ORIGINAL INTERVIEW TAKEN FROM
LSD MAGAZINE – Coming of Age
Issue Five – August 11th 2010
Laced with a both a haunting realism and an otherworldly transcendence of the flesh into the immortal mysteries of identity, the supremely prolific and painfully genuine C215’s work drips with the whirlwind emotions of the human condition. He speaks through the universal language of communication, the human face to the universal elements of our existence and our shared hopes and shattered dreams through savagely emotive, yet silently reflective portraits that define the commonalities of humanity through the fragmentation we all feel so witheringly and all collude in so blindly. Yet while he urges silent introspection toward our attitudes and prejudices through his silent poetry, despite all the corrupting ills of society, greed and ego that penetrate us an overwhelming joy and embrace of all that is human shines through through the radiant energy that vibrates around his work and the exuberant and dramatic colour schemes he so often hurls into the increasingly monochrome world around us. This is intangible complexity in all its conflicted clarity and the man himself took a moment for an exchange of ideas with LSD
Can you tell us a little about your background and your early journey
My life was reasonably stable until the age of 14 when I became a raging drug addict : hash, heroin, coke and moreover LSD. My LSD period was unarguably great for opening up channels of creativity, but led also to a certain self destruction. I travelled with the Nomads alongside Spiral Tribe in the early 90’s until I found myself in jail and was forced to re assess my condition, realising that it was time to get myself clean of drugs and start out on the next phase of my life. I began to study tentatively, before the momentum began to snowball and I eventually found myself with a masters degree in Art History, another in History and 2 bachelors degrees, one in German, and the other in English. I feel at the same time both modern and classic.
What impact did the illegal rave scene have on your creativity and your perception of the world
It gave me the opportunity to discover that you can be at the heart of a movement that is bigger than you and step outside pure individualism into communal goals, communal living, and a wider purpose. It woke me up to the fact that you don’t need to go to night clubs or museums to experience art, but that you can feel art, create art and be art by yourself, doing it with your mates in unexpected places each with their own intangible character like abandoned warehouses or caves. Ultimately, art is visual poetry, and poetry is always unexpected.
Is there a beauty in the abandoned
Whatever is abandoned can equally be saved, and that is the essence of romanticism. Abandoned warehouses, asylums and derelict wastelands reflect our own lives, with a strong sense of the ephemeral. We feel small and modest when we weigh our prized individualism against time and the wider universe, and consider how long any of us or anything we do will last within collective memory. Time being stopped in a specific place helps us to understand how short and transient life really is.
What does our attitude to public space say about us as a society
In today’s Western cities we find ourselves living in an increasingly puritan atmosphere. Under the questionable cover of struggling against crime and terrorism, cities have been cleaned up to the point of obliterating any form of self expression with the glaring exception of branding and corporate advertising. The bottom line is that within in a modern liberal economy, public space exists solely to generate profits for commercial interests through the penetration and shaping of our daily reality – that’s it. It’s up to us to change this scandalous dynamic and speak about the place of human beings in the urban landscape. Raising that voice and letting it ring out and be heard would truly be a new humanism
What effect does gentrification have on community identity
Gentrification gradually forces cities of the world to fit the same mold. Communities are slowly being dissolved to allow this globalised uniformity to set in and genuine social relationships tend to disappear, leaving society and the urban landscape only really able to sustain business relationships. There are walls of separation everywhere: door codes, guards, cards, etc that break down the spirit of human interaction and communal trust and break us down into a dehumanised conformism.
How do you explore the forgotten in your work
I try to show the neglected and the rejected people society chooses to blind itself to – the homeless, street kids, people who failed or had no chance to succeed and I paint their inherent beauty and dignity. In a world where people who have fallen through the net of officially ‘socially acceptable’ I try in my own way to bring their identities into the light and perhaps awaken the passing viewer to the real flesh and blood, feeling individuals that they may decide to ignore or whose conditioning may not allow them to embrace the common humanity they have with these forgotten souls.
Is there a universal language of the human face
Emotion is universal and eyes betray the same feelings everywhere. What is important is to find the link that unifies us within the same community and a shared humanity, beyond religion, politics, economic imbalances and social issues. My job would be to gather people once more around simple feelings they could share together, facing an unexpected homeless portrait painted in a street and speak directly to the individual humanity within the portrait that speaks to the primal in us all.
