BOOK A STREET ARTIST MAGAZINE ISSUE 8 / FEBRUARY 2016
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BOOK A STREET ARTIST MAGAZINE ISSUE 8 / FEBRUARY 2016 EDITORS IN CHIEF Guille Lasarte & Charlotte Specht email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org ART DIRECTOR Guille Lasarte MARKETING DIRECTOR Mario Rueda email@example.com CONTRIBUTORS Patricio Pumarino, Ganzeer, Kirsti Anna Urpa, Mostafa Hussein, Adham Bakry, Caroline Palla, Mehri Khalil, Dora Dalila, Eva Frapiccini, Nour El Refai, Ornella Fieres, Dion Lucas, Brothers Moving, Carlos Hernandez, Aud Lew, Chang Han, Gabriela Uweis, Ricardo Kuettel, Caro Curbelo, Colectivo Licuado, Alfalfa, Ricardo Parker, Janielle Williams, Philine von DÃ¼szeln, Stefanie Tendler, Maresa Harvey, Alexandra Henry, Toofly, Teddy Kang, The Koppel Project, Gabriella Sonabend, Sol Bailey Barker SPECIAL THANKS TO Quintessenz, Pau Quintanajornet, Pepper Levain, Tali Kimelman, Dario Rossi www.pantamagazine.com firstname.lastname@example.org FOUNDERS OF BOOK A STREET ARTIST Charlotte Specht Mario Rueda www.bookastreetartist.com
Cover illustration by Ganzeer Illustration on inside front cover by Patricio Pumarino
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS I’m not a big fan of the whole inspirational quote on a blurry background photo trend that’s been happening for a while now. Perhaps it’s due to my disdain for inspirational quotes in general and the mere illusion of revelation that they project. That being said, I’m going to go ahead and throw out an inspirational quote by John Keating, Robin Williams’ character in the film Dead Poets Society: “…medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” It’s a powerful one and I feel it’s appropriate to mention here because it expresses exactly why we create this magazine. We’re not fooling ourselves into thinking we’re going to change the world – we’re not saving any lives or building any bridges. It’s just beautiful, significant art that continues to occupy the pages of PANTA and just that is enough to consider it a worthwhile endeavor. In a world that can disappoint in so many ways, art continues to play a substantial role in bringing us all together. Thank you for being a part of PANTA. ∆
GOT SKILLS? www.bookastreetartist.com
ISSUE 8 / CONTENTS
PATRICIO PUMARINO I L LU ST RAT I O N
I was born in Santiago de Chile but have lived most of my life in Europe – in France, Italy and Germany. It was in Germany that I found the city that has most influenced me as a person and as a visual artist: Berlin. I arrived in Berlin when it still had the wall surrounding it, when it belonged to the Allies and not to the Federal Republic of Germany. It had a privileged status to nurture a subculture that was distanced from the mainstream and from conservative ways of life. In the 90s, I did a lot of ‘gallery art’. After many years working in that scene in Berlin, I grew frustrated with the atmosphere in the galleries, the “us and between us” attitude, the lack of direct feedback from the public of my artistic proposals, the elitist media and the conventional notion of just having some pictures hanging on a wall in a room. So, I decided to leave all this and to make my art available to a different public – to “regular” people – through platforms like album artwork, indie magazines and later on various digital outlets. That being said, I am in love with printed material. For me, my work on a screen exists only in a temporary state – it only really starts to exist when it materializes. At the moment, after spending a lifetime in Europe, I find myself in my native country, Chile. My ideal life situation would be to live and work in my 1987 Volkswagen van that’s been restored as a motor home. My mobile studio, to be here or there, to have my
drawing materials, my graphite pencils, paper, my laptop and to be able to work from wherever I am. Then, to be connected to the world via the Internet to be able to spread my work – to me this is indispensible. My models for my drawings are the characters of the world around me. Advertising poses, artificial smiles, the product that solves everything, be happy, have fun... the banal, the ridiculous, the pornographic, the obscene, the aggressive. In short, everything that accompanies me in my daily life as a citizen of the Western world. My work has a kind of unfinished style, of something in progress, a draft. The draft, as opposed to a finished work, represents the idea of what something could be. I like the stroke of the graphite pencil because of its flexibility; it’s hard and soft at the same time and has a great variety of shades and hues. It’s the tool I started to draw with in my childhood and I’ve never left it. I attempted to leave it a few times, I tried using other drawing tools but in the end, I always came back to the graphite. It’s where I feel comfortable. My experiments with liquid paint almost always ended in disaster. I could never control these liquids that I was supposed to apply on the canvas with a tool that I was also never able to master: the paintbrush. I like drawing because of its modesty and for being introverted. Painting, on the other hand, has something spectacular and bombastic about it. Drawing is discrete, it doesn’t deceive and it doesn’t dazzle.
This is precisely the power of visual art – the ambiguous, the interpretable – the more paths a work offers, the more possibilities it will offer the viewer in order to complete it and make it their own.
Drawing is one of the oldest, most basic human activities, born shortly after thought and consciousness; therefore it’s an archaic activity. It’s a craft that has remained the same in its essence for thousands of years. I’m probably the same guy that was drawing deer, horses and bison in a cave 10,000 years ago. I don’t expect my work to be aesthetically “beautiful”, I’m more interested in plotting a thought. The more distant a drawing is of realistic representation, then the closer it is to the symbol, and this is the context I want to explore. All I do is basically portray the world in which I live. A while ago a friend of mine saw my drawings and told me that they seemed harsh and somewhat aggressive. “I wonder in which period of your life you did this work,” she said to me. I explained to her that my works are not self-portraits. The fact that my work has something harsh or aggressive in it doesn’t mean that I as a person am like that. That formula seems too simple to me. I see no direct influence in my work of any artist in particular. In any case, it’s certain that
my work should be categorized within the most representative movement of our time: Pop. In the end, the greatest influence on my work has been the abundance of visual stimuli of the postmodern world. The exaggeration of the image, the “too much” and the overall aesthetic of the time – the fast, the ugly, bad taste, the oversized, the excess. Personally I don’t really like to explain my work too much, I prefer to say: What I do is what you see. What I meant to say is what you understood. This is precisely the power of visual art – the ambiguous, the interpretable – the more paths a work offers, the more possibilities it will offer the viewer in order to complete it and make it their own. I merely sketch the idea, it’s the viewer who finishes it. Art is a craft and a way of life. To be an artist is a euphoric act of engaging with life, always trying to gain a broad perspective on everything. Even if it’s for a short moment, for a second. From above, from a distance or from up close, before falling and becoming part of the observed once again. ∆
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GANZEER the art of protest Text by Kirsti Anna Urpa Photos by Mostafa Hussein, Adham Bakry, Caroline Palla, Mehri Khalil, Dora Dalila, Eva Frapiccini & Nour El Refai www.ganzeer.com
Photo by Mostafa Hussein
raffiti has always been around. From Paleolithic paintings to etchings found on the walls of Pompeii; from allegory chiseled into medieval churches to the scrawls on the West side of the Berlin Wall – graffiti has traveled with us through the ages as an outlet of proclamation for the everyday man. Whether premeditated or impromptu, graffiti facilitates an avenue of articulation for the afflictions and ideas we need to voice. From bathroom stalls to ten-story buildings, graffiti is hard to ignore. And it’s everywhere. When the unimaginable happens, we turn to art to impart what we can’t compress into words. Through beauty or horror, graffiti gives a platform for expression to those who can’t (or won’t) parade their ideas in a conventional gallery. But, like any form of art, the majority of graffiti is either mediocre – or worse. Once in a rare while, though, a bright light streaks through a mass of illegible scribbles and incomprehensible caricatures. One such beacon of ability is the work of Ganzeer. Awkwardly famed as the ‘Egyptian Banksy,’ the designer known as Ganzeer turned to the streets with a fist full of stickers to brandish his own incarnations of protest. He made waves in Cairo, splashing artwork all over its arteries during the revolution in January 2011. Shortly after, he was repudiated on public television and deemed a terrorist with connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. He recalls being branded the leader of an “international art collective that is bent on destroying the image of the Egyptian military.” Shortly after an arrest for illicit posters and a swift escape from under the shadow of Fatwa, Ganzeer emigrated from Egypt and has moved on to explore new territory.
