The Underbelly Project has come and gone with only a few witnesses to attest to its reality. Not just a great body of work, it's a question of publicity, motivation and pride.
Organizers of The Underbelly Project, Workhorse and PAC, revealed the existence of a secret art exhibition 4 stories below street level in New York City over the weekend. Quickly thereafter, they covered their tracks and sealed the entrance to the unfinished subway station that hosted their work and work of roughly a hundred other artists from around the world.
While Vandalog and Luna Park on The Street Spot have first hand accounts of what they saw in this unfinished subway station in New York City, the writer for the NYTimes article, not so definitively, captured many of the contradictions that brew beneath the surface of the graffiti and street art community.
Cryptic messages passed between artists and photographers to make this project what it is, but its message has been delivered in the most direct-to-the-masses medium: The newspaper. With one foot planted on the streets and in the tunnels that broke them in, and another testing the waters of the art world that pays them, the artists ask that The Underbelly Project be remembered as folklore. How can that be? Folklore, by definition, is a collection of stories passed on through generations by word of mouth. It also implies a bit of mystery.
What is truly mysterious these days? Is The Underbelly Project anymore mysterious to you than a project carried out in a remote part of the world? One reader in rural Ohio and another in urban Los Angeles consume this project in the depths of NYC the same way they consume an art festival in Tel Aviv or an artist's attempt to paint an entire town in rural Brazil: On the internet, with pictures, and sometimes video. The likeliness that either will see the work firsthand is low. So how can we ask that one is for folklore and the others retired to faint memory?
In the past, spreading stories, legends and kings may have only been through word of mouth. The train carried your name, and the reaches of your name were only as far as the tracks would take you. But with the internet and travel, the world is simultaneously getting bigger and smaller at the same time. We use this platform (the Internet) to share stories, personas and photos. Which story will affect us the same way as the unwritten stories of our ancestors' past? Only time can tell.
Outside of all of these questions that we put to you, there is no doubt that The Underbelly Project has succeeded in a feat that will be admired around the world. Without a huge crowd to observe their work, as most work on the streets are observed by the masses of cars and pedestrians, the organizers wanted to spread the news through a few writers. They used the connections they had at their disposal to the best of their ability. And clearly, they painted and pieced amazing and admirable work. Urban crawlers around the world are in awe of the adventure and envious of the adrenaline.
Thank you to Luna Park for sharing her photos with FatCap for this article.