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Consolation of Ruin

The infamous "Borf" faceFor two weekends in May 2007, the Borf Brigade ran an art show called Consolation of Ruin out of the “Bobby Fisher Memorial Building” at 1644 North Capitol Street in Washington DC. The purpose of the event was to raise money to pay the $12,000 in court-ordered restitution of John Tsombikos, the person behind all the Borf tags seen around Washington, including the giant Bush Hates Borf tag seen near the Takoma Metro station. At this, they were successful, because according to Chuck Burgundy, the man who was running the show, all the artwork sold, covering all of Tsombikos’ restitution, and with any difference going towards suicide prevention. The show also went to great pains to ensure the artists’ anonymity.

I went down there on May 26th – Memorial Day weekend, and the second of the two weekends. It was very thought-provoking at various points, and also reminded me of a museum exhibit at times by the way it was set up.

My original plan was to give the “Borf show”, as it was commonly called, its full treatment as a Journal entry. However, considering the amount of times I’ve discussed Borf in my Journal, the fact that the Borf face made an appearance at the J27 demonstration, and the amount of pictures from the show that I wanted to show you, I decided to “promote” the event to a full photo set for Life and Times. So come follow me on my Saturday in DC, and let’s visit the Borf show…


First of all, boy, what a difference living up in the DC area makes. Now, I can go to Washington any time I want, and spend more time there, since I don’t have to make the three-hour car ride up from Stuarts Draft in the early morning, nor do I have to look forward to the same amount of travel time going back. I just drive the mile and some from my apartment to Glenmont station, and go on in.

Now I knew I was really early. That’s fine. All I was doing at this point was seeing where the place was. I got off the Metro at New York Avenue, and walked northwest on Florida Avenue. I made a big right turn on North Capitol Street, which is also the boundary between Northwest and Northeast. Going up North Capitol Street, I spotted the building – the “Bobby Fisher Memorial Building”, as it was called. It was fairly obvious that I was in the right place. There was a giant “Borf” tag on the side of the building.


"BORF" on the side of the Bobby Fisher Building


So now that I knew where it was, I could come back once the show opened later that day – once it cooled off a little bit. It was swelteringly hot outside. So in the meantime, I wandered over to the Infoshop for a while. Rather than walk the four blocks back to New York Avenue station, take two trains to get to Mt. Vernon Square, and then walk another four blocks to the Infoshop, I saved myself the trouble and went straight down Q Street for nine blocks and then one block down to P Street, where the Infoshop resides. Following the Infoshop, I went into Virginia for a bit, and then back to DC for the show!

Interestingly enough, while I was playing Scrabble Blast on the Metro on the way back to the Borf show, I was able to put together something very timely. It wasn’t a valid word of course, but still, it was weird…


"BORF" on Scrabble Blast


Somehow, it seems this game is almost a predictor of things to come. This is the same game where a few days before I got fired at Wal-Mart, I was able to put together “FIRED”, and a few days before being offered my current job, I was able to put together “HIRED”. Go figure.

Upon my arrival at the show, the first person I ran into was Chuck Burgundy, the promoter for the show, a man with a distinctly New England accent. He told me that the show was a complete success, and that everything had sold, completely covering John Tsombikos’s restitution, and that the balance would likely go towards suicide prevention. The only thing left for sale was some posters parodying the Sherwin Williams logo – it showed the Capitol Building being covered with paint, coming from a bucket with “BORF” written on it. The phrase “Cover the bastards” was written on the paint. Those were $40. I could pass that up.

One of the first things people saw coming in was a version of the famous photo of the man about to be shot in Vietnam. It kind of made you think because of what the image was made of – smiley face stickers.


As you can see, it was happy face stickers! It was definitely something to see this disturbing scene portrayed through happy face stickers. It seemed a touch "off", though that disconnect was by design.  As you can see, it was happy face stickers! It was definitely something to see this disturbing scene portrayed through happy face stickers. It seemed a touch "off", though that disconnect was by design.

As you can see, it was happy face stickers!  It was definitely something to see this disturbing scene portrayed through happy face stickers.  It seemed a touch “off”, though that disconnect was by design.


The next room featured a floor that curled up in one corner.

The next room featured a floor that curled up in one corner.


