Unsolved Mystery....Solved?

Eerie coincidences, unexplained voices coming through television sets, cryptic, even rambling messages appearing as if out of nowhere embedded in seemingly impossible parts of city streets...somebody knows something about the Toynbee tiles, but nobody's talking....

For decades, people have been happening upon hundreds of these mysterious tiles in cities as far west as Kansas City, as far north as Boston, and as far south as Santiago, Chile. Yes, even Detroit has a few, though it's not really clear if both are still there or if they've been paved over. All have a variation of the same message:

Toynbee Idea
in Kubrick's 2001
Resurrect Dead
on Planet Jupiter

But what do they mean? Who put them there and how? Who is Arnold Toynbee, and what does he have to do with 2001: A Space Odyssey? Are the Toynbee tiles messages from aliens? Time travel blueprints? Paranoid and even anti-Semitic rants? 9/11 predictions? Just another form of street art?

Like a lot of people, I'd never heard of this mystery before. I stumbled upon it just as if it was a Toynbee tile itself when I checked out the fantastic 2011 documentary, "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles." Deliciously creepy, even spine-tingling at times, with otherwordly music and strangely-lit interviews with colorful characters, this film does a great job of explaining the phenomenon...and just might even solve it. Originally a Kickstarter project, the film went on to receive several accolades including Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival. If you plan to watch, I'd recommend staying away from Wikipedia beforehand as it could ruin a bit of the suspense-factor here. Those who remember the show "Unsolved Mysteries" and fans of "The X-Files" will appreciate the style of this documentary!

Oscar-Nominated Documentary: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Monday August 29, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Join us for a screening of one of the most acclaimed films of the past year! This 90-minute Oscar-nominated documentary about art is a fascinating study of criminality, comradeship and incompetence.

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" is the inside story of Street Art - a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide.

The film, which is rated 'R' for language, follows an eccentric shop-keeper turned amateur film-maker as he attempts to capture many of the world's most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results.

Documentary Alert: Art vs. Art

The 2011 Oscar nominated documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop is about more than graffiti.

The film chronicles eccentric Los Angeles based French shopkeeper Thierry Guetta and his obsession with videotaping everything around him. This fascination leads him to filming one street artist, which leads to filming more street artists, and he ends up finding the secretive Banksy (a well known “commercial artist” of the underground street art culture who doesn’t reveal his identity) and ends up following him across the globe, filming his every move. After a decade of touring the globe filming street artists, Thierry becomes Mr. Brainwash, creating art of his own, which is a bit of an insane slap in the face to the street art world. A decade of videotapes chronicling the scene, with no end goal in mind, leaves Banksy with a desire to properly put Thierry's tapes to use, to display an important part in the history of street art culture. The cameras get turned to face Thierry and Exit Through The Gift Shop was born. The film is a provocative display of graffiti vs. art, honesty vs. selling out, and displays some fabulous street art in the process. Then of course there's the theory that perhaps this was all a hoax put on by Banksy . You decide.

When Banksy was nominated for the Academy Award there was a bit of a fuss since he doesn’t show his face in public and has been known to wear a monkey mask at rare public appearances. Inside Job won for Best Documentary, so the Academy was spared what may or may not have happened if he had won.

Get craftilicious with Yarn Bombing

Yarn Bombing: the art of crochet and knit graffiti is one of my new favorite craft books. It chronicles the start and the phenomenon of yarn graffiti. You may have seen some knitted works hanging on trees and fences around Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. It is a form of street art, akin to graffiti with a paint can, only the tool of choice is knitted and crocheted pieces hung around town instead. “Yarn bombing can be political, it can be heart-warming, and it can be funny.”

The book is a definitive guide to the act of yarn graffiti. It is chock full of examples, photos, and patterns, and offers plenty of information on the history of yarn bombing, and on the individuals and groups who initiated it, including those who continue to tag. In addition to yarn graffiti, there is also plenty of reference on how to start knitting and crocheting, and offers instructions and resources to get you going with needle arts. I find the idea of craft and street art intertwining truly fascinating.

Teen Stuff: My Name is Jason. Mine Too.

"A poet. An artist. Black. White. We were college roommates. Now, close friends" opens My Name is Jason. Mine Too: Our Story, Our Way, a collection of poems and paintings inter-meshed to create one unique artistic vision. The creators of this collection, Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, are a poet and a painter who write and paint something between introspective work and pop art in this brilliantly designed book that you can find in the AADL's Teen collection. One of the more personal poems, called "Sick," is hand painted on a bedroom wall, with the final stanzas reading:

Seems like sickbeds
Become signals
To selfish sons

Trouble don't last always
Nor do mothers

8th Annual Teen Graffiti Art Contest

graffiti 07 hot sun

Celebrate Art Fair and paint a masterpiece at the Downtown Library staff parking lot from 11 AM to 1 PM on Friday, July 23. We'll provide the paint, supplies, canvases and easels. Your canvases are 3 feet X 3 feet in size. Check out the art work from previous years. Three winners will receive gift certificates for art supplies from Michigan Book and Supply. Look here for techniques for creating your painting. Curtis Sullivan, the owner of Ann Arbor's Vault of Midnight will be judging this year. This contest is for grades 6-12.

7th Annual Teen Graffiti Art Contest

graffiti 07 hot sun

Celebrate Art Fair! We'll provide the paint, supplies, canvases and easels. Three winners will receive gift certificates for art supplies at Michigan Book and Supply ($75, $50, $25). All art will be in a summer exhibit at AADL. Finished pieces will be judged by local artist, Joanie Newberry. Look here for last year's winners.
Friday, July 17 | 11:00 AM-1:00 PM | Downtown/Staff Parking Lot | Grades 6-12

The Midwest Hip Hop Summit


The Midwest Hip Hop Summit comes to the Michigan Union on UM's campus this weekend. Starting Friday night at 8pm, catch Atlantic recording artist, Little Brother, along with OneBeLo, Invincible, and DCM co-founder and 4REAL host, Sol Guy, live in concert. Then on Saturday, join workshops teaching other facets of hip-hop culture, including breakdancing, MC'ing, graffiti art, and DJ'ing. These events and several panels on issues of race, gender, and the state of hip hop today will be held throughout the day at various locations in the Union. For current literature addressing these issues, try The Hip Hop Wars, or Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, or All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can't Save Black America, all available at the AADL.

Documentary Alert: Style Wars

style warsstyle wars

There’s always been a debate about graffiti in public spaces, and I can’t help but be intrigued by it. By “it” I mean everything: The art, the culture, the music, the dance, its roots, the controversy, what it means to people, etc. I’ll admit to having checked out just about all the books on graffiti that AADL owns. What I’ve really enjoyed are the documentaries depicting the beauty within the ghetto. My favorite is the award winning Style Wars, shown on PBS in 1983. (Also highly recommended is Wild Style.)

Directed by Tony Silver and produced by Silver and photographer Henry Chalfant (one of the foremost authorities on New York subway art), Style Wars chronicles the unique subculture of graffiti writers, breakdancers and DJs in New York City. It has been called the definitive documentation of the emerging hip-hop culture and explores how some got into graffiti, why they do it, how they deal with the conflict with the city, and the social and political issues surrounding it all. The camera is right there with these folks- in their homes, listening to their stories, watching them draw out their plans for new pieces, breaking into train yards, and tagging their little hearts away. There is now an amazing Style Wars website as a counterpart to the film that is a must see. You can view moving subway trains that contain actual art created and photographed back in the day! Looking for more documentaries? There’s also Bomb It and a three part series called Graffiti Verite. Tag, you’re it!

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