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383 Summer Street
Buffalo, New York 14213
Department of Media Study
University at Buffalo
The State University of New York
231 Center for the Arts
Buffalo, NY 14260-6020
Phone: 716.645.6902 x1494
Paper: "Schablone Berlin: Stencil Graffiti in Berlin"
The technology of the stencil and pounce (a sack filled with colored chalk, charcoal or an alternate powdery substance) began at least as early as the seventh century, and like most print technologies, its principle has remained relatively stable since its inception. A design drawn with a brush was pin pricked to create a permeable outline, then set upon another flat sheet. The pounce was dusted lightly over the holes, transferring the original design to form the negative that could then be traced, punched and painted with remarkable accuracy. Akin to the marks produced by the letterpress, rubber stamp, lithograph, potato stamp, mimeograph, and silkscreen, the stencil creates the illusion of uniform reproduction. Variation is an innate attribute of each of these printing methods, yet paradoxically, prints maintain an ambiguous status in the “official art market,” shelved somewhere between unique works and reproductions, or in the “original multiples” section. Unlike prints for sale, the schablone is not produced in a limited edition and does not contain original signatures, although the designer's alias occasionally appears as part of the stencil itself.
Practitioners of stencil art cannot be reduced to a unified politic (differences in style and subject alone suggest otherwise), yet the city itself serves as a collective context for their spirited disavowal of controlled means of exhibition and dissemination. They embrace a Do-It-Yourself ethos disruptive of dominant power structures. Their communications re-invent the public sphere's imaginary, and initiate conversations across an indeterminate and disparate group, making commentaries, narratives, associations, and digressions happen amidst, alongside, atop, and below more prescribed elements of the public realm. There is no gateway to pass through to make contact. Stencil artists are cultural anarchists inhabiting non-sanctioned spaces. The ordered mass connoted by “the public” is inevitably fissured by cracks of individuality. Singular bodies create fluxus through, or rather in opposition to, the official order of zoning, privatization and urban planning. Anarchic sign-stencils “unlock” the stasis of the authoritarian street.
In September 2004 while living in Berlin we began working on a study of the stencil (Schablone) in Berlin, Germany. Our research has been published in the form of a book entitled Schablone Berlin, which will be the subject of our presentation at IMPACT 4. The book consists of two sections. It begins with a substantial essay that explores the aesthetics and politics of the Schablone as a form of street art writing specific to Berlin, while placing this phenomenon in an informed cultural and technological context. It continues with a representative selection of approximately 80 images culled from photographs of over 600 different stencils. This book should appeal to those interested in poetics, urban studies, media studies, art history, contemporary art, social activism, and visual anthropology.
KYLE SCHLESINGER is a poet, scholar, book artist and proprietor of Cuneiform Press. He is completing his doctoral research on the intersection of print culture, poetry & textual studies in the Poetics Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He received his BA from Goddard, an experimental college in rural Vermont. Recent publications include Moonlighting, A Book of Closings & Mantle (in collaboration with Thom Donovan). The codex-inspired installation Reading In Bed was featured in the “Vinyl Project Exhibition” at the Cork International Poetry Festival in the summer of 2005. His essays and poems have recently appeared in Open Letter, The Chicago Review, Golden Handcuffs Review, Aufgabe, Drill, P-Queue and The Artists Book Yearbook. With Sasha Steensen and Gordon Hadfield, he edits Kiosk: A Journal of Poetry, Poetics and Prose. Cuneiform Press has recently published limited and trade edition works by Robert Creeley, Johanna Drucker, Alan Loney and Craig Dworkin. To learn more about Cuneiform, please visit www.cuneiformpress.com.
CAROLINE KOEBEL’S training in film theory and history first lead to the production of experimental films and then to an interdisciplinary practice spanning a range of media including digital video, performance and writing. Koebel holds a BA in Film Studies from University of California, Berkeley and an MFA in Visual Arts from University of California, San Diego. Histories of conceptual art, feminism (i.e. feminist film theory), and sociopolitical critique converge in her commitment to seeking, if not always locating, alternate modes of resistance to dominant ideologies, such as commodity culture, gender conformism, and war ecology. Her recent solo exhibitions/screenings have been held at the Usher Gallery, Lincoln, England; the Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland; and the Robert Beck Memorial Cinema at The Collective: Unconscious, New York, NY. She was represented at the 2004 Liverpool Biennial in the "Elusive Quality" media program and at Cork 2005: European Capital of Culture in "the Vinyl Project." “I Want to Have Your Baby” (2003 - ongoing), Caroline's collective cross-media action repopulating the world with humane beings (http://www.buffalo.edu/~cgkoebel/projects/b_con.html), has been staged at such venues as "El Delito del Cuerpo/The Crime of the Body," Havana, Cuba; 8th Gay and Lesbian Cultural & Film Festival, Budapest; New York University Lecture Series, NYC; free cooperation conference: Networks, Art, & Collaboration, Buffalo, NY; National Graduate Seminar, Photography Institute, Columbia University, NYC; and OMSK Roam London. She has written on film, art, performance, and culture for such publications as Wide Angle and Art Papers. Koebel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo (State University of New York), where she teaches courses such as Art Practicing the Body, Banned and Censored Cinema, Women Directors, and Site-Specific Installation.