Urban interventions by street artist and designer XAM
With his series of urban birdhouses and feeders, street artist XAM not only provides a proper habitat for birds (grounded on thorough research and extensive observation) but also a strong social and political commentary. His interventions in public spaces contrast the notion of collective ownership with the personal ownership inherent in their ephemeral quality that allows for easy removal and re-appropriation. Reflecting on the current economic and housing crisis, his Non-Dwelling units have “For Sale,” “Price Reduced,” “Foreclosure,” and “Bank Owned” signs glued to the main opening, making it inaccessible to birds. Will they ever be able to live in the once vacant homes?
As an uncommissioned artist of the public space, my work is always created with the idea of ownership in mind. I want my work to be experienced and interpreted by the viewers who encounter my art, but due to the fact that it is found in the built environment, illegally placed and purposely removable, I have to take into consideration that the idea of public communal ownership can be short-lived.
I create contemporary modular birdhouses that assemble like a 3-D puzzle and hang from city signs. The focus of my project is not only to give back to nature, but also to give to the surrounding communities where my work is found. The work I create is about opening minds to sustainability and a more conscious way of living.
My art of the street has permanence only if the public and city allows it to stay. Each unit I create is very labor intensive, yet I give it to the community and no longer own what I have created. Since my work is so easily taken down, people have the opportunity to own it themselves, even though I look at my art as something that belongs to everyone. With the way my art functions, I challenge the moralities of the person who removes it.
Located on every architectural object I produce is a small QR Code that is only experienced when my work is taken off the sign it sits upon. When scanned, facts regarding birds and the ways we can benefit from them are revealed. The viewer is then asked a question regarding their reasoning for the removal of the unit and given my email address to contact me about any concerns or comments. I am curious as to why something that I made for the education of the surrounding community and the benefit of an animal that has had to adapt to the urban environment has been removed and taken by one person.
I returned the following night to document my unit some more and to see how the community was reacting to it. When I arrived the piece was gone. I asked some people nearby what had happened and I got a lead from a lady that it had been relocated down the block.Sure enough it had been claimed by a person who owns what seems to be one of the largest sections of Skid Row. The unit now has a new home on 6th and San Julian.
I asked the man how he had moved the 140-pound birdhouse and he basically told me he worked his magic. I asked how he was able to claim it and he told me that he saw the house early the morning after my drop and put his blanket on it, which let the community know that the non-dwelling was his. I asked what he plans to do with the piece and he told me that he wants to use it for storage and later a store, but his friend wants to use it for a brothel.
XAM is a street artist and designer with a strong interest in architecture and design objects. His art represents the architect/designer in the world of street art. XAM’s work seeks to ask questions regarding morality and social acceptance of un-commissioned public art.