When I spoke with Ganzeer in late November, we talked briefly about his childhood, studying at university to become a banker, his time at an art residence in Finland and his eventual move to the States. A cheery guy, Ganzeer seemed to enjoy discussing his work and his ambitions at length. Although he is renowned for his street art in Cairo, Ganzeer’s artistic focus has shifted away from social turmoil in Egypt. He has been utilizing his own brand of unrelenting satire to comment on the American society that he currently inhabits, as well as working on his first graphic novel. The exhibition he held in New York last year was an audacious criticism of American culture. “It’s very obvious to an outsider, coming into America. I’ve been to so many other countries outside of Egypt and I never got that shock (anywhere else) of ‘What the hell is going on here!?’ Everything is just... empty.” When you witness his work, it becomes clear that Ganzeer isn’t afraid to draw connections between pop culture imagery and the ugly underbelly of American sociopolitical realities. He isn’t daunted by his past experiences with authority and continues to challenge public awareness. And while he might not like me saying so, he has a perspective that doesn’t often grace the gallery scene here in the West.
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Photo above and on opposite page by Adham Bakry
The most valuable resource you have is time. It’s not anything else. It’s not what you have, it’s not things. Honestly, it’s time, because time is the only thing you don’t have control of… so make the best out of your time, make sure whatever you do counts. Ganzeer has been very public about his unwillingness to be defined by his nationality. That being said, his experiences give him a unique and fresh perspective on a number of global issues and how things are so intricately connected to each other. The direct relationship of arms exports from the US and the number of deaths on the streets of Cairo, for instance, is something with which he is all too familiar. “The police now (in Cairo) have been getting more weapons from the US, they walk around with military grade rifles and serious protection – things that you never saw before the revolution.” Ganzeer admits he never thought he’d end up living in the States. Actually, he never even intended to become an artist. “I was never into fine art or anything like that.” And when I asked him what his parents think about what he does – he simply retorted, “They don’t like it, of course. They never liked anything I did. Revolution or not, politics or not, street art or not... I don’t think they were happy with it.” Apparently the winding river of Ganzeer’s life has landed him quite far from where his parents had intended. “Well, like every Egyptian parent, they expected that I would grow up to be a doctor or an engineer”. He explains that, while he didn’t get very good grades in school, he eventually ended up getting a degree in business. He jokes that he never did anything with his credentials. But it wasn’t a complete waste of time, as Ganzeer used what he learned in school to etch out a strong web design business before ever dipping his toes into the turbulent world of street art. Now that he’s
had enough of merchandisable dissent, he continues to expand his horizons and plans to dive, head first, into the vast ocean of illustrated alternate universes. Since the time he first donned his rebel cap (back in the good old days of revolution and stickers), Ganzeer has stepped out of the street scene and embraced a plethora of other talents. Much like contemporaries such as Ai WeiWei, Ganzeer possesses an array of artistic identities. He’s a writer, he’s done installations and videos, and now he’s moved on to his ultimate passion: comic books. “My dad would often go on business trips abroad and bring back comic books because he knew I liked them.” It seems the captivating visuals in these stories of rebellion and underdogs may have influenced a young Ganzeer, shaping his views of our world and sparking an interest in writing his own stories. “I was always daydreaming and drawing.” Then it took him a while to discover that making art was something that he really wanted to do. “I felt like maybe I wasn’t a good enough artist… the Internet happened, and I saw all of these young people on these comic book forums... at that age I decided that maybe I’d be a better writer. During those years I was writing a lot of short stories… but they were all crap.” Ganzeer’s talent has ballooned over the years. However, as with most artists, he is still far out at sea from the shores of satiation. I asked him what he would say to a younger Ganzeer if he could get his hands on a time machine: “I would probably tell him to stop messing around and maybe draw every day.” When asked if he had any advice for young artists today, he contemplated: “The most valuable resource you have is time. It’s not anything else. It’s not what you have, it’s not things. Honestly, it’s time, because time is the only thing you don’t have control of… so make the best out of your time, make sure whatever you do counts.”
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Ganzeer has been using his time these days doing what he seems to love most: graphic novels, especially science fiction. This genre is relatively unknown in Egypt and most people “don’t understand it”. As such, Ganzeer is forging a new outlet for creative writing in the East. He speaks calmly and cheerfully about his current project: “Now I’ll finally become an artist and a writer at the same time.” He doesn’t have a publisher yet, but he’s been channeling all his creative juices into this first graphic novel. It’s set to take place over the course of several thousand years of human history, and well into the future. “The vast majority of it takes place on Earth, but there are scenes that take place on the Moon, on Mars... we follow a couple of characters that rummage through the waste (of Earth) and the trash dumped from the colonies (of other planets) as they find artifacts from past civilizations.” Ganzeer says he was heavily influenced by the works of Warren Ellis and other avant-garde graphic novelists. As we discuss his long-lived passion for comics, he gleams about his Internet friendship with Ellis: “When I was still in college and didn’t know much about anything, I read Warren Ellis’ work and I loved it… I read his column that he was putting out on the Internet… he is definitely one of the biggest influences on my formation, for sure… now we’re emailing back and forth all the time.” Who knows if Ganzeer will remain a part of the world of comics. Like all of his other endeavors, he might delve into this medium for a while and then flutter on to something else in a few years. “I always fantasized about being a comic book artist, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself one either... I think I’m probably like the jack-of-all-trades... I don't think I am a master of anything at all… I just like to dick around with a lot of things!”
Photos on this page, from top to bottom, by: Caroline Palla Mehri Khalil Dora Dalila Photo on opposite page by Eva Frapiccini
It seems that there is a string running through all of his work, connecting his rebellious spirit and his interminable imagination.
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Ganzeer is moving his work into its own future â€“ transporting it from its previous restrictions and displacing it into an entirely different channel.
Photo by Nour El Refai
He may think he is just messing around with different mediums, but it seems that there is a string running through all of his work, connecting his rebellious spirit and his interminable imagination. And it’s clear that, at the heart of it, the objective of his art isn’t to simply ‘dick around’ but to bring audiences new ideas and challenge old ones. I was urged to ask Ganzeer what he hoped his art has given the world. “I would hope it would do one of two things: either (1) reaffirm the idea that there are other people that think the way you do, that what you do isn’t crazy or (2) actually challenge someone’s ideas and plant a seed in their minds, a seed that they probably don’t like, but a seed that will nag at them for the rest of their lives.” I find my own imagination wandering after speaking about Ganzeer’s imagined future world. I’m left to wonder how graffiti will evolve in the future. What will street art’s role be in a highly technological world? Will there eventually be graffiti on the Moon? In a way, Ganzeer is moving
his work into its own future – transporting it from its previous restrictions and displacing it into an entirely different channel. Will he reach more people this way? Will he inspire other Eastern artists and propel the sci-fi community of Egypt into the future? I can only hope he brings his street art style to his comic books and wish him success with the launch of his first novel. Whenever I wrap up an interview, I like to ask a series of questions to help me get a better idea of who the person I’m talking to really is. Most revealing was Ganzeer’s answer to my question: what is your favorite word? To which he replied: the Arabic word ميمصتd (tasmeem). A word with many meanings. It means design and also purpose. Drawing and idea. Styling and determination. It seems that every answer I’ve gotten from Ganzeer could have multiple interpretations, and I am left wondering whether that was his intention. ∆
the space between Photography by Ornella Fieres Working with both analogue and digital photographs, Ornella’s work is concerned with how we perceive and interact with the world. We live in an era where images unreservedly mix reality and fantasy, causing us to experience reality and simulation without any differences. Furthermore, the digital age has brought upon acceptance of the notion of multiple realities, where boundaries between the virtual, the visual, the simulated, the haptic and the digital have become fundamentally blurred. Here, Ornella presents works from the series “1887”, “Fading Away” and “Interferenz IV”. The works in the series “1887” are Photoshopped versions of NASA images that depict stellar formations. The artist then converts these manipulated images into slides subsequently exposing them using a slide duplicator and sunlight on sensitive film. The result is a kind of nostalgic yet ghostly conception of our galaxy.
