When you declare war on graffiti, what do you get next? A new documentary about Toronto’s street art scene, Between the Lines, chases the artists fighting on graffiti’s side.
BY: Jacob Rutka
Ever since Mayor Ford took office in late 2010, he hasn’t shied away from making sure that everyone knows his stance on illegal graffiti and street art. (He hates it, and he wants it eradicated from the streets of Toronto.) He’s since gone so far as to slap on the coveralls himself to power-blast it from the walls of the city and herald a new mobile app that lets Torontonians report what they deem to be unsightly scribbles and murals themselves.
But a funny thing’s happened since Ford’s mayoralty started. Not only has there been an increase in street art starring Ford himself, but there’s also been a noticeable increase in the amount of interest paid to graffiti and street art as a whole, as many different artists have entered into a practice of one-upmanship to claim space on the city’s most sought-after walls and alleyways. For over a year now, James Gen Meers and Kelli Kieley have worked to document it all with their forthcoming film Between the Lines, which tackles the politics of the mayor’s war on graffiti and provides an overview of those involved in the exploding scene.
“Rob Ford basically opened up a Pandora’s box when he declared his war on graffiti,” says Meers. “We set on this journey to uncork the conversation on public space and street art because of all the rhetoric we were hearing from the city. Since then, the project has snowballed into something much bigger—into something that looks at the politics and subculture of graffiti and street art, and acts a narrative of Toronto’s scene and those who are involved in it.”
Along with the film’s director Jake Chirico, Meers and co-producer Kieley have now unveiled the first trailer for Between the Lines (it’s embedded above), and are currently working with a new Hot Docs initiative called Ignite to raise cash for their project. “The irony of Ford is that he’s now seen by some as the ‘art mayor,’ because he’s provoked and polarized so many people, so you now get artists like Deadboy and Spud who are doing almost-mocumentary-style art, and that’s also something we’re trying to document,” says Meers.
Since starting his campaign over a year ago, Meers says that support from the graffiti community has been both unanimous and overwhelming. Next Thursday, July 19, the Open Roof Festival will be hosting a screening of the trailer, with live music and a live art session, before showing Angad Bhalla’s Herman’s House. Meers hopes that the film will be finished by the end of 2012, with a theatrical release in 2013.