Culture Shock San Diego presents the dance theatrical “Graffiti Life: The Color of my Sole”

Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 1:06 pm


This is a wonderful interview done by Jennifer Kester asking Pose 2 about his desires as an artist and why he decided to write a script for dance theater!!!

Where are you from?
I’m originally from New York. I grew up in the Bronx and Yonkers.

Has hip-hop culture always been a constant in your life?
My generation started hip-hop. We were doing it before it got a name, before it was called hip-hop. It’s funny because I’ve connected with some of my old friends and one of them said he was told about me. He was like, “I remember Pose. Boy, that guy could really dance.” I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty interesting since I’m doing dance theater now.” So definitely, there’s always been that connection there.

When did you start getting into graffiti?
Since 1975.

How long have you been living in San Diego?
I moved here in 2006 and I’ve been a bicoastal resident since then, up until 2009. Now, I feel like I’m complete.

I heard Culture Shock San Diego’s last theatrical production, “Christopher,” was an inspiration for this show?
That was definitely the catalyst. A friend of mine said, “Let’s go see this show.” And I was like, “Oh, gosh, do we have to?” Then I saw the show and was so blown away. I remember going to see Christopher with a young lady friend of mine and she was in tears. She was so moved by it. I had never seen a group of choreographed b-boys perform and I was really impressed. Then I started making music on my computer. And in the process of making music, I’m listening back at it and I’m dancing and while I’m dancing I’m having visions of me going into train yards and bombing trains and stuff and I’m like, “This could be choreographed. This could be a show.”

What made you realize you wanted Culture Shock involved in this new show?
It just happened. It was so natural. I was at a meeting at the Art Academy where we were putting together a hip-hop graffiti event. And Angie [Bunch, Culture Shock San Diego’s executive director] was one of the people involved in the meeting. And we were just standing next to each other and I pitched this idea out to her. I said, “I have this idea of doing this show based on graffiti.” I threw some ideas at them and they fell in love with the concept. And here we are today.

How does Culture Shock bring this show to life?
They are organized, they are young, they are enthusiastic, and they are directly connected to the people, to this generation.

Did you find it difficult to write a play for dancers?
I had to really dig deep. Initially it was all about me and that was important. It was like writing a really good paper, the research has to be really good. You have to do a lot of research. I did a lot of internal research about my history and my experiences and that brought forth the core of the story. First I made all this music, and every scene was based off of a song. So that’s how I did all of my writing. I had it all in my head just based on the songs I was making. I was making music for months, listen to it and then I would visualize from that process. It was months of writing it down and getting the story down, and rewriting, rewriting and rewriting.

How long did it take you to write it?
I started it last year and it took about a year.

What was it like seeing dancers bring your vision to the stage?
This is a learning process and for me it’s a huge learning process. I like to think I’m a really good collaborator. I have my vision and I have my story, but there are other artists you are working with and you have to give them their room to be artists. It’s important to let artists have their role. I’m learning to throw this idea out, paint this story and let them create, let them have room to create so they can be artists as well. That way, the creativity flows. You don’t want to create an environment where people are tight. You want people to be fluid and open and willing to enhance upon what you made.

What is the concept of the show?
The show is about the evolution of graffiti, the conflicts that exist within graffiti as an art form and the conflicts that exist between graffiti and society. And it’s about gaining a greater understanding about graffiti as an art form through dance.

Is the show autobiographical or is it more generally about the culture?
Initially the script was more autobiographical but as it evolved, it’s become more of the story and the essence of the art form. You’ll find elements of me in the story and my experience, but it’s not about me, it’s about the art form. And that’s what is important. That’s the story that needs to be told.

Is the show a history of the art form? Or a contemporary take on it?
It’s is the relevancy of the art form. It’s the importance of what’s going on right now. That’s what’s so poignant about this; it’s about what’s been taking place within the art form over the last decade and bringing it to the head of what’s relevant right now, right at this moment, and that’s why it’s important.

Tell me what the story is about.
The main male character is called Ill. Ill is a strong, dominant male character who represents an aspect of graffiti that is perceived as destructive. He represents that element of graffiti that goes out and tags everywhere, which we may not want to see. Then there’s SheRock. She is the female energy and she represents the beautiful aspect of the art form and the stuff we are comfortable with—the artwork we can relate to. Then there is the Young Boys, and the Young Boys is a crew of up-and-coming writers. There are three of them primarily. One is Destin, one is Reckless and one is Hunger. They are the new generation of up-and-coming writers and they are influenced from both aspects of the art form. They like the destructive nature that it represents—the fame, the outlaw and the aggressive nature of that. And they are also attracted by what SheRock represents, the beauty, quality, style and essence of what she has to offer. So they are influenced by both.

Do you think graffiti gets a bad rap from taggers who write on buildings? Are you trying to dispel that kind of idea with the show?
I am trying to enlighten the general public about this art form that’s just totally misunderstood and try to shine some light on it from a different perspective.

Is there going to be any of your art displayed in the show onstage?
Yes, definitely, there will be my art and several artists’ work shown throughout the show. The focal point is dance, but it’s actually a multimedia performance.

Is there a theme for you gallery show at the Lyceum that is running concurrently with “Graffiti Life”?
The theme of the art show is “this is how we take the old from the new.” “This is how we take the old from the new, the new to the old, the old to the new.” The name of the show is “Pose 2 is Mr. Maxx Moses.”

When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you describe what you do?
I paint. I create. I live. The art of living.

Are you self-taught or did you take classes somewhere?
Self-taught in the New York City subways. I went to school for business and while I was there I took a few painting classes, but I’m primarily self-taught.