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Artist statement www.ornellafieres.com
My work explores boundaries and transitions between the digital and analogue space, whereas the idea of space stretches from the human living environment to the vastness of the universe. To investigate these areas, I develop unique photography, video and sound techniques that forcefully juxtapose and merge, not only analogue and digital technologies, but also diverse sources of light and moments in time. The mostly romantic motifs circle around the universe, the sky, the ocean and human life. The practices that I use are developed intuitively in an alchemistic, experimental manner. The results seem diffuse and uncanny: Interferences cast rainbow patterns over black and white images (Interferenz IV, 2015). Pixels merge with film
grain (1887, 2015). Video recordings appear ambiguous and hand-held (Tide, 2014) and sounds seem like they come from the depths of the cosmos. This audio-visual language expresses the poetry and romanticism, which I discover in technology and transforms it into longing, eerie and fleeting motifs. For me, analogue media (e.g. photography) possesses something haptic as it captures light physically. It has a sacred, fetish-like reality. Digitalism, on the other hand, is ephemeral, untouchable and ghostly. Both are fascinating in their own ways â€“ they are magnetizing and repulsive at the same time. My goal is to combine the analogue universe with the digital space. I form an ellipse between universe and earth, analogue and digital, past and present. âˆ†
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Photo by Carlos Hernandez
B R OT H E R S M OV I N G Interview by Dion Lucas Photos by Carlos Hernandez, Aud Lew, Chang Han Gabriela Uweis & Ricardo Kuettel www.brothersmoving.dk
Three brothers from Denmark ventured across the water to NYC to try their luck in the sleepless city. There they met their fourth ‘brother’, so to speak, and formed the band “Brothers Moving”, an essentially street-oriented band that has gained widespread appeal thanks to viral videos of their street performances. Composed of Simon, Nils, Esben and Aske, the band’s philosophy revolves around the spontaneity and interaction achieved when playing on the streets, something that they consider to be the basis of their sound. The band members continue to discover and connect with the unique space that is New York City, “a city bustling with energy and ambition,” as they describe it – as well as travel around the country and
overseas to tour, be it in venues or in public spaces. The band just came back from a short tour in Russia, where they had the chance to play the Gogol Center in Moscow and the Erarta Theatre in St. Petersburg. A documentary about a 21-day tour around the US where they solely played on the streets and in national parks is expected to be released soon. As for the future, they’ve had overwhelming requests from fans in South America to head down their way. Composing new material for their set, which may lead to a couple of releases soon as well as possibly an album, is also part of the plan. We caught up with the band to chat a bit about their experiences in the NYC street scene and the musical values they share.
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What brought you all together to form this band? SIMON: First of all, Esben, Aske and I are brothers, so we’ve played together since childhood. The band Brothers Moving was formed with Nils during a 10day trip to New York. We received overwhelming feedback and had to go back. What’s the story behind the name “Brothers Moving”? While playing in Union Square, our street audience started asking for our name. We had been brainstorming a bit but couldn’t come up with anything good. One afternoon, on our way to an Erykah Badu concert in Prospect Park, our taxi drove by this huge yellow building with big capital letters across with the name “BROTHERS MOVING”. I believe it was Esben who said, “It makes so much sense! We’re brothers, we move in our performance and we travel constantly.” Of course back then, being Danish tourists, we had no idea we took the name from a moving company. What’s the street music scene like in NYC? And what about in terms of legality? SIMON: When we started playing the streets of NYC back in 2008, we wanted the ultimate challenge. We figured that if we could make it on the streets of New York, then we’d done it. People are talented and the acts are diverse and plentiful. Basically, you have two scenes for street acts. One is outside squares and parks. They are favorable when weather permits it. Secondly, you have the subway spots. We have played both, but outside is easier for us to create the large crowds. The subways can be quite noisy. For the subway, we got a permit through MUNY (Music Under New York), which holds a yearly audition, and provides permits to the best performances. You can play without, but there is a good chance that either the police or another act with a permit will move you. For playing outside, it’s become much tougher the past years. It used to be that as long as you don’t bother anyone, you’re fine. Today they have this long set of rules, and of course, the small battery amp we are using for bass is making it almost impossible. The trick is to create a crowd of happy people. Then most police officers don’t dare to move you. Photos on this page, from top to bottom, by: Chang Han Aud Lew Unknown
The city has this interesting dilemma: At first, you love it, and can't get enough of new impressions, cultures and endless opportunities. Then, after a while, it starts to feel as if the city is slowly taking over your life.
Photo by Aud Lew
Do you find NYC a challenging city to grow as a band? Or on the contrary, do you find it gives you opportunities that perhaps other cities might not give you? SIMON: NYC is a city bustling with energy and ambition. One day you can play the streets of Union Square. The next you find yourself with management and playing Stella McCartney fashion shows. We’ve used the phrase “only in New York” a bunch of times. You never know what will happen, and things move fast here. If you have the right energy, NYC is a great place to grow as a band. The competition is fierce, and because of that, it’s hard to get paid gigs in venues. But the money is on the streets for sure. NILS: There’s an extremely high amount of bands in New York. If you go to Williamsburg or Bushwick, everybody is a musician. It can be good and bad. There’s great musical feedback all over but also incredible competition to be in the spotlight. The sky-high rent these days makes it almost impossible for most NY musicians to make a living only by playing music. Do you guys do anything else to make a living? SIMON: For a couple of years we all did nothing but music. We lived together in an apartment in Brooklyn, we worked together, ate together and partied together.
