Digital Artists Create Jet Set Radio Tags For New York Yami-Ichi 'Internet Black Market'

The second self-styled Internet Yami-Ichi was held in New York on the 6th November 2016, and was a celebration of all things 'internet-ish.' For those not in the know, The Internet Yami-Ichi in NY2 was a sort of flea market where creators of predominantly digital art and crafts gathered to sell their wares, and to me at least looks like a really cool and intriguing concept. From the official website:

The Internet Yami-Ichi (Internet Black Market) is a flea market which deals "Internet-ish" things, face-to-face, in actual space. Both flea markets and the Internet are fanatical and chaotic mixes of the amazing and useless.  In the Internet Yami-Ichi both the wills and desires which brought us to create the Internet, and the wills and desires we picked up are salvaged to be shared in a social space.
Everything from art based on popular memes to the more bizarre aspects of internet folklore are on display for visitors to the free event to purchase, with many items created as one-offs solely for this gathering. The reason we're reporting on this event (apart from the fact that it sounds really cool) is that a collective of digital artists got together to create something truly special for Internet Yami-Ichi in NY2: a VMU full of bespoke graffiti tags for use in Jet Set Radio for the Dreamcast.

Only 7 of these VMUs were created and contained 20 images from a group of digital creators knowns as VMU_SQUAD. The main artist goes by the name lerabot and contacted me prior to the event to explain the premise:

"I've been asked to participate to Yami-Ichi in NY2, which is an internet black market, and I decided to sell VMUs contaning custom made graffiti for Jet Grind/Set Radio. While I bet that you're fully aware that you can make custom tag in JGR, you can technically only hold one per size, and while the editor is pretty sweet, it's a bit limiting.

I stumbled upon a old script made in 2001 that essentially converts a Jpeg image the same way you could do with the in-game browser, tweaked it a bit to make it compile on a current linux distro, and invited a bunch of digital artists to create a series of 3 graffitis (1 per size) to be distributed and sold on the VMU.

To me, the project speaks on many different levels; what the hacking scene has made for the Dreamcast, how old games can be use as art platforms, how the graffiti artist community relates to the new media art world (cliques, showing off in physical and digital space, etc) and overall just shows the potential of our old beloved console."
Naturally, I was very interested to know more about the Yami-Ichi itself and the art created by VMU_SQUAD. Happily, we're now able to share some further information on the bespoke tags created and also some images of the 7 VMUs themselves. It turns out that the event was something of a success for VMU_SQUAD and all of the VMUs sold - most of them to curious event goers who were every bit as intrigued by the unique delivery method of new digital art and the Dreamcast's diminutive memory device itself. Artist lerabot goes on to describe how the Yami-Ichi panned out:

"The event was very nice. There were over 120 venders at Yami-Ichi in NY2. A lot of people stopped by and played some Jet Set Radio, obviously a lot of people never heard of it before but were very interested and thought the graphics were really nice. I'd say about 15 people were really into it - about the project I mean, they understood the concept of putting new materiel in an old Dreamcast game using the VMU, and a lot of them were making references to more modern DLC. I had 7 VMUs with 3 unique artworks on each, and they all sold! I think about half of the buyers had Dreamcasts and were pumped to see it!

I also had a chance to have a very good talk with people and introduced them to the DreamPi project, and told them about upcoming games and what not. It's also important to note that most people there were not gamers per se, but more 'internet' folks. People that have art blogs, or straight up Tumblr folks. Some had more design-like projects, some art code projects, etc. Overall, it was a great success."
On a personaly level, I find the whole project really fascinating from a artistic point of view - using what is essentially antiquated technology as a platform for new art born of a the digital age we live in. Now, it's all very well simply talking about this art but what does it look like? Happily, lerabot has created a basic website to showcase the creations of VMU_SQUAD and even better, the site is accessible using a Dreamcast browser so the files can be viewed and downloaded directly to your own VMU and transported into Jet Set Radio should you wish! As stated above, each of the digital artists created tags of each size (small, medium and large tags are available in the game), and here are a few images of the 'large' designs I copied from lerabot's site:

That last image isn't one from the game - I just thought it was too cool not to use in the main article! Anyway, back on point - you can visit the VMU_SQUAD site here and also the original Jump Station entry on how to create your own Jpegs for Jet Set Radio here. Thanks very much to lerabot and VMU_SQUAD for sharing this information with us and also to Yami-Ichi in NY2 for doing something so original and intriguing. As the thirst for the internet and it's 'born digital' culture spreads, we're sure the event's reputation will do so too...or maybe that's not the point. Either way, enjoy these new Jet Set Radio artworks!

If you want to know even more about the concept behind the Yami-Ichi (I know I did when I first learned of its existence), feel free to watch the video below on the 'back streets of the internet':

An interesting footnote to this whole Jet Set/Jet Grind Radio thing is that apparently the name change came about because of a Canadian rock band called Jet Set Satellite, and Sega didn't want the game to be confused with the band. I only bring this up because people are always asking why the name is different in certain territories...and now you know (probably). Also, if you want more Jet Set/Grind Radio nonsense, be sure to check out our article Jet Grind Radio Vs The City of Milwaukee, which tells the tale of a city council trying to get the game banned for glorifying graffiti...which is kind of ironic considering the whole point of this post.

No comments: