Few of us have the chance to truly make a difference with our art, lets take note from those who have.
Craig Dershowitz is one of those people who is consistently full of surprises. Maybe its a Coney Island thing, I don’t know. Not everything he touches turns to gold, but he’s got that attitude like he touches a lot of gold. The only way to describe it is in the immortal words of EARSNOT – “If you find yourself needing to be cool one of these days, come see me, I’ll hook you up”.
AS: For those who don’t know you, and to remind the people who do… Who the fuck are you?
CD: I am Craig Dershowitz. Thank you kindly for asking. By title, I am the President of Artists 4 Israel. I am the former Editor-in-Chief of BOMBIN’ Magazine and a few other things I prefer not to mention.
AS: Rumor has it you are the notorious Bobby Fisher too, right?
CD: I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor, Senator. But, that Bobby Fisher character was a funny dude.
Do you remember when he picked a fight with the kids from MTV’s Fat Camp?
I prefer when he stole Bobbito’s sneakers. But, yeah, I wonder how that blog-running, clothes-designing, culture-vulturing young gent is doing these days
AS: I first met you when you were involved with the now defunct Bombin’ Magazine and putting together the famed “Writers Strike” show in NYC. I still hear people talking about it. So many writers have a strong anti art gallery mentality, how did the opening become such a success?
CD: BOMBIN’ Magazine released a shirt that said “I am not an Artist, I’m a Vandal” and that was the mentality which permeated our magazine. Artists responded to that and knew their work would be seen in the most appropriate light. Oh yeah, and, as mentioned, I also might have written under a pseuodnym at that time which was highly influential in the community.
Funny enough, we sold very little so, at least we were consistent with the stay broke mentality of the culture. But, we did have a packed audience and some excited VS attendees. It was a shame to see them sitting outside in the cold all night. I offered to get them some coffee and donuts but they declined. I hope they didn’t catch a cold – that would be sad
AS: I remember that. What a crazy week. SMART CREW rocked the side of the building. Some dude was catching Blood tags on the NOXER piece at the opening. CAP and Michael De Feo put their work up side beside. The graffiti community is such a complex one! you must have some crazy stories from your involvement in it (Is “Graffiti Community” an oxymoron?).
CD: Funny thing is – it is, at once, completely true and completely oxymoronic.
There is so much disagreement infighting, rumors, innuendo and bitch-made men in the game yet, at the same time, it is completely insular. Outsiders have to work hard to get in. There is a whole language, both verbal and visual that only the initiates know.
Craziest shit though? I am pleading the 5th. One day, I am going to write a tell-all book about the inventive ways dudes get over. You get a royalty for pushing it on this here blog.
AS: Don’t leave us hanging homie, I know you got some yarns to spin.
CD: Nah – buy the back copies of BOMBIN’ – I heard Bobby Fisher needs a new Caddy.
AS: You ever catch flack from VS for being associated with these people?
CD: Currently, I run an Israeli advoacy group so the hateful ignorance and harassment I receive is from a far more powerful source. But, as you mention in your other questions, I was once “involved” with BOMBIN’ Magazine. The cops made a habit of raiding our personal spaces. Thankfully, none of my friends nor anyone I ever associated with or will ever associate with has ever done anything illegal. So, we good.
AS: Moving away from a strictly graffiti focused publication to more of a gallery environment must have been quite a change.
CD: I prefer the graffiti community to the gallery scene fully. The gallery scene is a bunch of hype, glad-handlers and PR companies paid to tell you which one of the 10 people doing the same shit deserve your attention. In the graff world, it is a true democracy, people elect who does and does not have cred. Further, it is a meritocracy whereby skill, dedication and hard work are rewarded. Someone should really consider raising their children by the graff code.
AS: What artists inspire you these days?
CD: The way I operate is classic mixed with the new-new.
Just spent a long car trip with COL Wallnuts, SKI and 2ESAE and I don’t think we listened to more than 5 hip-hop songs. Other than Action Bronson and the whole SMART CREW coalition, I have no need for new hip-hop these days. Instead, I am digging in the archives for…wait for it…good country and bluegrass. Call Jack White, ask him what he is listening to and I’m on that. Also, there is a ripe experimental jazz scene right now. Stay with Sun Ra but there are a bunch of other dudes crazy style right now.