We did everything as a band and played almost every day. It was an intense period but it definitely helped develop our sound and groove a lot. Today we do other stuff too. Esben and I are teachers, Aske is a carpenter and Nils has recently been managing the bookings at a music venue in Brooklyn. While being 100% dedicated to the band was great in many ways, I think doing our own thing on the side can add inspiration as well. Do you find that the city inspires you creatively? Or do you find it intimidating? NILS: To get good creative material out of New York, I think the city needs to be taken in doses. The city has this interesting dilemma: At first, you love it, and can't get enough of new impressions, cultures, and endless opportunities. Then after a while, it starts to feel as if the city is slowly taking over your life. As if It’s sucking out your energy, dragging you down and you feel stuck. You need to save the last bit of that energy for the escape! The funny thing is, the moment you leave you immediately start to miss it so much, that you know you have to go back. NY has a heavy energy, both good and bad. It’s an emotional roller coaster really. At times, I find it quite hard reaching that balance of being creatively productive in the middle of this madness. That being said, it definitely gives you plenty of potential material to build
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on. One of the great things about NY (and being a street musician in general) is that you keep meeting interesting and different people. These people will most likely inspire you one way or another. Where else do you get your inspiration? NILS: The interesting thing about this band is that our musical influences are notably different from one another. We’ve always been pretty keen on trying to incorporate as many of the differences as we can into our sound. Aske and I favor American roots music, like country and delta blues. Esben likes artists such as Led Zeppelin and Donovan. Simon listens to soul and funk music. We’re all big on backing vocals, both Beatles and gospel-style. That must be challenging, to find a middle point between all your preferred musical genres. When it comes to composing, do you guys get along well? NILS: Even though we favor different genres, I’d say our fundamental musical taste is pretty similar. I also think we developed our sound before we shaped a style. Actually, I don’t think we ever really decided on a style. In terms of composing, we do get along pretty well. We’re not big on rehearsing, but we almost always have fun arranging dynamics, small details, timing etc. It’s not so
much about genre but more about energy for us. I have often worked on lyrics with Esben, but we have a pretty mutual understanding of what works. In many cases, he’s the one who has to sing it, so it’s important that he feels comfortable doing that. And comfort is huge in our band because so much of it is the performance. SIMON: The way I see it, it’s the fusion of musical genres that creates the sound we have today. Because of that, I feel like we all respect each other’s preferences and make that play a part in the final tweaking of a composition. When a composition or just an idea for a song is being presented to the rest of the band, we need to play it over and over again to feel comfortable in it. The best way to do this is to take it to the streets and see how people react. That is when we all find our role in the song, and slowly develop the final composition. What role does spontaneity and “going with the flow” play in your musical ethos? SIMON: The reason we keep coming back to the streets is because of the spontaneity. It’s hard to create the same level of interaction and dialogue with the audience from a stage. The element of surprise is very important to us. Part of this is due to expectations; when we perform on the streets we can take people completely by surprise. Photo by Gabriela Uweis
A part of our performance and music is based on what happens during a set. You always have to adapt to the unknown factors. The police arrive, a child starts dancing, a guy wants to jam with you, you break a string. Whatever happens, we go with the flow, and we’re successful when the crowd responds positively. It’s what keeps it exciting. A lot of what we learned about performance comes from the street, and I hope that we’ll keep coming back. These days it’s refreshing to see musicians who aren’t in it for the money and commercial success. As authentic music-makers, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians out there? NILS: What makes you think that we’re not in it for the money? (laughs) I think no matter what you do, it’s important to stay true to the things you are passionate about. If you’re passionate about money, it really doesn’t make any sense to get into music at all. Music has to be driven by a completely different force. Like eagerness to create and to perform. SIMON: Be yourself, and make sure to enjoy music every day. If you’re not enjoying it when you play, something needs to change. It’s our experience that if you keep on doing what you love, it’s going to happen for you sooner or later. Keep radiating love for what you do, and people will respond to that. We were talking about the role of spontaneity in music. What are the differences between playing on the streets and playing in concert venues? Do you like one more than the other? NILS: As Simon mentioned earlier, it’s the spontaneity and the level of interaction that makes the streets exciting. The foundation of our band and our sound comes from there. I think that we’ll always see the streets as our home. This is where we’re the most comfortable. There are no expectations except for our own. It can be tough bringing the surprising elements into the venues, but at the same time, I think the challenge of exactly that is quite attractive to us. If there’s an opportunity for us to develop and to radiate our music on a larger scale, we’ll take it. Often we’ve been trying to combine the two; playing the streets to promote our gigs at venues. It works like a charm.
Top photo on this page by Ricardo Kuettel Middle and bottom photo by Chang Han
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Do you like going on tour? SIMON: We love sharing our music with as many people as possible and touring can be a great way of doing that. A challenge for our band is to translate our act from the street to the stage. We recently played theaters in Moscow and St. Petersburg in front of full houses. It was a great experience and we hope to come back soon. NILS: A huge part of our band is based on ‘the experience’. The freedom of traveling combined with playing music is attractive to me. Being ‘out there’ together, seeing new places and meeting new people. And you don’t have to do much to connect, music does that automatically for you. The challenge can be that it’s usually pretty hard work. What do you struggle with the most during the creative process of writing new songs? NILS: In general I think one of the hardest parts of writing, is the process of turning the idea into an actual composition. An important part of the foundation in Brothers Moving songs is to keep things simple – at least as a start. It’s funny because we like to have this attitude that we’re all open and “jammin”, while in reality we’re all quite picky about what we play and how we sound. That makes it quite challenging to write a fitting song because we all have to feel good about it. Or at least, we
have to feel good about our individual parts of it, for it to work. Looking at our instrumental setup, we only have a few simple tools to play with. In this sense, we’ve always been perfectionists about groove, harmonies, tempo and dynamics. You said you believe in positivity for anything you do in life. Do you think you can inject positivity into the world with good musical vibes? On a larger scale, do you think music has the power to change the world? SIMON: Well that might be pushing it a little, but yeah, absolutely. Art, including music, is a universal language that everybody can relate to. When I see an American, a Russian or a Brazilian singing along to one of our Danish tunes, that makes me happy. The fact that they don’t know the meaning of the lyrics doesn’t matter. The intention is still communicated. NILS: I think that music has always been one of the most powerful natural tools to spread and receive energy. Both positive and negative. Music has been with us since the dawn of human history, and it’s been used for gathering people and connecting. We’re all constantly using it for its ability to apply a certain state into our minds. Music creates movements and I can’t imagine what our world would look like without it. ∆
T H E H E A RT O F D E L H I
Text by Caro Curbelo Photos courtesy of the artists Alfalfa, Theic & Fitz Special thanks to Tali Kimelman
015 was a year of crossing geographical as well as personal borders for artists Colectivo Licuado (Florencia Durán & Camilo Nuñez) and Alfalfa (Nicolás Sanchez). With the experience gained in recent years in Uruguay and a style that’s already recognized in the region, this trio embarked on a journey where each phase worked like in a video game: There is no set time for changing scenes, they only jump when they’re ready for the next level. This is how they arrived at the Murale Gdańsk Zaspa festival in Poland, where they achieved their objective of painting their first high wall. The result: a monumental mural 12 floors high that set the stage for this sixmonth adventure where they challenged the boundaries of what they could achieve painting together. The journey continued through several European cities, leaving their works behind, meeting people, discovering villages, learning stories… until they arrived in Madrid and from there took a direct flight to India. This chronicle is not a step-by-step recap of their trip, nor is it a diary written in the first person… rather, it’s the result of a talk with friends who came back home and told us what they found on the other side of the world.
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Welcome Although all three had long been on “traveling mode”, trained for the continually changing environments and quickly adapting to the dynamics demanded by each new city, the shock of arriving in India was intense. This would not be just another stop on their journey and they felt it from the very beginning. At the airport, they took a taxi bound for an Airbnb located in “a very local neighborhood”, according to the ad, and entrusted to some higher force that the driver would take them directly to their destination. The trajectory didn’t give them much time to decipher the new scenery. A hot, dry air (+ 35°C) formed a mist that blurred the outline of the landscape: untidy buildings, carts, thousands of motorbikes and a massive number of people circulating on the streets that a Uruguayan could never have imagined.* A room with a view The driver ended up being really nice and helpful, the apartment did in fact exist and somehow, when they entered through the front door, they “felt at home”. In the room, there was only one nightstand between the beds that looked worn out by many years of use and there wasn’t any furniture or shelves to place their backpacks on. Here, it seems, everything was to be stored on the floor… but oh well, they were planning on spending most of their time outside anyway, so it wasn’t so bad. They took a few minutes to get used to the idea that this was the intended destination and they opened all the windows as an inaugural act of their new home.
*India is the second most populated country in the world with over 1.2 billion people and a density of 370 inhabitants / km2, vs. the artists come from Uruguay, a country with just over 3 million people, with 18 inhabitants / km2.
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No fresh air, no blue sky, no dreamed landscape. Suddenly, the travelers were taken aback by a strong smell that filled the room. The back of the building overlooked the neighborhood landfill. Oh! What a surprise... no fresh air, no blue sky, no dreamed landscape. Suddenly, the travelers were taken aback by a strong smell that filled the room. The back of the building overlooked the neighborhood landfill. Under their window, heaps of garbage piled up, not from a day or even a week... it seems the trash had been there much longer than they dared to imagine. Beyond the mountains of garbage, small alleys opened up where they could see buildings wedged between bamboo scaffolding where many workers were busy plugging cracks and fixing ruptures. They climbed up skeletons of bamboo in flip-flops while keeping their balance – something that didn’t seem like it was in compliance with any sort of safety requirements. The travelers stood watching the scene, trying to make sense of this impractical system of workers continually climbing up and down… it seemed like this work would take them a lifetime. The cries of crows completed the landscape and somehow this interruption brought them out of their trance, they closed the window and remembered the ad: “The apartment is in a very local neighborhood.” This was their “Welcome to India”.
