Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bishkek Street Art Project (Part 4)

Based on these events, I created a series of small horizontal posters showing one-eyed tiny creatures carrying objects belonging to human, such as cell-phones, ipods, shoes, spoons, and so on. Higher above them, there is a flying helicopter with an American flag, carrying another one-eyed creature. A pair of boxing gloves is tied to the helicopter. The creature is meant to portray the new president Bakiev fleeing the scene by an American helicopter. It’s a well known fact that Bakiev is an enthusiastic boxer.

The illustrations in the poster are done deliberately in the style of cartoons, thus seemingly funny and harmless, however, they offer a much thoughtful interpretation. Cartoons are great vehicle for social criticism precisely because they seem so innocent and fun. Think about the Simpsons. It can only get away with its social and political commentary because it’s a cartoon.

The mini poster shows the parallel between the worlds of tiny-creatures who are looting humans’ belongings and the humans who are looting each other. It refers to the coup d’etat of 2005 while hinting the possible future as dissatisfaction with the Bakiev is growing among the Kyrgizs.

I observed the reaction of several passersby after the posters were placed. They stopped and looked and wondered with curiosity. Through an interpreter, I asked what they thought about the poster. Some asked: “Who are these creatures?”; “Why are these creatures carrying these objects?”; “I think they’re fleeing from a disaster.”; “Why is this guy in a helicopter?”; “Why there’s an American flag in the heli?”; “I think this is an American who’s coming to save them.” There were many interpretations I didn’t even think about. And that’s the beauty of art. Once it’s done, once it’s out there, it breeds a life of its own. It’s the observers who give the stories and its life.

The passers may not see the political connection in the small posters, which is perfectly fine. The fact is that for the most of people in this country, the idea of public art is associated with bronze sculptures of some communist political figures standing in the middle of a square. So, this kind of street intervention is something completely new for them. What’s important to me is that these posters stop them from their daily routine and invite them to think and use their creativity as an individual, something they are not used to do, due to many years of communist anti-individual regime.

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