To acquire wisdom, one must observe

The mysterious graffiti box explained

You may have passed by the SCC last week and wondered why there was a giant wooden box. With no identifying information, it may have been puzzling to understand what the purpose of the box was—the inner controversial theorist may have even guessed that it was part of a social experiment.

However, the box’s purpose is far less sinister. Actually, the graffiti box is part of Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) Graffiti/Youth Culture Week which took place April 11-15. Sponsored by Latin American and Latino Studies, African and Afroamerican studies (AAAS), the Mandel Center, LDB Centennial and the Festival of the Creative Arts, the multitude of events were brought about through a collaborative effort between Dr. Greg Childs of History and Dr. Laura Brown of Latin American and Latino Studies department. In an exclusive interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Administrative Coordinator and Professor Brown discussed more about the purpose of the Youth Culture Week and its overall aim, which were well established through five events that took place over the course of five days.

The LALS Graffiti/Youth Culture Week was the culmination of an ongoing desire to learn more about graffiti art as a medium of activism: “It started as the goal of wanting to bring a graffiti artist to speak to the History of Graffiti class, but it grew to a week of activities and talks after we became aware of other resources—both in terms of people and logistical support on campus,” said Brown.

Brown went on to explain that, “For example, Pablo Delano, visiting Madeleine Haas Russell fellow at Brandeis this year and Professor of Art at Trinity College in Hartford, has photography projects on graffiti, especially in Puerto Rico. He gave a fascinating and visually stunning talk on Tuesday on how graffiti has served as a form of protest in Puerto Rico, particularly following the latest economic crisis.”

The most notable of the events on campus, and possibly the least understood by the student body, had to have been the graffiti wall. According to Brown, “The graffiti wall is in theory open to anyone who has something to paint or write with. We will only be supplying paint during a few sessions. The original plan was to disassemble and likely dispose of the wall, at a time that has yet to be determined. I will be reaching out to see if any other groups on campus would like to save the wall, as it is a fun artistic object and it would be great to reuse it from an environmental standpoint.”

As it turns out, the graffiti box was in a way part of a social experiment of sorts. Brown aptly described how, “We didn’t know what people would write or draw, so there was no statement from our side…In a way it was proposed as an experiment, to see if a certain tone would be presented. Would students write political messages? Would people paint images?” Her explanation reaches a whole new level of introspection as she makes the point that, “Of course, the creating of a graffiti wall creates an artificial simulation of graffiti. The act of real graffiti generally involves transgression and sometimes the complete absence of self-censorship that is usually expected in professional and academic settings.”

Other events that happened over the course of week include “The Youth Movement, Urban Art, and Puerto Rico’s Economic Catastrophe,” “Digital Cuba: Contemporary Screen Cultures,” as well as “Between Free Speech and the Spray Can: Graffiti as Social Protest from the Margin.”

All in all, the LALS Graffiti/Youth Culture Week was meant to “bring greater awareness to the Latin American and Latino Studies program on campus, including our resources for students, such as the Jane’s Travel grant for research,” says Brown. On top of that, she goes on in a hopeful manner, mentioning that “There are so many students on campus with different connections to Latin America and the Caribbean, and Latino communities in the US. We hope to continue to explore these connections and the various diasporas in the upcoming years.” Putting all the threads together, Brown stated “So, this is the culmination of youth culture, Latin American and Latino topics, and our appreciation for the arts, as well as Dr. Childs’s interest in rebellion and revolution.”

Although the Youth Culture Week could have been better advertised, all the right elements did come together at exactly the right time, ensuring a week of exploration into a ubiquitous art medium. But it doesn’t end there—actually, Marcelo Ment will be doing an art demonstration on Friday, April 15 at 3 p.m. in Volen Science Center, so definitely come and view his passion in action!

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