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The 2-month urban art festival aims to change the city's landscape with art in public space.
Rishikesh, Goa & New Delhi After a few days, they left their first impressions behind and began to discover amazing places – they saw the sunsets in the Ganges, learned the names of delicious fruits they had never tasted before and began to interact with the local people, effectively renewing their illusions and helping them – little by little – to understand how things worked around there. They painted a school and a hostel; they exchanged portraits for food, haircuts and even ear cleanings – any excuse to start a conversation. Contact with the St+art Festival in Delhi had started when they were still in Spain, a warm exchange of e-mails and interest in their work were the engines that kept their enthusiasm going and motivated them to make the long journey to India. What they didn’t expect was that the “central wall” assigned to them was located next to a huge landfill. It turns out each district has its landfill and they had already seen two of them. Chhote Lal. The heart of Delhi The wall acted as a barrier that separated the neighborhood and the landfill. During the day, half-naked children ran around with garbage up to their knees. A group of about ten or twelve families lived under some bushes, many teenage mothers walked to and fro, men constantly chewed tobacco... all very dirty, hot, with intense smells, crows screaming and what Nico describes as a strong feeling of heartbreak. That’s where they had been assigned to paint. They had 10 days to transform the place. Theic and Fitz decided to draw two children facing each other with a central point of light where Alfalfa would paint his part. An offering of hope and warmth was their proposal for the festival, a work that would make this place a little bit friendlier.
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An offering of hope and warmth was their proposal for the festival, a work that would make this place a little bit friendlier.
With the help of local children, Theic and Fitz took a photo that served as a reference, outlined the wall and began to paint while Nico made some trials in his sketchbook. The more experienced of the three friends was going through a crisis, as he couldn’t figure out how to transmute this great intensity into something positive. The days passed and none of his ideas seemed to come to fruition. Some because they didn’t convince him, others because the context gave them an unintended meaning: An open hand is the symbol of congress. A bicycle is the symbol of a political party. A woman, yes, but in a dumpster... No, it wasn’t possible. That wasn’t a good message to leave. A cow… in recent days there had been an incident where a few radicals sacrificed a cow and tensions where too high to be alluding to the sacred animal. Nico sat drinking chai watching his colleagues progress, slowly the space where he had to intervene on was becoming ready and this only increased the pressure on his empty sketchbook. The solution, as often happens, had been right in front of him the whole time.
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Chhote Lal, a man without age, arrived very early every day and settled in a worn-out corner on the ground to repeat the same routine. With a cube of water, he would wash his cart, and with another he would wash himself and his clothes. Then he would proceed to make cakes with spices, herbs and potatoes, offering a simple menu that didn’t seem to disappoint anyone. The cart worked as a meeting point, everyone passed by it, talked, drank tea and commented on the news. The man had chosen that place and his presence marked the beginning and end of each day. Nico dedicated the tribute to him, to his typical Indian cart that would carry the city of Delhi on its four wooden wheels. And the small house of Chhote Lal would be a teapot that looked over the drawer where Chhote Lal kept his money. When Nico was done, he managed to find a local letter painter to help him write a dedication. When the wall was finally finished, they invited the honoree to see the work up close… the man smiled, but his expression made them think that something was wrong. They noticed that the man didn’t know how to read, so they asked someone to read the dedication to him out loud: “Yeh Gadi Chhote Lal Ki Hai” / “This cart belongs to Chhote Lal”. The man’s face lit up like a child reading his name for the first time. ∆ www.alfalfa.com.uy www.colectivolicuado.com www.st-artdelhi.org
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RICARDO PARKER I L LU S T R AT I O N Artist statement www.ricardoxparker.com
As a kid, I always liked to draw. I had sketchbooks full of doodles and created my own comics influenced by Dragon Ball and Samurai X. Then I had my graffiti phase with my friends during my teenage years, drawing letters and characters on walls around the city. Hiphop culture also always had a big influence on me – the beats and the 90s videos full of vibrant colors. Then I started learning more about the illustration world, I began to take it more seriously to try to find my own style and my way of doing things. I try to illustrate every day. Sometimes I can’t because of my day job, but hopefully soon I’ll join a studio with other artists to feel some creative energy and be more productive. My work is based on ideas or a phrase, quote or photo that I’ve seen. I always start by drawing with my pencil in my sketchbook – I’m not comfortable starting to draw directly on the computer. I basically draw anywhere I can, but mainly I draw at home, listening to music that relaxes me or listening to podcasts. I have a lot of influences, be it illustrators, street artists, designers or photographers, like ETAM CRU, Jamie Brownie, ARYZ, Waone, 13th Witness, Evidence, Jason Goldwatch... I get inspiration from them and many others. I like artists that use a lot of bright colors and characters with a lot of detail, maybe because they invoke memories of cartoons I watched as a kid, but I think that in general that’s clearly reflected in my work. Now as I’m progressing, I’m noticing that I’m simplifying my work more and more. Let’s see where all this goes.
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MUSIC & PERFORMANCE
Sounds of the Soul Text by Janielle Williams Photos by Philine von Düszeln & Stefanie Tendler www.dariorossidrummer.com
The first thing one notices about a Dario Rossi performance is his energy. For the most memorable street artists, the process of creating is as much a part of the show as what they produce. It’s just as fun to listen to Rossi’s music as it is to watch him make seamless transitions between rhythms while he maneuvers on his knees along a row of pots, woks, buckets, pans, and scrap metal. In contrast to his explosive energy, the crowd has a look of quiet awe. A brave few start to dance as if they had just walked into a club.
Dario Rossi is a formally trained musician, but also possesses a raw talent that is stoked by his ongoing curiosity. “Everything is sound,” says Rossi, going on to describe his fascination as a boy with all sounds, from metallic to mundane. A young Rossi heard music even in the hum of the refrigerator motor. Although he also plays piano, the drums became “his instrument,” as Rossi puts it, around age 10. In drums he found a means to express himself both musically and physically. The physical demands of drumming provided a perfect energetic outlet. Rossi grew up in small Italian town in what he describes as a “normal classic family” that happened to have great taste in music. The drums, keyboards, and synthesizers of the
80s blared regularly from his parents’ stereo. Those were the years Rossi became inspired to create music. He grew up on a diet of new wave, industrial and old school techno from the early 90s. “When I was a kid, I didn’t know there were some instruments which could produce that sound,” Rossi explains. “I wondered how could I obtain the same sounds by creating them myself?” He quickly developed a reputation in school for turning everything around him into drums. “I was beating on every object I could find. The teachers all remember me for this. I was a creative kid,” says Rossi. “What I was trying to do was always emulating more or less the same sound as electronic music by playing on different objects.”
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While setting up Rossi channeled the curiosity and the sense of play and spontaneity that he had as a child. Then he started to play, and made roughly 76 pounds in 20 minutes from the crowd.
By the time he reached his 20s, he had already won multiple prestigious awards for his music. Despite his success in Italy, curiosity kept him from getting too comfortable at home. In 2011, he gave notice at his job at the time, took his savings, and flew to London. London didn’t quite work out for Rossi. The possibilities for a drummer who wanted to keep tempo for a band were abundant, but the possibilities for a drummer to create were scarce. It’s difficult to categorize Rossi’s own music style – he calls it simply techno, but with a more human touch. He struggled to make ends meet. Like many artists, Rossi was continually faced with the decision to be a less than happy employee somewhere and a musician on the side, or purely a musician. “You have to try different things and find your own way,” says Rossi. “You never know until you try.” For Rossi then, that meant returning to Italy to work for a former employer. But not before he gathered objects from the flat he stayed in, threw them in a bag, and headed to Piccadilly Circus a day before his flight. Rossi started to play, channeling the curiosity and the sense of play and spontaneity that he had as a child. He made roughly 80 pounds in 20 minutes from the crowd.
