- Words and Photos by Erica Stella
Sold's Stack of Books: Museum of Street Art East Village by Benjamin Stein
Right before we broke for the Holidays, I received a request to review a book with a familiar title: MoSA East Village. Once I checked that a lawsuit was not pending on the production and name of such a book; Creator, Benjamin Stein was kind enough to send me a copy. It arrived on Christmas Eve, and I was happy to give it an honest look over the break. Since we just opened our Library, the timing was appropriate.
The concept, explained a few pages in, filed under "Editor's Notes" gives the author's intention behind the project. A MoSA or a Museum of Street Art is defined as:
"a phenomenon that occurs when there is a high concentration of art and local stakeholder support in a particular outdoor area. This combination creates living, breathing outdoor museums in our cities. Entry is free and daily exhibits are managed by the residents, landlords, local government, visitors, and mother nature. These stakeholders alter the exhibition every day with their competing opinions and priorities, which in turn creates one of the most dynamic and meritocratic museums in the world. MoSA explores this concept by photographing these museums in their entirety on one particular day, as a record and snapshot in time."
With the understanding that Benjamin intends to document other neighborhoods with his project, I hope this review is taken into consideration. The freedom that self publishing your own books these days is an enormous advantage for an entrepreneur or a small business trying to legitimize their information. It can be used as a limitless expression of an idea, that may be worth its weight in gold to the author.
Publishing companies have been severely affected by online competition, and social media marketing just as much as galleries, and any other industry selling a product to its audience today. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
This book being sold on Amazon for $29.99 boasts its completion and concentration of work shot in 24 hours, but it seemed that was the same amount of time used in the research and notation. Inconsistency with naming conventions, and shortening of artist's names they have publicly proclaimed as their own, kept distracting me from enjoying the raw black and white images, moving from night to early morning.
I do give the author credit that without doing any of my own research, I learned about 7 artists I was not familiar with prior. But at the same time, there were a total of 36 "Unknown" artists listed, in a collection of about 192 notations.
And here is where I try to take myself out of what I want to see in this book, and maybe a different perspective I wasn't aware of. If the book isn't focused on the correct names of the artists, then it must contain stunning photographs. Not at all. The images are poor in quality, which would have been acceptable with more accurate information. Which begs me to question: Why are we looking at these images? What are we learning?
MoSA East Village is without page numbers, but I can tell you that on the (113th?) right hand page is an image with multiple artists listed. There was an artist I never heard of, which began my cross-referencing to the IG account associated with Museum of Street Art. This account has me tagged as the artist!
I assure you, I have not done any public artwork in the East Village, nor is my IG account associated with an artist named Stella Isabella. I grew uncomfortable about being able to write positively about what I was seeing. Not only was my account tagged incorrectly, but why wouldn't someone reach out to ask?
One of the "Unknown" artist tags stood out, and maybe my biased eye couldn't be objective, but still it was odd. While the author claimed this project was to curate the circumference of the neighborhood within a time period, it seemed to lack so much easy to find information. The artist JODO may be mysterious, but it is not hard to identify that bee with a few simple key search words.
"Jerk Face", "Invader", and "Homeless" are examples of incorrect shortening of an artist name, when there was no reference to that on the artist's page, although maybe someone would shorten it in conversation. Again, my frustration grows. As we head to the back section of this hardcover publication, the "Index" is not exactly what it is defined to be:
an alphabetical list of names, subjects, etc., with references to the places where they occur, typically found at the end of a book.
This "Index" is just a repeated list of the same information that is in the book, and without page numbers or any further information about the subject - it is redundant and unnecessary.
In conclusion, if The Sold Magazine Crew were asked to help edit this book instead of review it, most of my critiques would have been addressed. As a result, it is not an informative look at what is happening on the streets. I wish the author luck on his next endeavor, but this project felt rushed.