Show No. 13: Linz, Austria
The would-be graffiti genius that recorded the non sequitur above on the bathroom wall at Kapu in Linz was neither a trendspotter nor a trendsetter. After all, similar non sequiturs can be found on bathroom walls from Tallahassee to Timbuktu. But not all the graffiti that adorns this storied punk venue—a fine grand dame nestled a mere ten minutes walk from the very river memorialized by Johann Struass, Jr. in "The Blue Danube" (1867)—is so easily forgotten. Kapu's history is, quite literally, recorded on its walls.
This charming drawing depicts a stereotypical Austrian gentleman sporting lederhosen and a cap, the traditional garb worn by denizens living in and around the Alps. This Austrian gent is portrayed "rocking out" on a keyboard, to humorous effect. Because I am an uneducated American, I thought the gentleman pictured was "simply German." The promoter of my show at Kapu informed me that Austria's connection to Germany is more complex—Adolph Hitler, before establishing himself via the Beer Hall Putsch as H.N.I.C. ("Head Nazi in Charge,"), was a would-be art student starving on Linz's streets. Linz held a special place in the Fuhrer's heart—he planned to retire to the peaceable burg with his mistress Eva Braun after he had conquered the Allied Powers and established the 1,000 Year Reich. Indeed, the building that now houses Kapu was once home to the Hitler Youth. But, as has been documented elsewhere, Hitler and Braun killed themselves before reaching retirement. In the wake of their leader's suicide, the Hitler Youth disbanded, making way for a soon-to-be-discovered Nirvana to perform at Kapu for 40 people in 1989.
"The Apollo Program" is a complex piece notable for its many levels of ambiguous meaning. When I first viewed "The Apollo Program," I laughed—by depicting the lily-white pioneers of American spaceflight as African-American, I thought the graffiti wryly commented on institutionalized racism and, indirectly, the digital divide. I judged "The Apollo Program's" sophisticated double entendre—the signifier "Apollo" denotes "Showtime at the Apollo," a long-running television talent showcase featuring many African-American contestants—quite able. However, when I examined "The Apollo Program" a second and third time, I wondered if the artist had really intended to depict "African-Americans." Perhaps my premature conclusion betrayed my own nascent racism? Further internet research reveals that "Super Inframan" is the name of a film produced in Hong Kong. Thus, I must admit the possibility that those figures depicted in "The Apollo Program" are Asian. Such a compositional choice is no less funny—though, by making this observation, I again reveal myself as racist.
This is the graffiti "tag" of innovate San Francisco MC "Aceyalone." Once a member of the too-often overlooked Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone struck out on a solo career and met with some success, but not enough success to preclude the possibility that he has played Kapu. If he has played Kapu, I must conclude that Aceyalone tagged the walls of the club with his own hand. If this tag is the handiwork of Aceyalone himself, I must applaud his choice of placement. The vast majority of Kapu's graffiti is black Sharpie on white concrete. Aceyalone chose to express himself with black Sharpie on metal—specifically, the back of a doorjamb. His choice makes his tag stand out—"Aceyalone" is one of the most visible pieces of Kapu's voluminous graffiti collection. However, if this "Aceyalone" tag is not the work of Aceyalone, but of some imitator or fan, I must decry the piece as a forgery. Anyone who is running around Austria writing "Aceyalone" who is not Aceyalone himself needs a better hobby. (Of course, this observation comes from a man who has spent many hours evaluating this "Aceyalone" tag's authenticity.)