Arts Desk

DC Punk 2008 Part 6: The Borf Brigade

Closing out our series, we asked the members of the Borf Brigade to collectively reflect on the state of the arts in 2008:

2008.  The international year of planet earth for the moment. Art is dead, and this dead horse sure can run.  So, when the Borf Brigade, a group of dilettantes, trouble-makers, and anti-socialites was asked to write about the past year for the City Paper, we had a good chuckle. In keeping with the usual boredom and posturing of the indoor art industry, we decided to flex our art review jargon and report on the notable… uh, stuff… of this year in "art."

This year saw the end of local stronghold for miscreants and youth, the Bobby Fisher Memorial.  Located just blocks from the former Crispus Attucks Museum and Youth Center, this majestic palace, which had been semi-squatted on a tenuous lease since 2007, was the site of many dingy punk shows, as well as some of the city's finer wall scribbling exhibitions. Powered by generator and wired by extension chords, our Acropolis hosted a single MC battle, the first east coast appearance in five years by legendary slop-punk band The Bananas, the 7 foot signature of Cool Disco Dan, and top of the line non-art-market affiliated "art."

The "Best Graffiti Crew" title goes to the D.P.W. (Department of Public Works). Graffiti is usually thought of as the illegal application of paint or re-facing surfaces without the approval of a property owner. Since the passage of mayor Fenty's aggressive abatement measures in 2007 the D.P.W. has been doing it best.  But only this year did they come into their own and show their true colors, (usually burgundy and grey). Their beautifully hand painted squares on public and private property transcend the conventions of the hastily sprayed nicknames of disempowered youths, leaving us wondering… how do they get away with it?

The best painting of 2008 was realized by local kid, Malorie Something-Something, when she snuck out late one November night with a gallon of flat black latex paint and a cheap brush.  Alone, she painted an entire playground black. When asked about her intentions behind the piece, Malorie said she did it because "flat black is the best color."

Easily, the best political performance piece of the year was executed by the "Big Three" of the auto industry.  Utilizing relics from a time long past, the CEOs arrived in Washington via private luxury jets, a very hip and retro comment on the bourgeois excess of the now archaic age of American capitalism.

Wait, what about when Nick's dog shat on Donald Rumsfeld's lawn?

Yeah, that too.

To finish off the year of the potato, the city sadly decided to close one of our favorite permanent installations, the free distribution of bus transfers.  The bus transfer exhibit was easily the most socially moving exhibit the city had to offer.  It moved us freely to and from all corners of the city.

The Borf Brigade is an arts collective that claimed responsibility for a wave of vandalism in the District and other cities that ended in the arrest of founder John Tsombikos in 2005, as well as a series of video communiques and an art exhibition.  Their gallery space, the Bobby Fisher Memorial Center, closed this year.

All contributors to this series were guests on DISSONANCE, a DC punk oral histories show on Radio CPR. John Tsombikos and the Borf Brigade's interview can be heard here.

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