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Barry McGee: Tagging | "Exclusive" | Art21

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    [Barry McGee: Tagging]
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    What kids will do just to have their name on something, it's fascinating to me still.
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    It's just as fascinating as when I was a teenager.
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    There's a strong population that lives on the street in San Francisco.
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    Almost any time you'd be doing graffiti, you'd be in contact with other people
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    that move around in that same type of area, and, like, that time of the night.
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    Sometimes you'd have to run or escape getting caught, and you'd be in some bushes,
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    and there'd be other people in the bushes already there.
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    There was always a presence of other people that were doing things,
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    or living or surviving somehow on the streets, or on the edges of the city,
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    that were just fascinating characters...
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    And always welcoming, like if I was running as fast as I can and ditching my bike in a bush,
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    they would just wave me over, like, "Come on over here. Over here--it's no problem..."
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    "No one's going to see you over here." [LAUGHS]
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    That's immediately how I gauge how healthy a city is--by the amount of tags.
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    It's just in direct competition with advertising, I feel like.
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    It's still one of the last things that I think hasn't been, like, corrupted,
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    [LAUGHS] me. There's still drones and drones of kids that still do it.
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    I still do it on occasion.
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    It has to be the perfect storm.
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    There's something that's uncomfortable about it that's exciting about it.
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    There's that rush of being outside and getting away with it.
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    The satisfaction that you have something sitting out there, for however long,
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    amongst everything else. It just had a life, and it would go and it went,
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    and then that was it. You have this memory.
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    It's hard to recreate that in a studio. That's a completely different practice.
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    [Squeaking and whirring sounds of animatronic metal sculptures in motion]
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    The mannequin--those tagging ones--have always been like illustrations to me, like
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    of like things that friends and I used to do when we were younger.
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    Our situations we'd be in, like trying to get up higher and higher,
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    like getting on each other's shoulders.
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    You never see, with tagging, the person actually doing the crime, or the art,
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    or whatever they were doing.
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    So it became really interesting to me to, like, recreate the situation.
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    [Whirring sounds of an animatronic metal sculpture in motion]
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    You could leave this exhibition with a better understanding of how
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    obsessed kids in their mid-20s can be, doing graffiti.
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    It's more of a guidebook, I feel like.
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    The whole thing is like, "We'll take your hand and walk you through it, if you're interested."
Barry McGee: Tagging | "Exclusive" | Art21

Episode #177: Filmed in 2012, this "Exclusive" follows artist Barry McGee through his self-titled retrospective exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA). McGee, who became interested in tagging while growing up in San Francisco, describes the excitement of putting up new tags and the rush of getting away with it. Alongside his ongoing and intimate involvement with street culture, McGee has maintained an active studio practice, which he describes as being something "completely different." These two disparate ways of making—and showing—work meet in "Barry McGee," which was also shown at the ICA Boston.

A cult figure amongst skaters and graffiti artists, Barry McGee's drawings, paintings, and mixed-media installations take their inspiration from contemporary urban culture, incorporating elements such as empty liquor bottles and spray-paint cans, tagged signs, wrenches, and scrap wood or metal. McGee is also a graffiti artist, known by the tag "Twist."

Learn more about the artist at:

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Bob Elfstrom. Camera: Bob Elfstrom. Sound: Doug Dunderdale. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Barry McGee. Archival Footage Courtesy: Videograf Productions. Archival Images Courtesy: Barry McGee. Special Thanks: UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

"Barry McGee" at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA)
August 24--December 9, 2012

"Barry McGee" at the ICA Boston
April 6--September 2, 2013

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Video Language:
"Extended Play" series
Jonathan Munar added a translation

English subtitles