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He still flew back to Italy the next day. The nine months he spent in London were not a loss. He returned to Italy with new inspiration to evolve as a musician. That meant further education, since Rossi believes that both practice and formal training are required to make the “whole” artist. From 2012 to 2014, he juggled two jobs while pursuing further music studies. Rossi’s name became known from his regular performances in the Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di Spagna of Rome. His earnings from street performances went from supplementing student stipends to supplanting them. In the summer, Rossi headed to Berlin. His “big break” came when he performed in Alexanderplatz and someone in the crowd shot a video that appeared on YouTube and went viral shortly after. Offers for performances flooded in and his fan base skyrocketed. Faced with the choice between the safety of home or the unknown, he went with the unknown. Rossi began touring festivals and nightclubs throughout Europe and continues to tour today. Rossi still prefers to perform on the street, “the best stage in the world”, according to him. That first performance at Piccadilly Circus taught him that, unlike any other venue, the street is
the place where any artist can carve out a space for themselves. It’s also a place with a broader demographic. Rossi’s seen both children and elderly people bopping to his style of industrial techno. “It’s not you choosing the people but the people choosing you. If you are successful on the street, you can be successful everywhere.” Training plays a role in success, but so does authenticity. “People understand you’re doing something that belongs to you,” says Rossi about audiences. “It doesn’t have to be incredible, just something mine in this slice of time.” Skills alone can be learned and repeated, but it takes courage to exercise those skills as tools for personal expression. For this reason, Rossi asserts, “being yourself is more difficult than being good.” The message that Rossi wants to convey is that everyone should express their creativity in a way that fits them. The result is expression for expression’s sake, and the creation of something timeless. “I strongly believe in the power of soul. If we do it with soul the things we create remain.” ∆
THE GRAFFITI GALS Text by Maresa Harvey Photography by Alexandra Henry www.warmipaint.com
Empowering, nurturing & recognizing the leading ladies of today’s street art scene In late 2015, emerging and established female talents working across genres of street art, mural painting, graffiti and tagging met in Quito, Ecuador at the invitation of festival producers Maria “Toofly” Castillo and Ache Vallejo. An all women’s festival, Warmi Paint was designed to create a new platform in Ecuador for contributors and audiences to share in the work of local as well as international street artists. Warmi means ‘woman’ in Quechua, a native South American language spoken in the central Andes region. Cultural heritage and women empowerment in the street art scene were key motifs of the festival. It’s a challenge for this growing community of female artists to set new standards for their practice in a critical and competitive environment. Nevertheless, Castillo and Vallejo decided to take the challenge. We caught up with Maria ‘Toofly’ Castillo and documentarian Alexandra Henry to talk about how this event came together and what opportunities it offered those involved.
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n Ecuador, a setting far removed from the now established comforts of painting in European or American festivals, Castillo and Vallejo brought a new emphasis on female painting to an audience where women are notably under-represented. To make a successful festival that encourages practicing artists to develop their work; whilst also inspiring a new generation of women who want to paint is by no means a small task. Maria ‘Toofly’ Castillo hails from the boroughs of Queens, New York. Growing up as a teen in the early 90s, inspired by the burgeoning graffiti talent of her peers and the legacy of New York’s
graffiti-boom of the preceding 70s and 80s, she tells me: “It was fairly easy to start drawing on the table and then slowly start drawing on the walls and then slowly getting in trouble and meeting the graffiti kids!” This initiation started a course to move “from drawing to pretty much vandalizing school property and then on to the streets and then onto my neighborhood walls” and later earning notoriety within the street art scene as a leading female artist. Her work is synonymous with a female form: strong, vivid and sassily stylish. Her characters give an impression much like my first of Toofly herself. Whilst at first glance it feels like a seemingly natural progression to success, Toofly is quick to emphasize that when growing up, the scene was somewhat different to what we have come to expect of New York, LA or Europe today. “I saw that there were a lot of graffiti writers who were guys – but there were no women around my circle that did the same thing – like take out a marker and write on a wall, or maybe go out late at night and use a spray can and draw really big graffiti letters… that just didn’t exist. I was pretty much the only one. So at that time, because there were all these guys, I felt like there needed to be some female representation.” This situation drove a feeling of purpose that provided the nexus to create a new female street art scene. “I really emphasized painting a female image so that it could translate as like, you know, there is a woman out there painting!” This drive led Toofly to connect with other female street artists, like Lady Pink, who “were the first to jump start that whole energy of women painting on the street.” Whilst others may have been working up to similar scenes unknown to Toofly, theirs was a network with a feminine focus that sought to
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Theirs was a network with a feminine focus that sought to equal their male counterparts of the era.
equal their male counterparts of the era. Taking and creating opportunities to present their work in prominent and professional spaces, not just on the fringes or corners of those dominated by male artists. “I think I rode the wave of being a female artist and doing female projects because I did believe that women needed a louder voice, it was a male-dominated scene and continues to be so in many countries like Ecuador, so I just feel like we need to be the example for the other girls… it’s not about my ego and putting my name up or being one of the females out there. It’s about inspiring other girls to learn the craft – not so much vandalizing – but creating more spaces for women to celebrate their art and also being professionals and making a living out of it. So, over the years I’ve organized female art exhibitions, publications, events, and more… because I really do enjoy working with the ladies and together building opportunities that will lead to a much more prominent street art scene for women. Toofly is of Ecuadorian origin and in 2012, she moved back to her home country to find a very weak street art scene there. “I felt a responsibility, or a duty, to help create the scene there. I think that because I grew up in NYC, I saw how it all started from the very beginning – it started with one person, two people, and so on… and then the next thing you know pretty much every city in the US has a female crew… you can no longer say it’s a male-dominated scene, now it’s pretty balanced. But when I moved to South America, I didn’t see that. It was like one girl and ten guys painting a wall. So I figured that with the festival, or with jumpstarting more events or creative spaces, I could help build what we did in the US.”
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When Toofly moved to Ecuador, knowing some graffiti writers in the country, she began to be invited to paint at different festivals. After a while, she met Ache Vallejo, who was one of the producers of the recent Warmi Paint. “He was really the one who suggested I get involved in organizing this festival, as I was one of the few girl street artists at the time. I thought it was a great idea but I also had my doubts because I didn’t know the politics of Ecuador when I first moved there, or the system, but he was pretty confident and he knew a lot of people in the scene. Then, when I heard that the Ecuadorian government were able to give us a grant to bring Martha Cooper and Lady Pink, I felt like there was no way I could back out on the opportunity to try and produce this festival!” Lady Pink was arguably the first female street artist known internationally: the ‘first lady’ of the scene. And photojournalist Martha Cooper, renowned for her
documentation of the New York graffiti scene from the 1970s and 80s, are each game-changing figures within the history of female street art. Their friendship with Toofly formed the base network through which Toofly then began involving other women in the festival. Officially Warmi Paint ran for four days and invited the local Quito community and guests from abroad to visit the murals being painted across three different sites. Collaborative murals, workshops, film screenings and presentations were among some of the activities scheduled for the festival. The measure of success was marked by the impact felt among the local residents. “We had a lot of young kids attend the event that were just graffiti kids from the neighborhood, as well as professional graffiti artists and organizers who were like: “This is our dream come true!” And they couldn’t believe that the women put it together. It blows their minds because they’re not used to it. The woman’s role
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The woman’s role in Ecuador is like: have a lot of kids. There aren’t a lot of role models here that project a powerful image of a woman.
in Ecuador is like: have a lot of kids. There aren’t a lot of role models here that project a powerful image of a woman; the men pretty much run everything. And so to them, their brains are popping out of their heads, they just can’t believe it. So that’s a really good thing because it changes the way they think about what women are capable of achieving. And how dope it is that these ladies – not guys – painted these amazing huge walls. It just sends out a really loud message that might spark a movement of more ladies painting in Ecuador, which was not happening before.” Creating, nurturing and encouraging this community of established and aspiring female painters is the key to ensuring the continued success of artists involved in the Warmi Paint festival. Speaking about this sense of community, Toofly tells me: “I think it’s important to start it and then continue cultivating it now that it exists, by creating more spaces for women to celebrate their work and their ideas. It’s also important that they feel comfortable painting amongst each other so that they’re not in an environment that can sometimes be a little hostile or too tough or too underground. Sometimes you just need to have a diverse atmosphere and then you can choose where or what you feel comfortable with, to do what you want to do.”