For tattoos, I am doing the same combination of old and new. Currently getting work by Seth Wood who is blessing my skin with that neo-traditional style. I am also waiting for Claire Reid to return from Australia to give me her powerful no-line work. Of course, she will be apprenticing me so I am feeling myself right now too.
AS: Speaking of tattoo, you are Jewish and have more tattoos than most people I know. Isn’t that a faux pas of sorts?
CD: I am involved in the Israeli Advocacy community and, as one who is tattooed and well versed in the arts scene, I cut quite a rebellious picture. Can’t you tell by my slang-ridden answers? Just like with BOMBIN’ – that devil may care style and loyalty to self serves you well, no matter what you look like.
AS: How does it go over with your elders or die hard members of the jewish faith?
CD: Almost everyone I’ve ever met who is faithful has very little problem. They don’t approve and wish I would stop collecting but they don’t judge my character or person based on my physical appearance.
AS: That is such a great mentality, certainly one we could use more of. You mentioned your involvement with the Israeli Advocacy community. Are you referring to your work with Artists 4 Israel? School us, son.
CD: Surely, I am quite happy to provide schooling….son..Artists 4 Israel is a community of creative individuals working together in collaborative projects expressing Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. Alright, enough of this bourgie language. Let me get real. Artists 4 Israel is the Security Fence against cultural terrorism. In other words, “there is a war going on outside.” That war is for the hearts and minds of the young generation. The terrorists have serious cheese, mostly from selling oil and drugs, and they use that to buy off performers and artists and have them spread bullshit lies about Israel. Other artists they exploit. This leads to a big, fucking, self-perpetuating circle. A4I is the only organization with the understanding of the game and the cojones to fight back. We educate artists on the truth – about how Israel supports the arts and provides freedom of speech and expression – the bedrocks on which art can be created – and expect these artists to come up with unique ways to spread that message. And, also, “Yo”
AS: A lot of writers, vandals and artists alike, have started to push A4I. How have you created such an awareness among this group of people?
CD: Graffiti is a community that disrespects boundaries and distrusts the apparatus of lies and manipulation. Be it VS or a PR machine hired by a corrupt dictator of an Arab country, it is the same ol’ bs – people trying to squash free speech. We’ve seen it a million times – people who talk real greezy about graff but ain’t never touched a can. You need to educate the masses, man. Get up.
The further and most important way we’ve made such an impact is that we have brought artists to Israel to see for themselves. When you have physically witnessed events that completely repudiate the propaganda of Israel’s enemies, when you paint bomb shelters where innocent Israeli children hide from rockets launched from Gaza, when you are denied access to Arab countries because you are black but are welcomed with open arms by Israelis…you learn quick and you tell the story. Stay Up!
Shout to the over 500 artists on deck. Knowing you, I am certain there is going to be a shout out section at the end of this interview so I will wait patiently to give specific shine.
AS: Hey man, give credit where credit is due, that’s all I’m saying. Does A4I rep other types of art or is it strictly a graffiti mindset.
CD: We are across the board. Among much else, we have done indie rock concerts, hip-hop shows, fine art shows, experimental theater, photography shows, life drawing classes, we hold down studios in BK for all kinds of artists. I lost my breath. The list is long
AS: You’ve brought this project all over the country and too places graffiti doesn’t traditionally belong. What are some responses you have received from this?
CD: There is an incredibly desire for truth and information these days. We are the freaking Anonymous of Israel, the MegaUpload of graffiti. People are sick of misinformation so we bring the truth to wherever it need be.
AS: Tell us about the A4I trips to Israel, bomb shelters, israeli crews, army chic’s, etc.