The next room was the one that made people stop and gasp for a moment, for it was quite a startling scene to see. The room was painted in red, and showed a mannequin hanging from the ceiling, with a belt as a noose. It drove home so many points. Bobby Fisher, who went by “Borf”, took his own life by hanging himself in 2003. This was the genesis of the Borf graffiti campaign. The grinning face that most people associate with Borf is based on Fisher, as the graffiti campaign was done in his memory, in response to the feelings of worthlessness that he had felt that led to his suicide.


 

The bottom photo, taken without flash, shows one additional element of the startling nature of this scene: the shadow on the floor.

The bottom photo, taken without flash, shows one additional element of the startling nature of this scene: the shadow on the floor.


These three rooms comprised the first floor. On the second floor, as well as in the stairwells up to the second floor, graffiti covered the walls and just about any other surface that could be written on.


Messages are written on windows in the building's west stairs.  Messages are written on windows in the building's west stairs.

Messages are written on windows in the building’s west stairs.


Near the top of the stairs, a small panel with graffiti on it hung above a paint-spattered ski mask, presumably worn while graffiti artists do their thing.

Near the top of the stairs, a small panel with graffiti on it hung above a paint-spattered ski mask, presumably worn while graffiti artists do their thing.


The first scene one saw heading upstairs was a room covered with tags by members of DC’s graffiti scene, with three mannequins, all wearing ski masks, arranged to appear to be working as a team to place a tag in a hard-to-reach area.


 

 

 


As you can see, the room was tagged all over the place, with Borf, "Cert", and others taking prominent places in the display.  As you can see, the room was tagged all over the place, with Borf, "Cert", and others taking prominent places in the display.

As you can see, the room was tagged all over the place, with Borf, “Cert”, and others taking prominent places in the display.

As you can see, the room was tagged all over the place, with Borf, "Cert", and others taking prominent places in the display.


On the floor across from the tagging scene, this cast of "BORF" lay amongst a pile of bricks.

On the floor across from the tagging scene, this cast of “BORF” lay amongst a pile of bricks.


Even the windows carried messages, being covered in "scratchitti". However, "Borf be in tha urea" is beyond my comprehension...

Even the windows carried messages, being covered in “scratchitti”. However, “Borf be in tha urea” is beyond my comprehension…


The next room was painted green. It also carried graffiti on the walls, though not nearly as much as the previous room. A pile of wood sat on the floor, and a poster hung from a wall.



The "Cover the Bastards" poster made its "official" appearance in this room.

The “Cover the Bastards” poster made its “official” appearance in this room.


"My ideology is too expansive to contain within this space." Personally, I found that to be quite deep, as it made me think about the extent of various artists' ideologies, as well as my own views on life.

“My ideology is too expansive to contain within this space.” Personally, I found that to be quite deep, as it made me think about the extent of various artists’ ideologies, as well as my own views on life.


"Banned in DC", reminding all that as a result of the Borf graffiti campaign, John Tsombikos is prohibited from entering the District of Columbia.

“Banned in DC”, reminding all that as a result of the Borf graffiti campaign, John Tsombikos is prohibited from entering the District of Columbia.


Another room, painted off-white, contained various tools of the Borf trade.  Some stencils were framed, while others were loose.  The flag of Washington DC hung over a window.



To make the above image using spray paint, it took the use of three stencils, one after the other.

To make the above image using spray paint, it took the use of three stencils, one after the other.

To make the above image using spray paint, it took the use of three stencils, one after the other.  To make the above image using spray paint, it took the use of three stencils, one after the other.

To make the above image using spray paint, it took the use of three stencils, one after the other.


Tools of the graffitist's trade...

Tools of the graffitist’s trade…


This pair of stencils was designed for use on stop signs.

This pair of stencils was designed for use on stop signs.  Thus the apparent “CAN’T BORF” message here actually expands out to “CAN’T STOP BORF” as seen here in this photo from borfyou.com:

"CAN'T STOP BORF"
Photo: borfyou.com


This stencil featured the grinning Borf face on the body of Black Panther Huey P. Newton holding a rifle.

This stencil featured the grinning Borf face on the body of Black Panther Huey P. Newton holding a rifle.  The result of this stencil can still be seen along the Red Line near Silver Spring station, though it is partly painted out:

Borf stencil along the Red Line near Silver Spring


Even the bathroom, with a sign saying "Chuck Burgundy, Philanthropist" on the door, was covered with graffiti.

Even the bathroom, with a sign saying “Chuck Burgundy, Philanthropist” on the door, was covered with graffiti.


The hallway contained a painting, the only painted instance of the Borf face in the show, and the one thing perhaps everyone wanted to see: the stencil of the Borf face.


