'Watching My Name Go By' gives us a look back at some footage from the early days of graffiti, before the boom, and before any associations with hip-hop.
Made in 1976, this mini doc aired on the BBC and other than some pieces spliced into the 'Beat This!' hip hop documentary in 1984, the footage has rarely been seen since. Until some clever sod dusted it down, gave it a new soundtrack and put it on the internet. What a wonderful time to be alive..
The start is so typical early BBC that it could almost be a parody. The narrator is painfully English, using words like 'surreptitiously', and with the fast paced media we're used to today I wondered if this doc was going to keep my attention for a full twenty five minutes. My fears are alleviated as soon as I start seeing the battered streets of New York and some familiar names on the walls. The voice of a young writer talks about having a name "to get up with", showing how early on this phrase was used, and I'm hooked.
There is a lot of talking that over-lays the footage and it's frustrating to not know who is saying what; not so much with the standard sound bites but with the insightful comments it would be nice to know if we're listening to a lawyer, psychologist, graffiti writer or street cleaner. There's a particular section where a woman's voice describes the "bang up job" the writers are doing on the subway, she's so passionate and descriptive about the art, who is this woman??!
One person we do get to see is a guy in the street, about ten minutes in, with my favourite quote of the piece "The message is revolution, I look and I know it's there".
There's some names in here that graffiti fans will recognise, most notably Cliff 159 as his work is all over this doc. Don1 is the star of the show and it's fun hearing him talk considering that, due to a psychological condition, since 1978 the artist has lead a reclusive life. He's wearing a Bad Company shirt (not a DJ Kool Herc shirt, kids!) and we get to see him put a piece together on the street as if it were legal. A spontaneous chat sparks up with a member of the public and it's great to see this positive interaction with the layman, as this doc does a great job at giving a balanced view of this new emerging artform.
If you have a spare twenty minutes then I fully recommend checking this out!
- August 14, 2015
- PROOF London