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They still see us as these little graffiti kids that want to do graffiti things and they hate it. They think it’s vandalism. So you have to educate people, have lots of events, conferences, be in the news… everybody is just kind of behind on the times here.
Self-proclaimed as the ‘Momma’ figure of the group, it’s clear that her focus, drive and direction keep her thinking of the next opportunity to broaden the platform in which her own work and that of her peers can be received. But it’s also a process, that of becoming a street artist, like any other type of art, it doesn’t happen overnight and the evolution and the stages that get you there are important for younger artists to understand. “When you first start out in graffiti, you basically start out vandalizing – graffiti is illegal and messing up property, that’s graffiti at its essence. Then you move on to graffiti art, which is letters and colors and shape and style, which means you need permissions so that you have more time to do your piece. Then you start to develop a character, your own particular subject and style, and that’s when it becomes street art. Then, after you master the art of doing all kinds of figurative messaging, letters, characters and so on, it turns into muralism. So it’s important to say that you have to start at some point and evolve. I mean, I started in my teens and now I'm in my thirties and I’m not going to still be doing vandalism, there are some ladies that still do that because they love the underground, they want to stay true to the art form of graffiti and that’s great, but you know, we live in a world where everyone can choose the path that they want to take. I’ve taken my own path and evolved from tagging to other things – I’m not going to be running from the cops
and tagging up. I just feel a bit ridiculous, in my thirties, to be doing that.” This choice in direction was precisely what was presented to the emerging generation of Ecuadorian artists that were chosen through an artist call to participate in the event. “For them this was a huge opportunity to understand that their role is really important… we were able to find three girls who no one had heard about, but they do illegal graffiti, tagging and bombing. They got the opportunity to be in the public eye for one day and paint something that much larger than just tagging and running away. So for them to have that experience and to be represented and promoted by the festival and actually get paid… you know, to be treated like a proper artist, I think it must make them think: do I want to keep doing vandalism? Or do I want to move into this – to travel and to paint professionally? So I think this just opens their mind to that.” Facing new legal systems and with a different standard of work environment than what Toofly was used to, the festival wasn’t without its challenges. Describing the Warmi Paint festival as one of the most difficult projects she has ever undertaken, Toofly explains the slow and bureaucratic processes they had to undergo in order to finalize permissions to paint in different locations, receive funds agreed in grants and coordinate across a number of locations with a limited team and budget.
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The Ecuadorian society’s impression of street art is also somewhat different: “they still see us like these little graffiti kids that want to do these graffiti things and they hate it. They think it’s vandalism. So you have to educate people, the society; have lots of events, conferences, be in the news… everybody is just kind of behind on the times here. They’re not up to date on what’s happening in Europe or the States, it’s just extremely frustrating to do the level of work that we want to do. It’s good that we did it, we set an example and you know, [laughs] someone else can take it from there.’ Interestingly, for the international artists who traveled to Quito from around the world, with far more streamlined and efficient experiences of painting in festivals, there was a lot to learn from the Ecuadorian community and the essentially DIY approach of a society that doesn’t have access to the same resources as more developed countries. “There’s this cultural thing there, in the States we grew up differently. We’re more absorbed with television and pop culture, so we lose a lot of our cultural connection with our roots. We’re always painting cool shit or cool letters that have no substance. But the stuff that people having been doing over here – it has a lot of depth. Just by looking at it, you can tell there are a lot of cultural layers and stories and political views and messages. So you start asking questions and you start learning about all these beliefs, customs, patterns and symbols from Inca traditions and pre-Columbian art. There is this whole other level of communication coming from the art that’s being put out there… this is just something that doesn’t happen in the States.” But not all female street artists adhere to these woman-specific events. Fostering a supportive community of female artists seems to be a strong starting point that acts as the springboard to encourage female street artists, but what happens next? What if these women no longer want to participate in women-only festivals and want to be seen in a non-gender specific environment? Alexandra Henry, an American photographer and producer who has been documenting female street artists
around the world, made her way down to Quito to document the festival and also to showcase one of her projects. Alexandra began to document the graffiti and street art scene in Los Angeles and for the past three years has been working on a project entitled “Street Heroines”. What began with her taking images on film cameras developed into a series of short film vignettes that talk to individual female street artists about their work and shows them in action on the streets of their cities. This collection of work is what Alexandra was asked to
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There is this whole other level of communication coming from the art that’s being put out there… this is just something that doesn’t happen in the States.
present at Warmi Paint, since her travels and her work have led her to become somewhat of an expert on female street artists. I asked Alexandra about the pressure that women face to ensure that they get noticed and their choice to participate in female festival. From her persepective, “…some women feel like they have been fighting the fight for so long. Not that they give up but they have found some sort of inner confidence that they decide they no longer want to participate in female-only events. They think, ‘I want to be on the same level as guys… I see these guys and I work twice, three times as hard as them, I'm just as talented, if not more, and it’s time for me to get the recognition.’ Maybe that’s an artist’s ego, but I think when it’s coming from the vein of ‘no, I'm a woman and I’m really talented, I know I have what it takes to make it’, I think that’s a frustrating point for a lot of artists who are well along in their career to still have to be fighting for recognition and credit.” Because of this, many female artists are finding ways to gain recognition without having to promote themselves through emphasizing their gender. Partly this may come down to the quality of work being produced by such female artists, but partly it may come down to audiences being better educated about who is creating what and those women who are showing that they’re capable of producing incredible work. But by having initiated female-only street art events like the Warmi Paint festival, women have the opportunity to choose whether or not to participate in such events and undoubtedly they have given platforms to female artists that may have not had any other opportunities otherwise. The exposure these types of events are creating for women as a collective are allowing them to make their forays into being recognized within the wider street art context. Initiating a new platform for street art to be received and investing in an emerging community of female street artists, Toofly has helped foster an appreciation for the history of the controversial art form and has helped gain recognition for the women who are key contemporary contributors to the scene. ∆
Interview by The Koppel Project Photos by Gabriella Sonabend & Sol Bailey Baker www.solbaileybarker.com www.thekoppelproject.com
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Sol Bailey Barker is a British artist whose work ties together historical and sociological research with an inquiry into the power and symbolism of materials. His work often begins with a journey and months of research exploring landscapes and their histories. Past projects have taken him to the Himalayas, Colombia, Peru, France and Italy where he has created a number of public sculptures and worked alongside communities studying their folklore and exploring local craft and work practices in order to understand regional relationships to materials. Fascinated by the notion of archetypes and the evolution of power symbols from the Neolithic age until the present, Sol’s work is a collision of multi-cultural references, which at its core refers to ubiquitous mathematical principles. Sol is currently based in London where he is working towards a solo show at The Koppel Project on Baker Street opening in April 2016.
