Through an employees only doorway, black lights and noise music assault the senses. In the corner, dirty couches play host to an assortment of characters from the queer underground. It's a scene mildly reminiscent of the of the film noir parties envisioned by Blade Runner. A woman walks over and picks up my bag, slurring an explanation, "it might be mine."
The roll gates of the garage open to the parking lot of what may have been the dirtiest event at Art Basel. I watch as a gruff man in an oversized sweatshirt divvies and hurls spray-paint cans out of a shopping cart into pools of muddy water - likely sourced from the nearby port-o-potties. The flying paint cans narrowly miss a man in a life-jacket who was stands surveying the scene, beer in hand. This is the official screening of Wastedland 2, a film by Andrew H. Shirley featuring members of the notorious Brooklyn 907 graffiti crew.
"Wastedland 2 follows three solitary vandals (played by Wolftits, Avoid, and Smells) who cross paths while searching for the meaning of a trail of enigmatic artworks left behind by UFO 907, another nomadic artist. Roaming from one decaying zone to the next in a never-ending search for beer, weed, and a wall to paint, the vandals form a pact with the rest of the surviving seekers (played by Rambo, Noxer, EKG, and others) to attain the answer to their unanimous question of their futility- 'What's the point?'"- Wastedland 2
The show begins. Gruff Man continues throwing paint cans while a tall man in shiny shoes and sequined short-shorts explains why he and his crew need to bring a van through the screening-range. Gruff man dismissively nods and continues sorting his cans. Like stray cats to a bowl of food, Graffiti artists lurch out of the woodwork towards the sorted cans. They begin tagging the surrounding shipping containers. Shiny Shoes rolls a giant decrepit disco ball across the empty lot. The mirrors softly plink as they fall, brittle glass crumbling into shards on the dark pavement.
The van pulls across the pavement, slowly. A stand-off ensues. Shiny Shoes becomes concerned about the litter of spray-paint cans in the drive-path and begins a clean-up effort. Gruff Man continues sorting and begins shouting, "They're just spray-paint cans! Run them over." The quarreling men hessitate. A woman in the passenger seat puts a protective hand on a hamster cage sitting on the dashboard.
"RUN THEM OVER! JUST RUN THEM OVER!" Gruff Man seems almost giddy for the impending destruction. The van stalls.
"I can drive the van if you want. I'm good at driving." Gruff Man grins. It seems his helpful approach wins the stand-off. The van starts moving again. Spray-paint cans pop under the wheels and the smell of spray paint marries the potpourri of cigarettes and whiskey.
The film is adorable. A story of friendship that culminates with a lonely, nihilistic, dead baby. Someone has clearly made an effort with the cinematography; the framing and lighting of each shot is beautiful. An over-dubbed soundtrack adds to the film's D.I.Y. esthetic. As the film's sound track blends with the noise music playing from the warehouse behind us, a natural conclusion is drawn: this experience is not just about this film. It's literally a multi-sensory engagement into the world of the notorious 907; the abandoned buildings, the smell of spray paint, the ostracism induced nihilism, and the beautiful healing power of connection and creation in those dark and dirty spaces.