Moseley Mural: 4 Seasons
Aerasol Arabic | Mohammed Ali | Soul City Arts

Moseley Mural: 4 Seasons

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Over the past two weeks i have been working on a mural in Moseley on the site of the old Meteor Ford Garage. Its been a total eyesore pver the past few years- a run down building surrounded by white hoardings, a site i drive past nearly every day on my way home.

I’ve painted murals in cities in different parts of the world, commissioned by city authorities, from New York to Melbourne Australia, and i’ve enjoyed giving something back to these communities. Painting murals with a message is what i love to do, encouraging people to think about various themes around creating a better society, addressing issues like racism and segregation, or sometimes spiritual and more contemplative themes, such as in this case in Moseley – the beauty of Nature. The idea for this mural was to take people through the cycle of the four seasons, from Winter through to Autumn and the journey of a seed as it grows and flourishes- something i feel we don’t reflect upon enough – the marvels of life and nature that surrounds us in the concrete jungles we exist in.

During our busy lives on our way to work – what do we ever see in the form of public art that might make us stop in our tracks and ponder for a moment? Taking time out for things we take for granted…

So when i was approached about the opportunity to paint in Moseley, i jumped at the rare chance to give something back to my community, more closer to home. I’ve painted other murals in my home city of Birmingham, but this one was rather different. I created tree structures that were in-relief, that sat away from the wall itself. With secure fixings, the trees almost came out at you, and at different times of the day, it was wonderful to see the shadows of the tree that cast back onto the wall. So it was a kind of mix of paint mural art, combined with sculpted forms made from wood.

After nearly 3 weeks of work, half in the studio and half on-site in the scorching sun, as well as thunderstorms, me and my team had now completed the mural. Here are the pictures of the completed mural. However sadly within 24 hours it was vandalised with Anti-Tesco scrawls across the entire mural. The site formerly belonged to Tesco who are in the process of selling it on.

Sadly within 24 hours of the mural completion the mural was vandalised with anti-Tesco scrawls:

More Anti-Tesco vandalism

More Anti-Tesco vandalism

 

Soul in the machine launch event

I”m choreographing a performance bringing poet David j along with the art of Khyle raja as a live event where the Wacom tablet meets the spray an!

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The Future Cube

The latest cube painted at the university of Exeter- where the cube is still on display

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Islam & Creativity / Exeter University

I’ll be painting the cube at Exeter University over a number of days… come on by… more info here>> 

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Events Timetable: For a pdf of the flyer (2.3MB), click here.

Tuesday 11 June

(University Open Day), 11am–4pm: Aerosol Arabic creates a Spinning Cube outside the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies on the Exeter University Streatham Campus.

Wednesday 12 June

10am–4.30pm: Aerosol Arabic creates The Reformulate Cube in the Grand Hall Piazza, University of Exeter, with sounds from Celt Islam from 2pm–4.30pm 5.00pm: Free Refreshments in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Round Table Discussion including discussions with Aerosol Arabic and Celt Islam, and Reception. 8.00pm–11pm: Resonate & Reformulate Party with free Baraka BBQ, and performance from Celt Islam.

Thursday 13 June

10am–3pm: Aerosol Arabic completes the Reformulate Cube in the Grand Hall Piazza with sounds from Celt Islam from 12noon–2.30pm. 1.30pm–3.00pm Commentary on the Cube by Aerosol Arabic and music production demonstration with Celt Islam (aimed at school-age children; for bookings of 10 or more, contact m.baig (at) exeter.ac.u

The Islamic Reformulations project investigates how Muslim belief has developed and reformulated through theology, spirituality and the creative arts.

 

Soul In The Machine

Mohammed Ali has created a powerful video sequence for the new upcoming visual arts exhibition of Khyle Raja:

Mohammed Ali paints at The Vatican / PRESS RELEASE


UK MUSLIM GRAFFITI ARTIST PAINTS AT THE VATICAN

22nd April 2013 – For Immediate Release

Award-winning Birmingham street-artist Mohammed Ali joined a Kuwaiti princess, a Jesuit astronomer, a former NBA star and the Cuban-American singing sensation Gloria Estefan to take part in the first ever TEDx event at the Vatican.

The conference, which took place on 19th April 2013, focused on the theme of “Religious Freedom Today” and is part the new Pope Francis’ mission for religious understanding.  The event enabled  a number of international speakers an 18 minute ‘inspiring talk’ to a packed auditorium of around 1000 people, just minutes away from St Peters Basilica.  The event was streamed live to almost a million viewers around the globe.

Mohammed Ali is an artist who has a reputation for huge, thought-provoking urban art installations in cities across the globe. The main aim of his art is to connect people of different faiths. Mohammed was the only British presenter invited to the event and he began his talk by speaking about how humanity began by using art to communicate ideas and messages to the world everywhere from the spray painted subways of New York City to the frescoed underground catacombs in Rome.