In 2014 you were selected as one of six artists to create a large-scale work for the UK National Sculpture Symposium. Can you tell us about your first public sculpture? ‘As Above, So Below’ referenced the rock formations dotted throughout the Riverhill Estate. These monoliths were brought to the estate during the Victorian craze for manipulating nature and creating new landscapes. When one of the oldest cedar trees, planted in 1842 fell earlier that year the estate gave me access to use the tree to create a monument. ‘As Above, So Below’ was informed by the heroic turbulence of Himalayan geology and botany, sacred geometry and chaos theory. In 2008 I spent 4 months living in Upper Likir a remote Himalayan village, which had remained almost unchanged for centuries. The high altitude desert was made up entirely of these complex rock formations. I lived with a Ladaki family and worked alongside them learning to build dry stonewalls with round stones and building traditional houses. This was the beginning of a six yearlong investigation into rock formations, which was finally realized in ‘As Above, So Below’. The geometry that we see in the heavens is the same as that we find in the structures of flowers and plants. The ‘As Above, So Below’ of alchemy. This work has become a feature of the estate and is open to public viewing. You also come from a background of studying bushcraft and medicinal plants. Could you tell us more about your training, your relationship to the wild and
how this has played into your work? I grew up living in different wild landscapes including Devon, North Wales, the North East Coast of England and the Sussex Downs. As a child I was given the freedom to explore these landscape alone. I would often wander off into forest and mountains for a day with a saw or a hatchet and build structures and small sculptures. I spent a large part of my childhood sitting alone watching the interactions of wild animals. I was mentored in wilderness living for years and went on to teach wilderness survival. My mentor came from a lineage of great teachers, notably Stalking Wolf a Lippan apache who was known for gathering together the wisdom of the North American tribes. My relationship with the wild is inextricably intertwined into my work, as it is an integral part of my identity, so even if I’m choosing not to deal directly with it, its absence is just as important. Living between the English countryside and London, do you feel your relationship to nature affects your city life? Do you find you make the same nature of work in both environments? When living in isolation in nature, my senses are heightened by the absence of man-made noise. I become extremely sensitive to my environment to such an extent, that even the way I move becomes closer to that of an animal; fluid and silent. When returning to a city after this level of isolation or any prolonged period spent in nature I experience a sensory overload.
The interlocking nature of peopleâ€™s lives, the subterranean warrens of transport, and the bombardment of visual imagery is a shock to the system. However, once the senses have adjusted; the cultural vibrancy; the hum of the cityâ€™s veins and the presence of multicultural community, provides a space of possibility. Now that I have been living in London for almost a year I have become influenced by the materials of the city and have started working with steel. Working with metal is such a different process to working with wood. The material itself has completely different qualities and thinking about this has led to a new series of work questioning the power that is inherent in certain materials. At the moment I am working on a body of sculptures for a solo exhibition at The Koppel Project in London, which will open in April 2016. The exhibition entitled Wyrd Then; Weird Now is a response to this enquiry into materials. Beginning with researching Neolithic axe heads I have spent the past few months studying the evolution of power symbols and mapping their history in order to understand how a material aura once perceived
as magic is still retained in contemporary power symbols such as sports cars and weaponry. I am currently fascinated by the similarities in form and symbolism between certain Bronze Age swords and nuclear warheads. In the early British Bronze Age when very few people owned swords those who carried them rarely had to use them, the mere presence of a sword and breastplate created the same reverence as a nuclear warhead does today. The fear of the object itself and its inherent power of destruction was a deterrent to conflict. Your works are often created for large outdoors spaces such as the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens in Kent and the Marshall Murray Sculpture Park in Nice, is the environment that your works are placed in a crucial part of the work? Definitely. Although many of my large-scale works are situated in sculpture parks or large outdoor spaces I do not make them exclusively to be viewed that way. Many works are a direct response to the specific landscape in, which they are made and are designed to not only have a visual impact but also to respond to other sensory stimuli.
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Everywhere we stayed and explored I created a sculptural response, which I gave to particular communities or left in wild landscapes.
For example, Forms Shaped Through Time, (which draws inspiration from the topography and sounds of the High Amazon jungle landscape) is designed so that its form creates distinctive sounds in different weather conditions. In the same way that I could stand with my eyes closed in the jungle and hear the form of the land mapped out by the song of frogs or the sounds of heavy rain, one can stand near Forms Shaped Through Time in different weather conditions and hear totally different choruses echoed by the contours of the work. This summer these pieces will be installed at Holborn Circus in The City of London and will become responsive to the sound of vehicles, pedestrians and construction. I am excited by seeing how works, which were made as a response to vast landscapes will resonate and be received in this urban environment. The exhibition, which I am currently working towards “Wyrd Then; Weird Now” will not have any outdoor elements. The Koppel Project Gallery is based in a recently decommissioned bank vault, which still retains its original vault doors. The context of this space has emphasized my inquiry into the evolution of power symbols imbuing the works with another level of symbolism. Could you tell us something about the way folklore is interwoven in your work and how it plays into recent projects? Story has always been fundamental to my understanding of the world. Through the study of the archetypes found across different cultures I have tried to understand peoples relationship to their surroundings and to one another. In a recent collaboration I worked with writer Gabriella Sonabend. Our project ‘From Myth to Earth; Seeking archetypes in greed and healing’, which took place in Colombia and has subsequently lead to a series of sculptural works, an art book and a collection of short stories; was an exploration of Colombian history, politics, culture and landscapes. Travelling across Colombia for six months, Gabriella and I stayed in many different landscapes and environments from bustling cities to remote desert lands where we lived with an indigenous tribe.
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Sol’s solo exhibition Wyrd Then:Weird Now will open at The Koppel Project in April 2016. From Myth To Earth will open at Display Gallery in July 2016. Forms Shaped Through Time will be installed at Holborn Circus in London from June – September 2016.
The project involved researching particular locations and their histories and then creating works in response to these. For example in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta we spent a fortnight with the Wiwa tribe and there I created a piece called ‘The Woven Woodwork of the Sierra Nevada’, inspired by the Wiwa beliefs and daily practices, and their relationship to the mountain jungle land, which they have inherited from a lineage of tribal communities dating back to 10AD. Everywhere we stayed and explored I created a sculptural response, which I gave to particular communities or left in wild landscapes. These sculptures served as offerings to the people and their lands. Colombian history is filled with violence and tension; there are countless stories of dispossessed peoples, military interventions, guerrilla factions, massacres, suppressed heroes and mistreated communities. The country has in essence been in a state of unrest; some might even say war for almost 100 years. Despite the outsider belief that things are getting better there, travelling through Colombia I noticed manifold layers of complex problems, which need to be resolved before it become peaceful. It was very easy to notice the negative and much harder to find stories of hope and joy. In a way our project was about creating positive affirmations and leaving small monuments to people who felt forgotten
or marginalized. Merging sculpture with storytelling was crucial in this project as Gabriella’s stories provide a context for the works that an outsider can relate to. Although the sculptures’ forms may seem abstract and are often very simple they are loaded with connotations and reference: landscapes, myths, history, culture, folklore and South American symbolism (both Catholic and indigenous). A Monument to the jungle the final piece left in South America was created in the High Amazon jungle after a three week long journey along the Amazon River and its tributaries on cargo ships. This piece, which honors the history of the indigenous communities of the jungle and stands as a monument to the deforested trees of the Amazon was donated to a jungle community who are descendants of those enslaved to rubber barrens. The stories that surround these works are crucial; they are born out of stories and continue to exist in myth. This summer in July 2016 Gabriella and I will be having a duo exhibition From Myth To Earth at Display Gallery in London where we will be exhibiting a multi-sensory installation of works relating to this project. Since returning to London we have also began to work with the Colombian community of Haringey, further researching notions of dispossession and trying to understand the significance of being a Colombian living in the Latino diaspora. ∆
A R T I S T S T A T E M E N T: I L L U S T R A T I O N
TEDDY KANG I L LU ST RAT I O N
Artist statement teddyteddykang.tumblr.com
I am a Toronto-based illustrator originally from China. Iâ€™ve always had a passion for drawing. Whenever I hold a pen to draw, I feel alive and I fall in love with drawing over and over again. For my work, I work with computer, a graphic tablet and Photoshop, as well as a sketchbook or a bunch of paper to draw rough sketches. Paper and pencil is key because when inspiration hits, you better have paper with you because it can disappear from one second to the next!
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PANTA Book a Street Artist Magazine - Issue 8 / February 2016