Justin Bieber seems to be everywhere we look. He weaves his way from tabloids to television, through the radio and into tweens' spiral-notebook scratchings. His face and his voice don't seem to age, and until recently, his presence was set to meet travelers at the Indianapolis International Airport. Not the Biebs in the flesh, mind you, but rather by way of an art piece by Tre Reising, a Brooklyn-based creative who grew up in Columbus, Indiana.
“I think he is an interesting cultural phenomenon because everyone is obsessed with him whether they like him or not,” Reising tells IM. “He is news for some reason.”
Officials involved with the Indianapolis Airport Authority’s art program decided not to use the piece, a fusion of pop culture and fine art titled #Belieb. That wasn't an indictment of the quality of Reising's work but rather a proactive stance to avoid offending travelers in light of the popster's well-documented legal troubles recently. That choice at IND, however, has incited a riot of response due to media reports (like this one).
Reising often designs work inspired by celebrities, previously channeling rappers Gucci Mane, RiFF RAFF, and Project Pat for his art. Typically, he will only create a new piece relating to a musician if he enjoys the music and finds himself knowledgeable about the subject. He had a different objective in mind with Bieber, though. “I don’t know much about him or frequently listen to his music,” Reising says. “My ultimate goal was that it would become an Instagram-framed–ready piece that would fit well into the cropping of Instagram and become traded and shared as a meme.”
Reising understands the nature of what it takes to create a meme. Even so, “It’s something that I set up to happen as easily as possible, but predicting those trends is impossible," he says. "The Internet will decide.”
Perhaps artwork involving a singer with a more pristine image would’ve prevailed, but Reising wasn’t interested in anyone else for this. “I chose Bieber (this time) because, unlike other huge pop stars like Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, there is a quintessential, self-proclaimed title for the people who are obsessed with him: ‘Beliebers.’”
We will never know if #Belieb would’ve gone viral were it stationed at IND, but it should be noted that the artist was compensated—to the tune of $500—in keeping with his IND contract. Reising hasn't given up hope in finding a new home for the piece that now sits in the back of his truck. “I need to find a place like [the airport], unassuming in a public space,” he says. Abiding in Brooklyn, he should have no trouble finding such a space. And wherever it is, Beliebers will have no trouble taking their picture beside it and hashtagging accordingly.
See more of Reising's work on his website. Find him on Twitter at @TreReisingDaawg.