My comrades, associates and dear friends have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a fabulous dream project in the mysterious and vibrant land of Detroit. Curious objects, totemic figurines, elaborately and lovingly produced tableaus, strange icons and bizarre tchotchekas: these are the things that have been collected from the furthest corners of the world and will appoint and adorn Detroit’s Seafoam Palace.
The avatar for this project, Julia Solis is one of the early pioneers of the world of Urban Exploration. Her book New York Underground is a primary text for explorers. She was a friend of and inspiration for Ninjalicious the fellow that grounded and popularized UE with the zine Infiltration and book Access all Areas. Julia’s NYC based exploration and event group Dark Passage founded in 1999 holds a near mythic status and has inspired adventurers around the world.
Julia’s many projects over the years have radiated an essence of purity and authenticity that is rare to find. Her singular aesthetic is deep, dark and beautiful. She attracts collaborators of high caliber.
To peruse the histories of folks involved in SeaFoam is to open many doors to rare, exotic and obsessive worlds.
Filmmaker and educator Bryan Papciak has documented surreal yet very real worlds in his uniquely disturbing style. Bryan continues to warp impressionable young minds as a prof at RISD. Bryan’s work as an animator and creator of images is pretty disturbing. He LOOKS normal, but watch out when delving into the worlds he creates in his feverish imagination. Watch his oddly mesmerizing video below!
Photographer, fearless explorer and web designer Tom Kirsch has captured some of the most haunting images ever. A small sampling of his work can be found here. His work has been featured on PBS’s American Experience, in Digital Photographer Magazine and other publications. Tom likes to fish – a lot – his nautical sensibilities have and will continue to influence Seafoam.
Madagascar Institute founder and international art Star Chris Hackett helps out in Detroit in between stints blowing things up, sometimes on teeveeand instructing the kids on how they can “do this at home!” for Popular Science Magazine. Hackett is deeply dedicated to making the world a more interesting (and dangerous) place. Madagascar has turned out hundreds of maladjusted young artists (with some actual real world skills) after Chris turned chose to open the place in 1999.
Globetrotting film professional Christos Pathiakis explores ruins for fun between exotic location shoots. Before teaming up with others as the internet began to connect explorers Christos spent thousands of hours roaming through much of the NYC subway system in the 90’s disguised as an MTA worker.
When not hammering away on Seafoam, swashbuckling pyrotecnician Kim Couchet installs and ignites the largest fireworks displays in the world.
Social engineer Shel Kimmen has dedicated her life to the revitalization of her beloved City of Detroit. Shel’s counsel has been invaluable for the Seafoam crew.
Italian explorer and aesthete Alessandro Toffoli adds a compelling European flavor to the Detroit mix. Alessandro compares Detroit favorably with Rome (for the eventual importance of it’s fast disappearing colossal abandoned edifices). Alessandro has published both fiction and nonfiction, and is now an ongoing researcher at Casa della Memoria, the official oral history society in Rome. He is also a co-founder of Arcadia, a Roman art and restoration laboratory that specializes in antiques and objects of curiosity.
Paul Parkhill is the Executive Director of Spaceworks, Between 1999 and 2012, Paul served as the Director of Planning and Development at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. Paul worked as a housing developer for Common Ground Community. In 1997 Paul co-founded Place in History, and in 2004 he co-founded Furnace Press with Julia Solis and Ars Subterranea.
Installation and performance artist Monica Canilao creates exquisite, dream inspired worlds from the detritus sloughed off from the mundane world around her. Her involvement in Seafoam has introduced the project to a younger risk-taking group of collaborators. That’s a nice way to say “watch out for these crazy kids!”
Other key personnel and associates include artist/performer Vness Wolfchild a musician and interactive ritual healing performance artist. Her work explores the complexity of the physical, spiritual and emotional body existing within urban industry and architecture. soundcloud.com/vnesswolfchild
Designer Dorothy Trojanowski whose work includes the lovely lay-out for Julia Solis’ recent book Stages of Decay.
metal sculptor Colin McIntyre, Inspired by creatures from the oceans and all plant life, Colin creates sculptures using hot metal forging and fabrication. His work is featured as a permanent public art piece at the Austin Nature & Science Center.