Ali said, ‘Art gives people the opportunity to share new ways of connecting and communicating’.

Following a short speech, Ali painted a live mural on the stage with the flourish and flair of a musical conductor. He sprayed aerosol paint, swept brush strokes and slapped a paint-soaked board against a dark gray makeshift wall turning it into a piece of art. The words “freedom” in English and Arabic appeared before a city of basilicas and minarets under a rose-colored sky.

Already a global phenomenon lauded for its commitment to “ideas worth spreading,” TED.com’s online talks are gaining attention in Italy and other European countries through similarly locally organized “TEDx” events.  The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture had embraced the initiative coming from a group of academics in Rome, perhaps a symbolic gesture from the new pontiff that he wants a Vatican that is far more open and inclusive to the wider, non-Catholic world.

One of the organizers of TEDxViadellaConciliazione, Giovanna Abbiati, explains how the speakers were selected:

“At the beginning, we really scoured the earth,” she says, looking for the right people to address the conference: “from Mexico to China, from Nigeria to Serbia…(looking) for people who have real stories to tell about religious freedom.”

Mohammad Ali said, ‘It was an absolute honour to attend this first TEDx event in the Vatican State and hope that my live mural evoked a sense of religious freedom via art’.

For more information on the event visit the website: http://www.tedxviadellaconciliazione.com

 

If Walls Could Speak – Now Over..for now

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By Mohammed Ali Aka AerosolArabic (founder of Soul City Arts)

Its been exactly one week since If Walls Could Speak showcased in the city of Birmingham to an audience of 400.  This time last week i was getting text messages, ‘any chance of squeezing any tickets, they telling us its sold out..’  I had to resist from replying with  ‘Did i not warn you? I told you it would sell out….’  There really was was no more room. There were queues winding around the building in a way i have never seen before.  The theatre had never been so exciting.  The word has spread in the city, that if Walls Coulf Speak was the show to be at.

Indeed the show was exactly what i had hoped for, sold out over two nights in a venue that many would never normally engage with.  Young and old gathered. Black, White, Asian, Arab and everything in-between came together.  Its taken me a week to recover and gather my thoughts on a theatrical performance, that has taken so much out of me.  I have put my entire life on stage.  My story, of the area known as Sparkbrook. The place that i was born, and where my father settled, after journeying across the world.  The true stories of me helping my dad in his restaurant since i was 11 years old, the things i had seen, i had felt, and it was time to share that.  Sharing a part of me, that i felt had made me what i am today.  Yet the story wasn’t an egotistical exploration of me – but ‘me’ was everyone, it was those unheard voices, it was untold stories that have never been given that platform before.  Do you ever hear the voice of the waiter in the restaurant that had to deal with drunk, racist customers?  That was a voice i wanted to share.  It made me who i am today, it makes me do what i do today, which is scream out, and want to make a connection.  Connect people. Thats what i’m about. Even if the stories you hear make both sides feel uncomfortable.  I had to explore this.  I create art that has to serve a purpose, not just a load of eye-candy, good art has to stir people within, whatever that feeling is, it has to make you feel things you’ve never felt before.   Thats why i do what i do.

I’ve been dabbling for a while now in bringing together different mediums into one space, in particular the live-painting element.  As a graffiti artist for the past 20 years, it occurred to me that the movement of a street-artist painting a mural was almost a performance in itself.  The large sweeps of the arm, through to the delicate thrusting of the wrist finessing those intricate details, i felt i had to bring my performance of paintings into a different dimension.  Having worked in the games industry for 5 years, i had a passion for bringing different mediums into one place, immersing the viewer into an all-round ‘experience’ much like how i was producing graphics for video games, taking the gamer into a different world.  Combining my live painting with the lush vocals of a jazz vocalist, combined with the rawness of MCs and Poets, set to the backdrop of video projections – the story of inner city Sparkbrook in the heart of the city of Birmingham was being told in exceptional ways.  This was exciting.  United Kingdom sit up and take note, because the untold stories of a people that one might assume as sterile and unimaginative are coming forward.rt

Reading some of the reviews that have been circulating over the net over the past week have been great to read, especially as they are so on-point.  They capture pretty much exactly what we had aimed for, exploring the questions we had hoped to embed within the audience.   The show gave no answers, but was designed to leave you with questions.  Following the show during the Q&A, there were plenty of questions for the cast, which lasted for around an hour.  People told me in the days to follow of how those questions and conversations continued on the  journey home from the theatre, and even into the late hours of the morning.  This is when i knew we had sparked off something special.  People had woken up.