What has your international painting taught you about the fundamentals of humanity
That people are the same everywhere, and feelings can be shared through a picture no matter where you live or what your cultural background, whatever social position you hold, whatever age you happen to be or whatever religion you may belong to. I also know that people run to liberalism and consumerism everywhere, and that the end of the human Golden Age is coming soon because of over consumerism, arrogance and total neglect for our communities and the natural world around us
Should we be looking to change the world or concentrate on building a subculture
I am profoundly anarchist, so it’s up to everyone not to die stupid. We can’t change the world. Or we need to be billions all pushing together in the same direction to do it. Maybe it’s time to think about the cosmos lol
Some of your colour schemes seem to refer directly to LSD. How much did psychedelics enable you to see beyond everyday reality and how much did they inform your art
LSD is something that stays embedded in your brain for decades. Attraction to colours and the spectrum of the rainbow comes directly from this. I have always been into psychedelic culture, and being born in the 70’s it was only natural that very colourful imagery should be a part of what I do. The black and white optics comes from my 90’s with the Spiral Tribe. The first principal exhibition I visited with my class back when I was at university was Franz Marc and the German expressionists at the Beaubourg museum in 93. I lived that day, that exhibition and that art under the influence of LSD and saw things that my classmates did not see. And one of the core aspects of art aims to hint at or open a window onto the invisible.
Just as consciousness is the universe exploring itself, is street art the city exploring itself
Street art is just the city’s poetry, that a few people can grasp and understand, being poets within their soul. You don’t need any so called street artist to make a beautiful “street art” photograph. You need a beautiful street scene, evoking the beauty of the city. We just participate and add things to this poetry.
Does street art truly have the power to penetrate a comfortably numb consumerist reality
No, and I am beginning to believe that advertising and fashion will kill the movement soon.
Has the internet helped create a strong community of enlightened, passionate individuals ready to make a difference or a community who believe clicking ‘like’ or joining a group is enough.
Whatever we think about the internet, this medium represents the ultimate way to build up a real collective and a democratic culture without any mediation, and the visual arts are now undergoing a revolution comparable to the coming of the gramophone and the democratisation of recorded music, and in the XX th century, the apparition of pop culture. As visual artist, I have to cope with and utilise the internet, especially when travelling, so we speak about “non-lieux”, moving and virtual places. Real life is certainly somewhere else.
Is community a dying concept in Europe?
As long as cars will divide people, there really is no possibility of living as local communities in Europe. Anonymity is the main criteria of western cities these days
Is cultural imperialism a greater threat than military imperialism
The difference is that a certain form of cultural imperialism is about dominating the whole planet, and then shortly afterwards using the complete military forces of the world to fight against any kind of revolution and uprising within minorities, as we can already see in Palestine. Israeli foreign policy is just a western experiment to trial what’s going to be a planned western worldwide policy in the next few decades.
Is there hope within hopelessness
Smoking weed can help you hope that you’re going to have a nice day. To help consider yourself as lucky to exist in a stupid world too. Having a child pushes you not to be rational, but to take up the fight, and try to build a better world for your children. Nina helps me a lot in that way. The French poet Charles Péguy once said that children are the ones who guide adults to school every morning, and not the other way round
Tell us about your relationship with Morocco
Morocco is a country I visit frequently since I have plenty of friends living there. It is precisely where I discovered the pleasure of painting with freedom and was also the first non-western country I ever painted in, and the reception was heartwarming. I am much less convinced by tourism and its pitfalls in Morocco, as for everywhere, but this country has something special, open and friendly with artists.
Where is the line between commercialisation and making a living doing what you love
When you make your art for the money, instead of making money to do your art…
What underlies your unsettling aesthetic
I have a kind of gypsy or homeless mind, never really feeling at home anywhere.. I like graffiti because you leave tracks behind you and the combination of both constitutes a big part of my aesthetics and philosophy
Tell us about your relationship with Vitry and its authorities
I arrived a year and half ago and began to paint small but elaborate pieces in the district, before going on to paint more and more. The council finally did come to me but to encourage me rather than seek to repress me, and we developed an understanding from that moment on
What is the community spirit around the art in Vitry like
Vitry has been a communist city for 60 years, investing a lot in public art, and they are very open minded about street art projects. They invited Nunca to paint, and commissioned me for a sports complex. I suppose it is a kind of paradise on a human scale, with intelligent and free minded people all around.
How much international collaboration have you brought to the streets of Vitry
I don’t know. At the beginning there were only friends coming, and now I see pieces popping up that I have no idea where they came from or who did them! Maybe more than 40 people have come here over the last year, whereas there was nothing when I arrived. Maybe we won’t change the world, but we changed a district, which then turned into an aesthetics laboratory.
Tell us about this year’s Vitry jam
I am not involved anymore in any organization of the jam, which effectively turned into a “jam”. At the beginning, I’ve was doing a barbecue in my street and invited a few friends. A year later I was looking around me, and the first thing that hit me was a parking lot with a MacDonalds. Street art has to be unexpected, done with poetry. We are not performers and when you see my works, I’m supposed to be gone, so I don’t support any kind of contrived and overly organised festival, with a long line up to attract people. But that’s life. It certainly had to evolve that way
Long term – what is the dream
To see the whole world accepting global measures for fighting against pollution and global warming, despite industrial lobbies and financial interests.
ORIGINAL INTERVIEW TAKEN FROM
LSD MAGAZINE – Coming of Age
Issue Five – August 11th 2010