” Herb’s rebellious streak has led to amazing adventures and run-ins with the law. “I’ve met great people and slept in galleries,” he recalls, “But I’ve also had bottles thrown at me. Oftentimes, cops don’t understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”  Fortunately, Herb is a smooth talker who can verbally maneuver himself out of the stickiest legal situation. Today, Winston can be found in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. Herb feeds off of getting up; he explains, “I loved seeing Winston stickers in Köln in 2001.” The more he tagged, the more caught up he became. Since his initial foray into the streets, he’s accumulated other members under the Undenk umbrella. Speaking about his crew, he says, “More brains equals more ideas. Undenk for life.” Although Herb’s tags come with a sticky backing, he sees parallels between stickers and traditional graffiti. “The goal of tagging and stickering is the same: you leave your mark.. Tags just stay longer. We love graffiti, but there are no kings in street art.”  When he’s not tagging, Herb can be found lecturing writing copy, dabbling in architecture, selling clothes, and speaking to young creatives. Currently, he says, “I’m working on a Police Station in Secret Harbour for their Percent for Art project. I’d like more of this sort of gig. I’m also doing screen-prints in the kitchen.” Unlike the doublethink his name refers to, Herb hopes his viewers contemplate his work and think outside of the prescribed media box. “I want people to re-think the manipulation of the masses by the television media. I want them to realize the importance of independent investigation of the truth.”  Thanks so much, Herb, and say hi to all the members of Undenk for me! A few quick things before I sign off for the weekend:

1. If you live in NYC or have ever been, watch this NOW. I now have a new respect for the newspaper box and the public telephone.

2. If you happen to be in Hartford today or tomorrow, be sure to stop by Trinity College for their fourth annual International Hip Hop Festival. The name isn't just a front; performers hail from Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, the Philippines, and Iraq, just to cite a few. With K'Naan as a headliner, the event is definitely worth a look. For more information, visit the festival's website.

3. Closer to NYC? No problem! Day in the Lyfe Magazine hosts the LYFE movie screening at 
Element NYC. The party kicks off at 11 p.m. with painting, filming, and partying for all. The Lyfe team says no hats, please, and guys, throw on a button-down shirt. And sorry, all you underage drinkers, but this event is 21+. Have a fabulous weekend and I'll catch you all on Monday!

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