Detroit homesteader Ryan Carmichael is a functional artist and was one of the lead fabricators on Gon Kirin. In recent years he has specialized in architectural installations around Detroit.
Maggie Sisco lives in Detroit and works in public relations for a small firm in the metro area. Her expertise is in media and content strategy.
Seafoam Palace is made up of artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, sociologists, engineers, historians, travelers, explorers, and a few varieties of alchemists. Some have been collaborating on projects for over twenty years, some are brand new – drawn together by a love of the absurd, the profound, and the curious.
This show is not a retrospective, rather a small selection by Steven of two memorable BLF “Improvements” with beautiful photos by A. Leo Nash and Nicole Rosenthal. We’ll be sharing the gallery with Anthony Discenza, Jacqueline Gordon, Victor Moscoso and psychedelic poster artist Robert Fried. The opening is this Saturday the 12th of July, 2014. I won’t be there – I’m off on a UE trip to the Midwest. Other BLF Ops may be in attendance. Steven is planning a closing party for August 16th which I will be attending – I’ll be missing Lynyrd Skynyrd to be at this closing party, a sacrifice I had to make, so I hope you will drop what you’re doing and stop on by too.
The BLF finally retired a few years ago after a 35 year run. It had been a lot of fun, but the thrill was gone. Addressing later generations in a book foreword, Shepard Fairey said (to paraphrase a bit): “Check out the BLF, they’ve been hacking billboards since before you were born!” And that was years ago.
Then, a few years later, I was inadvertently outed by my pal, rocker Anton Newcomb and, unlike Banksy, no one seemed to notice or much care. Ow! Then I outed long time copywriting partner and retired BLF propagandist Stuart Mangrum “_____ DeCoverly”. Bruised egos crave company…. Well, I had to remind myself, it was a heckadventure and, after any number of close calls, we remained unscathed, un-injured (35 years and not one single work place accident!) and with the exception of the initial Suicide Club improvement in 1977, un-captured. We had stayed incognito, using silly nom de guerres, sporting masks, dyed hair, funny glasses and the like, for decades. We kidnapped journalists, shocking and amusing them enough that they wrote about our exploits with humor and energy without being too critical.
By the end of the new millenniums first decade, the new generation of BLF Ops had moved on to the serious pursuits of middle age. Many passed thru the organization over the years, most were fellow pranksters in Cacophony and the earlier Suicide Club. Co-founder Irving Glikk (David T. Warren, co-founder of the Suicide Club and early ignitor of the silly wooden figure now worshipped on the Black Rock Desert each year) passed away in 2010 at seventy-one. Dave was one of the great inspirations in my life. He was the “Spirit of Chaos” in the Suicide Club. Once in the late 70’s as I was just embarking on a lengthy solo cross-country hitch-hiking adventure, Dave with somber mien, gave me a giant rubber thumb declaring: “Here kid, you’ll need this on the road!”
The BLF was a primary creative outlet for me for many years, but all things come to pass. I’ve settled into other pursuits in recent times, becoming more interested in and energized by slipping back into small group UE adventures, restoring the ridiculous and sublime giant DogHeads that I somehow have become responsible for, and knocking off the occasional book event for our history of the Cacophony Society with co-author (and past BLF Art Director) Carrie Galbraith “Ethyl Ketone”.
Former BLF operative Conrad Hoc “Scott Beale” our first webmaster, got us online initially, and way back in the 90’s convinced me of the importance of the digital realm as a means of archiving and preserving work done in meat space. Milton will probably link this blog post to the official BLF website <billboardliberation.com> and we’ll call it a day with the exception of any future gallery, academic, historical or law enforcement interest (the statute of limitations is closing fast, fellas..)
This is the first of 2 posts that will serve, for the time being, as my digital “closing the book” on the BLF. In the next post before the closing party at Wolfe Fine Arts, I will out and tip the hat to everyone I can recall that passed through the group from 1977 til we closed shop in 2010. If you are a past operative, please drop me a line and let me know if I may use your “real” name in my next post. I will also include many more photos of “improvements” made by BLF over the years with short anecdotes about the actions.