 The layered painting was painted on glass or Plexiglas (one or the other), with the back layer containing dripping words, and the other containing the image of a young man shouting.

 The layered painting was painted on glass or Plexiglas (one or the other), with the back layer containing dripping words, and the other containing the image of a young man shouting.


And here it is - the one instance of the grinning Borf face in the show. Borf is holding a spray paint can, as if he had just painted the phrase "Mad cuz I'm flagrant." The hallway was too narrow to get a straight-on shot, so here's a slightly angled view of the whole scene.

And here it is – the one instance of the grinning Borf face in the show.  Borf is holding a spray paint can, as if he had just painted the phrase “Mad cuz I’m flagrant.”  The hallway was too narrow to get a straight-on shot, so here’s a slightly angled view of the whole scene.

And here it is - the one instance of the grinning Borf face in the show. Borf is holding a spray paint can, as if he had just painted the phrase "Mad cuz I'm flagrant." The hallway was too narrow to get a straight-on shot, so here's a slightly angled view of the whole scene.


This message, which says, "Stevie Wonder has crack buddies!" was written within the above message.

This message, which says, “Stevie Wonder has crack buddies!” was written within the above message.


The Borf face itself was cut out of the bottom of a pizza box. An inspection of the box revealed no specific brand. I was surprised to see that a pizza box was the stencil, but then again, I wasn't quite sure what to expect about such things.

The Borf face itself was cut out of the bottom of a pizza box.  An inspection of the box revealed no specific brand.  I was surprised to see that a pizza box was the stencil, but then again, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about such things.

The Borf face itself was cut out of the bottom of a pizza box. An inspection of the box revealed no specific brand. I was surprised to see that a pizza box was the stencil, but then again, I wasn't quite sure what to expect about such things.


The final room was the most museum-like of all of them.  This room contained no graffiti, and had framed copies of John Tsombikos’s court documents along the wall.  It also contained the show’s final mannequin, designed to represent a police officer.  It also contained a photo of Bobby Fisher, the person whose death the Borf campaign had tried to avenge.


Bobby Fisher, who went by the nickname "Borf", who committed suicide by hanging, on whom the grinning Borf face is based. My understanding is that the grinning face is based on Fisher's imitation of his sister.

Bobby Fisher, who went by the nickname “Borf”, who committed suicide by hanging, on whom the grinning Borf face is based.  My understanding is that the grinning face is based on Fisher’s imitation of his sister.


One of the documents on the wall was a letter from VMS, Inc., which documents for the court the costs that the company incurred due to Borf.

One of the documents on the wall was a letter from VMS, Inc., which documents for the court the costs that the company incurred due to Borf.


The mannequin of the police officer depicts police in an unfavorable light, showing a somewhat-overweight officer sitting on a couch watching TV, with one foot on the coffee table, nightstick tucked under one arm, shirt untucked, and wearing a riot shield and graduation cap.  The mannequin of the police officer depicts police in an unfavorable light, showing a somewhat-overweight officer sitting on a couch watching TV, with one foot on the coffee table, nightstick tucked under one arm, shirt untucked, and wearing a riot shield and graduation cap.

The mannequin of the police officer depicts police in an unfavorable light, showing a somewhat-overweight officer sitting on a couch watching TV, with one foot on the coffee table, nightstick tucked under one arm, shirt untucked, and wearing a riot shield and graduation cap.

The mannequin of the police officer depicts police in an unfavorable light, showing a somewhat-overweight officer sitting on a couch watching TV, with one foot on the coffee table, nightstick tucked under one arm, shirt untucked, and wearing a riot shield and graduation cap.


The building's paint-spattered east stairs had "BORF" written at the bottom, and a message written overhead.

The building’s paint-spattered east stairs had “BORF” written at the bottom, and a message written overhead.


And with that, I headed out!  It was starting to get late, and I had things I had to take care of back home.  And I felt I had a great photo take from the event.  So I headed back towards New York Avenue station.  I found it quite appropriate that, while on the way back to the Metro station, I ran into the Borf face one more time…


Borf on a sticker, stuck to a construction sign. How fitting to see this right after the Borf show.

Borf on a sticker, stuck to a construction sign.  How fitting to see this right after the Borf show.


And then from there, it was back to the Metro for me, to catch the Red Line back home to Maryland.  It was a fun art show, and I had a great time seeing the art, speaking with the other participants, and also talking to Chuck Burgundy with his New England accent.

I wonder what Borf’s next thing will be…

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