Underground and graffiti artists are swarming the nation with an immersive show that blurs the lines between dystopian fantasy and the cold, hard reality of daily life in America. Known as Wastedland 2, it's an art show and film screening that currently occupies Superchief Gallery LA through April 29. The traveling exhibition transforms spaces into wasteland scenes, then hosts screenings of the 30-minute film.
It's designed to be an immersive experience: "There's a bleakness in this post-apocalyptic land that mirrors the bleakness, maybe, in today's social climate," says Andrew H. Shirley, who created the film and organized the show. His goal with this experience is to get each of us thinking about the world we're living in, and whether we even belong in it.
The characters in Wastedland 2 are masked and costumed, but they are all graffiti writers: Wolftits, Avoid, and Smells. They play fictionalized versions of themselves who go in search of the legendary UFO 907, a prolific graffiti writer best known in NYC.
"To walk down Bedford Avenue in the 2000s and not see UFO's work, you'd have to be blind," Shirley explains. "All the characters in the film have a relationship with UFO's graffiti, and they form a pact to seek out the meaning behind their existence… they're on a hunt to find him because he's such a prolific artist, he must know the answer to their question."
That question, posed over and over again throughout the show, is, What's the point?
It's every bit as philosophical as you think, but the film doesn't offer all the answers. Instead, it wants to influence you, the viewer, to ask yourself the question. Realistically, we are all living in this same bizarrely dissonant world, and we all have some latent unease about that. By creating an immersive environment to show the film in, Shirley includes viewers in both the experience and the conversation.
"The characters in the film are actual graffiti writers and they're my friends," Shirley says. "We're all, for lack of a better term, kind of punks. […] Fitting into society is something that we never really did. But that doesn't mean that everybody isn't experiencing this same dilemma or experiencing the world as a conundrum."
Wastedland 2 launched in September 2016 and is currently on a yearlong tour of the United States. Every showing is different. The Detroit premiere took place in an abandoned plant, which actually had to be cleaned up beforehand. Most venues are customized with graffiti and installations of found art, as well as the pieces included in the tour.
There have been some other tour highlights as well: in Kansas City, local painters took over the inside of a bridge, spent a week painting it, then showed the film. Last week's Portland show included found objects that Shirley and local artists obtained locally over the course of several days. Future shows include the Chicago Public Library and Hamtramck Disneyland, as well as more traditional galleries.
Exhibiting artists include Adam VOID, Amy Smalls, Andrew H. Shirley, DARKCLOUDS, EKG, George Vidas, Greg Henderson, NOXER, RAMBO, Robin Drysdale, Ryan C. Doyle, SMELLS, UFO 907, William Thomas Porter, WOLFTITS and local artists from each area.
Wastedland 2's Los Angeles closing party is April 29th, then it's headed to Oakland. Additional tour dates and information on the Wastedland 2 website.