House of PainT gets underway in a few short hours. Our contributor got the inside scoop from festival producer Rob Reid. Read on:
Apt613: Where does the festival take place, and why did you choose this location?
Rob Reid: House of PainT Festival happens at the House of PainT legal graffiti wall, under the bridge where Bronson Avenue crosses the Rideau River, beside Carleton University.
How has the festival changed over the past 11 years? How has it stayed the same?
At its core, House of PainT has always been an old-school, 4-disciplines of Hip Hop jam: graffiti art, DJs, MCs, and a Bboy / Bgirl (break) dance battle. There were 150 people in the first year and over 4,000 attended our 10th anniversary in 2013.
The festival program has expanded to include children’s workshops, a major concert line-up, spoken word programming, an arts market, a professional development conference for developing and professional artists, and broader selections of music and street dance art forms.
HoP seems geared towards families and youth. Is this in anyway an homage to the originators of the modern graffiti period that took place in Philadelphia in the late 60’s and NYC in the early 70’s, or does the vibrancy of this art-form gravitate towards the youth?
House of PainT attracts people of all ages, as participants and audiences, because it features hundreds of dancers, visual artists, poets and musicians, all collaborating in one space, together, for an entire weekend.
But it’s always been a youth-driven festival. HoP was founded by a group of youth in their 20s. Sabra Ripley was one of the original founders of the festivals and she is still the Executive Director, so there has always been a consistent vision for a community event that is fun and free, open to everyone.
What would you or other festival organizers say to critics of legal graffiti walls, who might state that the essence of graffiti is illegal, that it’s a subversive act of reclaiming a city from the hierarchical and bureaucratic power-structures of urban planners?
It’s art. Who cares if it’s legal, so long as it’s good.
On the other hand, what would you say to might-be critics of the festival that an event such as this might lead to more kids/people writing on walls illegally?
This is a complicated issue. Something to be addressed is accessibility for practice spaces for visual artists (everyone needs to start somewhere), and the not-so-effective system of graffiti eradication in most municipalities.
Concrete walls under bridges should be free reign and the city should employ artists to paint murals on as many walls as possible, rather than paying to have these areas constantly cleaned with sandblasting or grey paint jobs. Art murals are an effective form of eradicating tagging.
With our city’s current regime, there is an incentive for private companies in the graffiti clean-up business to ensure ‘tagging’ and / or ‘vandalism’ graffiti is perpetuated. If you’re in the graf clean-up biz and business is slow, writing an insignia on the side of an existing client’s business or property can keep you busy, and presents a pretty easy way to game the system. The City of Ottawa enforces that all businesses clean-up graf and tagging at their own expense.
I recognize that certain types of tagging are vandalism that hurts small business owners – it’s a public nuisance that costs businesses and municipalities millions of dollars each year. These are resources that could be used more effectively, and perhaps new youth education and incentive campaigns could help reduce incidents.
Besides street art, the festival features, as you’ve mentioned, music and MCs, for those who might not know, what exactly is spoken word? In what ways is it neither poetry nor rap?
It’s all about the words that the poets speak, but it’s also performance art. It requires delivery and punctuation, oftentimes with a cadence and rhythm. There’s no musical accompaniment or props allowed in slam competitions, but I’ve also seen lots of spoken word artists perform over live or recorded music.
In my experience, the emotions that the poets can elicit from audiences cover the full range of human feeling.
Are there MC battles at the festival? Have there ever been?
The festival tried some rap battles early in the game. The content wasn’t always all-ages. We’ve returned to the subject as a programming committee every year and decided not to try one again recently. Maybe if we secure the right partners in the future they will return.
Tell us a bit about the Crew Battles that take place on Saturday?
There will be 15-20 dance crews by the time registration closes, and our Dance Director, Sami Elkout has already confirmed 8 of the top dance crews from around the country, including a number of all-female crews from TO and MTL.
The dance tournament takes place all day on Saturday until there are only two crews left in the final, battling for a $1,000 cash prize. This year our battle judges are Menno from Amsterdam, Zig from Montreal and Nastics from MEC Crew in Toronto, and we’ve got Ikebe Shakedown, an incredible Afrofunk group from Brooklyn, who are performing the music live for the final battle – like we did last year with The Souljazz Orchestra:
Will there be art for sale at the festival?
Yes. The art market has a tonne of stuff.
Lastly, if someone knew nothing of the kind of art-forms of HoP, what would be a good way to get educated? Would you recommend watching “Wild Style” as a good start?
They should start by coming out to some of the events at House of PainT 🙂 No disrespect to the history and originators of Hip Hop culture, but Wild Style was made in the 80s. House of PainT has been celebrating Hip Hop culture in Canada’s capital for 11 years, and this year’s edition is going down this weekend! New chapters in the history books of Hip Hop are constantly being written and people might as well start here.