What mattered to me more than anything was the people from the community of Sparkbrook who had turned up in big numbers, and how they felt.  The word got back to me… they were happy.  They were more than happy and felt proud to see their stories told that night.  Not only were these inner-city voices expressed loud and clear on a major platform, but they were told through the voices of world class performers, with the hype around the show being almost like that of a ‘big movie production!’

When i designed the branding for this show, from the flyer design to the video trailers circulating and even the posters for sale on the night, it had to be have so much hype that it would make the people feel proud.  This was a show that truly had to do justice to them.  This was a show that was delivered in style that made up for the fact that they had been misrepresented over the years. An area that was long forgotten and ignored.  This story had to make the people proud, and if my dad was alive today, it would make him proud of the story that had him in the centre of it.

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If Walls Could Speak – Birmingham Mail feature

Birmingham Mail feature

An article in the paper on the upcoming show If Walls Could Speak

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/things-to-do/graffiti-king-mohammed-ali-performs-1746557

If Walls Could Speak – Mohammed Ali’s account

homepage_bannerI love painting a street-corner mural, creating eye candy that engages the viewer in unique ways.  It was art that was breaking conventions, bursting outside of the gallery spaces, and spilling out onto the streets, the concrete jungle became the canvas.  For the past 10 years i’ve been fortunate to have travelled the globe painting murals in cities from Sydney to New York, from Dubai to Singapore and learning from these diverse societies about how, through art, we can bring about positive change. Bringing colour and meaning into the walls of the cities we live in, was my mission. But now  I wanted to take graffiti-art and take it to somewhere else.

I used to work in the  gaming industry for 5 years, many years ago. I would create graphics for the games, it was great at the time, a dream career. Kids still ask with excitement,  what games i made in my time!  Whilst doing that I learnt a lot about human engagement, using visuals and creating an ‘experience’ that would draw the user and immerse them into a different world, exploring all of the different senses of human beings.  Now it was time to take this 2D graffiti-art and engage the viewer in different ways.  Theatrical ‘Experiences’ i’d call them., not your conventional form that one might be used to, but taking the viewer inside of the paintings i was creating, working with artists of other mediums to create a rich experience, where visuals, sounds, poetry, video projections and light played with each other to stimulate the viewer in exciting ways.

If Walls Could Speak is a new theatrical experience, i’ve been putting together for a while now.  3 years ago, I put together Writing On the Wall at The REP theatre,  following that i did Breaking Down The Wall.  Both of these shows were an exploration of live-painting choreographed to performance poetry, video and light projections.  These were my attempts to push beyond the limits of what i was used to.

If Writing On the Wall was a blending of these different mediums 3 years ago, so what makes the upcoming show If Walls Could Speak so different?  The difference was this show explored something close to my heart – an area i was born and raised in, an area that has received widespread negative publicity in the media, whether it was the implementation of CCTV cameras monitoring the community, to the recent terror arrests.  This area was Sparkbrook, the place where my father opened his first Fish n Chip shop back in the 70’s.  It was a place i had fond memories of, growing up in quite a diverse community, from white Irish families to South Asian.  The community has radically transformed into a predominantly Asian-Muslim community, and perhaps seen as a little segregated now, where have the Irish and English families gone?  Are we that divided, are these problems around segregation that bad in the city that i was born in?  Great British society may celebrate its diversity today, but how did it get to where it is today, what were the stories of those people.

I felt it was time to explore these stories some of which i had experienced growing up, to explore untold stories of a community and how it evolved over the decades, the struggles of migrant communities that chose Sparkbrook as their home, and lived and worked in the city. I heard stories of the white racists skinhead gangs that would come into the area, to the hardwork of communities that worked in Birmingham’s BSA gun making factory – a place that was a livelihood for different communities, including my father and much of my family.  Mention BSA to anyone from the asian community or the English, and you will hear nostalgic stories from the 1940’s to the 1970’s.  Some of these common stories had to be shared.  We need to know our past – to appreciate where we are today, and some of that local history was buried deeply. Whilst we interviewed people who shared these moments, they became emotional, no-one had bothered to give such prominence to their stoies ever before. This show was going to be powerful.

To tell this story that i felt that was so important, i wanted to bring together artists, the best of the genres.  Which artists can i collaborate with to create an epic show.  The beauty of this show was that we have a diverse range of artists representing different genres, some of which i had grown up through my teenage years listening to, and now i was able to invite them to tell this story.  Cleveland Watkiss, with his lush jazz vocals, was known as the UK’s No.1 jazz vocalist, we have MC Conrad – a pioneer of Drum N Bass MC’ing, Birmingham’s current poet Laueate.Stephen Morisson-Burke,  RTKal – a renowned Grime MC, and Manchester’s Martin Visceral Stannage – all artists that connected with the vision- to explore art for social change, beyond art for art’s sake.  We brought in the creative genius Leo Kay to direct this epic show, and it showcases right in the heart of the city that i was born and raised – Birmingham, before it potentially hits the road to tour.

