01SJ At Anno Domini: The Paintings of Fim-do-mundo And The Social Disruptions of G.R.L., by Rod Ayers

I had already caught Fim-do-mundo’s curious and very Latin paintings at the Anno Domni gallery the previous First-Friday. That didn’t keep me from enjoying their surreal imagery, and elaborate installation, again. One of the tenets of the Day of The Dead is that it is the one time during which souls of the departed can again engage in those pastimes they have left behind. Letting them briefly return to habits and vices impossible in the afterlife, or simply too risqué to be found in Heaven.

One wonders if this is the starting point for Fim-do-mundo’s work (each of his paintings is complex enough to contain a dozen stories. But every work, like every tale, has a starting point). Indeed, ubiquitous well-dressed skeletons -symbols of visiting souls- populate his work, along with others who may be angels or demons. And while the format of each work is littered with religious symbology and images of church decorum, a sense of naughtiness seems to permeate each scene.

Fim-do-mundo’s work bears a careful execution and restraint which causes it to resemble the pages of a monk-wrought, illuminated Bible. Yet the flow of lines and script text also reminds one of street graffiti, and definitely of certain tattoos, perhaps glimpsed on the streets of Mexico. I couldn’t help but imagine that I was viewing illustrations of powerful rituals, which would in the next moments dissolve into a bar-room brawl or a drinking match.

The focus on Friday night however, was A.D.’s special ZERO1 guest, the members of G.R.L. aka the Graffiti Research Lab.

Todd Polenberg’s unique tags!

For those of you who don’t ever surf the internet, the GRL art group pioneered the use of “throwies”, small bundles of LED lights, a battery, and a magnet. These lights, now occasionally seen in every major city latched to the side of buildings and bridges, have become the active symbol of GRL’s philosophy. Using technology they’ve created a kind of (semi)legal graffiti -ideal for urban environments- with which to spread their message. A message they summed up in their title for the AD show, “The Department of Homeland Graffiti Liquidation Sale”.

As the GRL’s new personal documentary (GRL Season One) played in the background, flanked by flashing Homeland Security Logos and the glowing out-line of George Bush giving viewers a rude gesture, Todd Polenberg, GRL co-founder, worked the room. Wearing a fist sized medallion of flashing lights, he looks far too much the backstage tech geek to be performing for an audience. But his enthusiasms for his creations and the importance of his message against government intrusion have propelled him into a state of smooth and easy showmanship. Surrounded by a small knot of well-dressed, very attentive people, he was spreading the GRL mantra with ease.

Polenberg points out the sometimes comical degrees to which the government has insisted that certain items of information or acts are threats to the nation, repeating themselves even as growing evidence mounts to indicate them harmless. His complaints center on the Homeland Security Department, an organization he feels has proven itself untrustworthy. Polenberg goes on that, from their actions, Homeland Security holds to the belief that “If we admit that something isn’t a threat … then the terrorists win.”

The use of circuitry, software, and LEDs as a method of protest also seems highly appropriate to Polenberg, because for him, the security administration is rife with the same activities, and personalities, common to the hacker world. He describes them as black hat/white hat hackers, individuals who one day will do actions for the common good, and the next will engage in willful destruction and vandalism. Their behavior mandated more by whim then by morality. To him, the people telling us that we have to remove our shoes before boarding a plane are acting in the same manner.

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