How has your artwork evolved?
My artwork has evolved tremendously over the years. I consider myself a concrete alchemist. That’s where I am now and you’ll see it at this show and exhibition. My artwork is very transformational, it’s evolutionary and it still carries the energy and essence of graffiti, but has evolved onward. I still use spray paint primarily. But on my canvases I use mixed media.

Where have we seen your work?
You have seen my work at the Children’s Museum, Barrio Logan, in the Downtown area, 9th and G, 9th and C, the Art Academy of San Diego, a brand-new project with La Entrada. A project that is a new development that was just built in the Barrio Logan. But I do murals all over the planet.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find my inspiration for my work from my interactions with people, from my relationships. I think those are the things that affect my work at this stage of my career. And how I interact with people and how I relate with people—that relationship is coming forth in my artwork, that connecting with people is what I’m about. I think that’s important.

Is this your first time doing a dance show?
Yes, it is.

How has the experience been thus far?
Extremely exciting. So much newness and I like that because I’m learning a new language. I’m hearing the dancers talk and the choreographers talking about blocking and staging and upstage and downstage and all this stuff about theater, which is really, really nice. I think right now I’m living my mother’s dream. She was heavily into theater and art and she tried to expose it to us as much as possible. She passed away a few years ago and I don’t think she ever realized that all of those trips, taking rides on the subway, going to and fro, how much that influenced my life. I think I’m fulfilling her dream.

What do you feel is your role in the show?
Graffiti is the most unknown aspect of hip-hop. People in general don’t know a lot about graffiti. They see it, but they don’t see it being done, they don’t know the inner workings of the writer, of the graffiti writer—they don’t even know we consider ourselves writers—so it’s like I’m the writer of the story. I’m there infusing the authenticity of the art form to the dancers and the directors. Just my presence there constantly, I have to get the point across, the essence and the feel of what this culture is all about. So they can interpret it and tell the stories themselves.

Why do you think graffiti is the least known of all the forms of hip-hop?
’Cause it’s illegal. There’s nothing illegal about picking up a microphone and rapping, there’s nothing illegal about dancing, there’s nothing illegal about deejaying. But graffiti is illegal, it’s against society, it’s against the law. For somebody to have that much courage and that much passion about doing something, knowing that they can be punished by law for what they are doing but are still passionate enough to do it against all odds—there’s a tremendous about of courage, a tremendous amount of passion and a tremendous amount of strength to do that. Because a lot of the times graffiti writers are doing it not only against the law but against their parents’ wishes, against their families’ wishes. It’s rebellion. And it’s time for us to at least take a look at that rebellion and try to understand why.

Why is there that rebellion?
It’s human nature.

I know that you’re offering a scholarship in conjunction with the show. What will people get with it?
They will get a seven- to 14-week class at the Art Academy of San Diego, the “Graffiti as an Art Form” class. They’ll learn the history, styles and traditions of graffiti writing.

What are you looking for in a scholarship candidate?
I’m looking for someone who is passionate, who really wants to learn. I don’t care what age, sex, class, ethnicity—it doesn’t matter. Somebody who would really get something out of it.

Do you think there’s a way to practice graffiti so that people won’t get in trouble by the law?
That’s what the class provides.

In general, do you think there’s a big stigma attached to graffiti writers? For example, if you tell someone you practice graffiti as an art form, do people put it on the same level as a painter or sketch artist?
That’s part of the misunderstanding and the problem with the language. When I came up, and it’s still relevant today, we don’t call ourselves “graffitists,” we call ourselves writers. That alone changes that stigma. If I talk to you and I call you a writer and you call me a writer, there’s intelligence behind that word. You’re a writer—that means you’re an intellectual. So we always looked at ourselves as writers, we never looked at ourselves as anything less. We are intelligent beings creating.

Do you think that’s the biggest misunderstanding about graffiti artists?
The biggest misunderstanding is that we’re not intelligent. That there’s not a sense of purpose behind what we are doing, although it’s illegal.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you want to do more dance shows?
Definitely. I’d love to do more shows. I really would. I’m enjoying it so much right now. I just want to tell stories. I think it’s important; I think there are a lot of important stories to tell. And just from hip-hop and this underground culture, you get the same repetitive stories over and over again and there are so many more interesting stories available. But they can’t be boring; they have to be relevant, engaging, powerful and passionate.

And you’ll still be doing art as well?
Always. I’ll always be creating.

You have break-dancing and graffiti in the show. Do you have other forms of hip-hop in the show like emceeing or deejaying?
I don’t think graffiti as an art form gets enough shine and I want to focus on that. The beautiful thing is that another form of hip-hop, dance, is actually getting a chance to speak for graffiti and that’s huge. I think it’s huge because graffiti is always standing alone. Nobody stands in defense of graffiti; graffiti is by itself. You barely see rappers embracing graffiti. You would think every album cover would have graffiti on it—it’s part of the family. Graffiti stands on its own. It’s outlaw. But people disassociate themselves from it. Now it’s getting some support and I think that it’s important, that it could be told through another means, another medium. And I think we can reach a lot more people.

Why should people come to this show?
Because it’s relevant. First of all, graffiti as an art form is the most relevant art form right now because it’s alive, you don’t have to go to a museum to see it, it’s in the street, we interact with it every day and there’s so much controversy surrounding it—a lot of controversy, a lot of mystery, a lot of misunderstanding so all of those things combined are making this art form very relevant. And so it’s an education and entertainment at the same time so I think it’s an extremely important piece of theater right now.

Update is tagged community, education, workshops.
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