I first arrived in Denmark from Syria on 2008 to study and further develop my artistic inclinations. On a recent journey back to Copenhagen I was invited to go walking with a good friend. She took me to visit a mural she had just finished in a vibrant immigrant community called Vanløse. There under a railway bridge, looking at her I had become completely overwhelmed by all the layers of paint and engaging conversations occurring across the surfaces. In that wall that defined some imagined border of a community, for a ground, for color and form, I could recognize names barely legible, under a history of intentional concealment. I got close to that wall and managed to make out two of the four words buried deep under veils of oil and acrylic; the names of two nations once engaged in a tremendous battle. Two other words I had never previously learned, but which my friend could easily translate for me were also hovering there in the wall, enacting their own meaning. . .
In that complex microcosm of geopolitical neighborhoods these hidden words reached out through a place and time that we usually consider as having had long past. Under generations of the streets activity, a slogan, a command had been covered up: USA UD A VIETNAM. I was struck. Surprised by the intentional layers of lacquer that had accrued over the years, obscuring the message, trying to hide it - a glimpse at a language that encompasses the struggle to life without oppression or hierarchical domination – an arching script that resonates deeply with my own histories, experiences, concerns and understandings.
I hadn’t to think about it - we went and got a brush, my friend offered some paint, and with high attention to detail and precision, I withdrew the old text from the wall, filling in the positive space of where those words were once legible. The wall spoke again - directly, simply. I traced the fresh message from the wall to make a stencil and we left without too much trouble.
It was not difficult for me to make many stencils and send them out to my brothers and sisters out there in the networked world - to ask them to enable the stencils intentions. After some time I began to receive images from my colleagues with the glyphs of freedom, the hope, USA UD A VIETNAM appearing again in vietnam itself, England, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Denmark, Syria, Yemen, UAE, Palestine, Germany, Afghanistan and many different countries worldwide. I collected all these images and made them into postcards, sending them in sets back to each person involved, amplifying and redistributing, gifting and sharing. I later placed 1000 printed sets in the exhibition space where people could just have them.
Critically interested in the collapse of insidious dominance, I continued to consider ways of extending and sharing the simplicity that was our first action with the words and later stencil - to extrude and hone the meaning further. I contacted a friend working in a Danish company with the ability to stream live video. My friends’ mural and the graffiti were suddenly transposed to a gallery in Germany, life size, across land and sea. The German gallery was streamed back to Denmark, teleported, redistributed at the same time - iterative. (*the image on the top)
When those four simple words were beckoning from beneath a past that had numerous attempts at its total erasure and annihilation, I had had no conception or idea that it would take on such a life of its own, I merely felt the relevance. Now the graffiti has a wider existence - in many settings and directions including and extending the original specificity in which it had so abruptly found me one cold afternoon in Copenhagen. The message is vibrant again - full scale at DISTRICT - sharing walls that are not impenetrable, but that shift and transform with the pulse. In 2013 the original Danish stencil made its way into Vietnam, a country where there is only the first blossoms of a graffiti culture, let alone open cultural criticism - but its happening, its emerging - the message is spreading through their walls and cities from a younger generation with paint and a hope. This is one of few large scale projects I have been lucky enough to be involved in, but we do still need to increase our capacities, to amplify our spirit, our shared resilience and to direct all of our energies into the clearly visible, wide open future of our own making.
''USA UD A VIETNMAMD' in different cities in Vietnam