CD: Man, this would be a novel. We have done three public trips to Israel (figure that out). The first was to paint the bomb shelters in Sderot. Sderot is a small, quiet town that sits on the border of the Gaza Strip. There are absolutely no Jews or Israelis in Gaza yet the citizens there still claim to be fighting “oppression.” They fight this fight by indiscrimately launching rockets against Israeli elementary schools. Cool, right? While there, we also painted a secret location where victims of spousal abuse are saved. Our second trip was to Ariel, a beautiful town that has a Center for the Performing Arts. The enemies of Israel tried to “boycott” this Center. It is amazing to me how, constantly, Israel tries to create beauty and our enemies try to destroy. Graff heads are no stranger to censorship and being denied spaces to do their work. So, we went and broke the blockade. Our final trip the areas that people consider “contested” to see the truth. I have so many antecdotes and amazing stories about what our artists encountered in Israel. I saw NICER praying right where Jesus died. I saw SKI ACC jump into an archeological dig. CYCLE TC5 watched Israel deliver a truck full of aid to Gaza. UTAH and ETHER got attacked and stoned by enemies of Israel BELIN painted a giant mural on the Security Fence asking for peace. BIK ISMO touched the hearts of so many girls when we painted a shelter for at-risk girls in Dolev. SUE WORKS was hugged by crying Israelis who appreciated all the work he had done.
The graff scene out there is incredible. They have this crazy Old School style they learned on the internet and have also adopted a European flair. In particular, the Trash style is giant right now and I really see it creeping into America through LA and now into NY.
The army is made up of the most loving, beautiful teenagers who don’t want to be on the front lines but they know their freedom is at stake. Ask 2ESAE about how he expected to meet stone cold killers and instead, touched by their warmth and humanity, ended up playing guitar and singing songs with them. Plus, yeah, there is something about a hot girl with an M16.
AS: I’m looking forward to that novel! What sort of push back has A4I received from other people/communities/groups?
CD: You mean besides the death threats, our websites being hacked and our artists being stoned? Unfortunately, the enemies of Israel and the enemies of Artists 4 Israel are so without any serious, intelligent gripe that they must use hate and violence. Its ok, we are built for that.
AS: You recently were given an award for your work with A4I, how did this come about?
CD: I am truly honored that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu honored me as one of the most important young Israeli advocates. In specific, I came to his attention through Birthright Israel when they were asked to identify their top alumnae who had made a difference in the world. I was on a very short list, from what I was told. They flew me to Israel and at a giant concert, with over 3,000 people and my “story” being told on the Jumbotron, I was presented an award. Unfortunately, an hour later as I was dancing to the hugely popular Israeli band that was playing, I broke the award. But, the memory lives on. Seriously though, to share a stage with PM Netanyahu is incredibly humbling. He has an aura and a confidence that is unrivaled. People are enthralled by him. All I could manage to do was wave my flag around as I got off stage and get a reaction from the New Yorkers in the crowd. Luckily, the documentary film they made in my honor spoke well about the work of Artists 4 Israel.
AS: What does the future hold for mister Dershowitz outside of the projects you have already worked on?
CD: I am grown and mature now. I am giving up the hustle. Just trying to be humble and live right in Gds sight.
As far as A4I – Going to transform A4I from the black yet all powerful sheep of the Israeli community into the biggest thing since Ramen noodles. I am mad at every other major Israeli advocacy org because they are not doing what they should and I plan on replacing them.
AS: How do people get down with the cause?
CD: info@artists4israel. Operators are standing by.
AS: Juice Crew or BDP?
CD: Queens has been soft since BDP destroyed the Bridge. Period.
AS: Vans or Cons?
CD: Toms – save the earth and its children.
AS: Fills or pieces?
CD: Hollow after hollow after hollow after hollow after hollow. I am not an artist, I am a vandal.
AS: Alright fucko, take a deep breathe and give me some shout outs.
CD: Tara Gordon and Seth Wolfson of Artists 4 Israel. CAPZOOLA and my spiritual advisor, Lalo. POBE MPH. BRAS MPH. My Israeli providers of the finest art – AFK (Always Fresh Kids) and SMD (Style Must Die), Dase Boogs, DJ Soul Supreme, SILO16, RISTO ROCKET, BAMER, of course, BELIN and the entire OGT consciousness. SKI and 2ESAE – My Stress Therapy. COL. I only roll with true friends these days. HERM LIFE! CYCLE, LADY PINK and TC5, UTAH and ETHER – Made U Look. Bobbie Grei – the best of both Bobbies. Meyhem Lauren and the Outdoorsmen. NEMS and the FYL hordes. Lo-Lifes.. And, as always, it is my great pleasure to ask that Brooklyn Stand Up!
AS: Rack that POLO, son! Stay up Mr. Dershowitz, it’s always a pleasure.
(Editors note. Thats the Hook Up does not endorse illegal activities such as “racking”, vandalism or the endorsement of the Juice Crew.)