Artist: DVD ReviewTitle: Infamy (DVD)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Sidik Fofana
After watching Infamy (Image Entertainment), you’ll never look at a vandalized wall in the same way again. The Doug Pray directed documentary is an ambitious film which shadows renowned graffiti artists from all walks of the globe who practice various styles. Among them are Toomer from Oakland, Earsnot from NY and Claw from the Fashion District, Enem repping Philly, Saber from L.A. and so on. All of them are seriously nice at their craft and contribute to uncovering the understated art of urban calligraphy.
For those who have been uninformed, here’s a crash course in graffiti that should earn the average head respect at an inner city cocktail party. First of all graffiti comes in a plethora of different forms. “Tagging” is scribbling your name on as many properties as possible so that your signature becomes written coordinates that maps your travels in the city. A “piece” is the classic word in bubbly letters with the use of vibrant spray cans. A mural is a large piece of graffiti that takes up a wall. And finally, a diss is when one writes over any of the aforementioned forms.
Infamy shows us that graffiti isn’t the dull and forgotten Hip-Hop element that it is often stereotyped to be. The artwork featured in this documentary makes a sharpie look like it needs a dose of Viagra. As for the over-glorified violence that frequently smears rap music, Saber and Enem will tell you that graffiti has just as many martyrs and that the pain of losing a loved one hurts more than a buck generating tribute song. Instead, graffiti children earn their glory through the renegade nature of their craft. As Enem observes, “You get a kid, you bust him in school for graffiti, and you think you got him in trouble when in actuality, what you just did was you just made a hero amongst his peers.” Add that statement to the tons of tuberculosis vomiting, crack smoking, and homeless sex that a tunnel trekking graffiti head sees on the regular, and one can very easily say that graffiti artists are street sultans well beyond their years.
Even though Infamy is filmed in the same grainy organic fashion that aptly characterizes the culture of graffiti, it serves as a official document of this undying pastime. And its a pastime that for many artists in the film has earned them employment. Claw works in the Fashion District designing clothing, Saber’s work is displayed in the Museum of Natural History in L.A., Enem is a regular commissioned artist and Joe Connolly has built up a steady income rehabilitating vandalized walls. Infamy does a tremendous job showing that graffiti artists at the core just want the world to recognize that their name and their art exists or as Jase says, “My graffiti has seen more of this country than I ever will.”