Art

Cultural Traffic Is the Punk Art Fair Subverting NY Art Week

Taking the bouji out of art.

Annie Felix

New York Art Week: A grand culmination of art and money for us peasants to gape at. But this year – in addition to the exclusive fairs and champagne-fueled benefits -- there will be a dash of punk-rock inspired resistance downtown at the Cultural Traffic NY art fair.

Occurring tomorrow, Sunday, May 7th, Cultural Traffic is a counterculture art and publications fair taking the bougie out of art--an anti-Frieze of sorts. Free, open-to-the-public, and hosted at downtown Manhattan's, Hester Street Fair, it is all about providing an affordable, anti-elitist space for artists, art-lovers, and collectors to meet and birth new ideas.

Only on its third iteration (and its first in New York), Cultural Traffic NY is a convergence of vintage counterculture and the current DIY publishing scene. Founded by artist, designer, and punk historian, Toby Mott (known for the Mott Collection, an archive of vintage punk ephemera), the London-based arts and publications fair has very punk roots that can clearly be seen in the post-digital aesthetic of the zines and art on display. Anarchist artist Jamie Reid - who designed the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen iconography - has also created two Donald Trump pieces for the fair. The analog world of punk art meets today's virtual subversive self-publishing, all in the context of turning the bourgeois world of New York Art Week on its head.

We sat down with Mott to talk about punk rock, print, and the art world heading up to the fair. Peep some of the art that will be on display in the slideshow below.


What's in the name Cultural Traffic?

So, it's called Cultural Traffic because we see the fair like a freeway where all these people come together from different directions, and we're like the hub of this activity. Ideas are moving through the internet, via the roads, so it's a traffic of ideas – it's a marketplace of creativity, and also the actual things that are produced, the zines, the books, the prints. Cultural Traffic just came about in discussions, through the idea that we wanted a very free-flowing ideas platform.

What role does punk as a subculture play in the spirit of Cultural Traffic?

The idea is really about the energy that was best espoused in punk: [that] regardless of your ability or access to machines and knowledge of process [you could make art]--the energy created by those punk magazines that we all love. And that energy is still very much alive – so whether you know how to use InDesign or you have a Mac computer, we don't want that to be a barrier to creating something and getting your thoughts and ideas out there. So that is why we embrace the DIY aspect of punk, but we're not about looking back, we're very much about looking forward – it's just that [punk culture] is the impetus that we're taking from. We have vintage material at the fair, but it's very much about this culture today – it's just that punk's where it comes from, that's the genesis of it.

How do you think the current political climate is affecting the kind of art at the fair? I'm speaking, of course, of Jamie Reid's God Save the USA works.

I see real artists who want to change things for the better for people, rather than just feeding the hungry collectors who probably don't have the best intention for mankind. This is really giving the artists a target, and also to come together and create community, to resist and to change things for the better. So, in some way this has given art and creativity a direction, which is what true art has always been about – it hasn't always been about just servicing the rich, it's been about changing things to another form or expression, doing something for the betterment. I think we're sort of moving away from the sort of Jeff Koons glorification of wealth into something a bit more radical.

So it's standing in as a countercultural art fair for the more wealthy demonstrations at Frieze. Do you think it says anything about zine culture that Cultural Traffic, as the resistance, is display zines and art books, DIY publications as opposed to more traditional forms of art?

Zines and publications are affordable, and it's cheap to make. Painting and traditional art forms are really a celebration of wealth in spaces, and implies an education. This [zines and other DIY art forms] is an area of creativity that engages with reality, and has a bit more content and resistance. So, print seems to be where that is strongest.

It's Cultural Traffic's first time in America. How different do you think the fair will be here, as opposed to back in the UK?

Because of the internet, which is a benefit to people, these ideas travel – it really is a global community. So I feel very welcome in New York – we're thinking of taking the fair to Los Angeles and Miami, and it's a global community. So I really see Cultural Traffic traveling into all corners of the globe, and we all welcome each other. We're all trying to help each other where we can, and Cultural Traffic is just providing a platform for that.

Cultural Traffic NY is open tomorrow, Sunday, May 7th from 8am to 5pm at the Hester Street Fair.

Splash Photo Courtesy CTNY

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