/Mohammed Ali – Visual Artist

If Walls Could Speak is on for two nights this coming Sunday and Monday
Buy Tickets from the MAC Website: 

The DreamCube is born @ WIEF Malaysia

I have just returned from Malaysia from the World Islamic Economic Forum, which takes place in various cities around the world every year.  It features mostly speakers  exploring business and finance, but for the past few years they have incorporated the creative industry as part of the program. Artistic director Asad Jafri (formerly working with IMAN in Chicago) was running the creative element, so was more than happy to be on board with someone like that heading it.  He was responsible in leading a festival in Chicago called Taking It To The Streets, where the likes of Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco were headline acts, so I had faith that this was going to be an epic event.  He pulled together artists from around the globe, and i was one of those.

I exhibited a collection of brand new canvas as part of the visual arts exhibition, but for the main program I decided to offer something different.  Thesedays I have been dabbling in bringing together different mediums such as sound, video, theatre and performing arts to deliver immersive experiences, sometimes in theatres, sometimes in public spaces, galleries or museums.  I am kind of drawing on my experience from working in the games industry, 5 years doing graphics for games.  Now it was time to apply that knowledge of immersing the user into a different dimension.  It was time for art to meet technology to meet spirituality, to create a unique digital, interactive sound and video instalation.

Over the past few years, aside from painting murals on the side of  buildings, I have been exploring how art can wrap around a cube structure, not as four individual paintings on each face of the cube, but rather how one piece of art  unravels around each corner.  I’ve painted these cubes in places like Sweden, Oman and the UK, where the cube have sat in public squares.  I then explored how i could spin the cube in front of a live audience, how the viewer didn’t have to walk around the cube, but i could bring all four faces of the cube to the viewer.  So then came the ‘Spinning Cube’ where i painted live as a performance – but collaborated with a poet and a percussion as part of the ‘live experience’

But at WIEF, the DreamCube was born.  Where the view could enter inside the cube.   We always ask, what is inside the box?  The box always contains a surprise, presents are wrapped inside of a box, jewels are kept inside of a box…  So it was time to take the audience inside of the box and take them to a different place.

To sum it up – its a digital sound and visual installation, that is interactive.  The audience upon entering the cube, in transported into another dimension.  I created an intimate experience, using colours, lighting, sound and visuals to create a unique expeirence inside the cube. The user, once inside, is encouraged to respond in two ways: a) Chosing a marker pen provided to scribe their visions of the future onto the walls b) Tweet their visions of the future onto the hashtag #DreamCube, communicating with people globally, as well as the tweets being projected onto a screen inside of the cube for others to see that enter inside. (Check out the tweets that came through > )

The concept of the ‘Dream Cube’ was inspired by Martin Luther Kings speech – ‘I have a dream…’  The need to dream, the need to hold onto our dreams and visions and work towards fulfilling those dreams.  So i wanted to give people the space to Dream of whatever they wanted, to make their dreams public, no matter how random they were.  Inside the cube, you can hear the poets voices echoing phrases like ‘What is your dream?”  ‘Hold onto your dreams’, ‘Express your inner-thoughts and visions’.

It took many months of editing sound and video to create the video/soundtrack that people saw and heard upon entering. I recorded sounds and video from 6 different artists from around the world to contribute to the experience.

The poets and lyricists  were as follows:

Tshaka Campbell (USA)
Shinji Moriwaki (Malaysia)
David J Pugilist (UK)
Mark Gonzales (USA)
MC Conrad (UK)
Liza Garza (USA)

How the arts combined with technology can truly touch the human soul, was something very powerful to witness.  I spoke to people upon stepping out of the cube, that were visibly moved and sometimes emotional.  People spoke of how the closed space inside forced them to reflect on the sights and sounds witnessed, and made them feel things they had never felt before.  Human beings want to express themselves, want to write their words and project their inner thoughts – but never have the space to do so.  Here inside this cube was the rare opportunity to do so, either anonymously scribing their words literally onto the walls – or digitally into the virtual world-wide-web.  It is an innate part of human nature to leave your mark and project your visions.  The DreamCube allowed people to do that, to ‘Think Inside of the Box’.
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I’m grateful to WIEF for making this happen for the first time, and all the support given by their team, especially Asad Jafri.  Also the poets that contributed with their recordings, without their contribution – the experience would not have been as powerful.

The DreamCube has only just been born,  Already there are others waiting to host the DreamCube.  The next appearance of the cube will take place in Malaysia once again on December 29th/30th in Putra Jaya International Convention Centre for the Twins of Faith event.  Come and experience it for yourself.  We won’t be putting up many pictures or video of it online.  We would rather you experience the DreamCube in person.