LSD Magazine interviews Dont Fret and Edwin
Dont Fret & Edwin prove that distance is no barrier for two young artists with a penchant for social activism and late nights with buckets of paint. Over the past year, the pair have embarked on a dialogue spanning over 4000 miles. Edwin, an artist and writer living and working in London, and Dont Fret, a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Chicago, have over the past year been sharing words, text and ideas via social media. These texts are then scrawled, spray painted, tagged, and rolled onto walls, unsanctioned, in each artist’s respective city. Dont Fret communicates a text to Edwin and he in turn tags it onto a wall in London, and vice versa. What began as a simple experiment in social communication, activism, and a ‘graffiti pen pal project’, has expanded with the events of 2016.
Is this the first collaboration or had you worked together on previous projects?
Dont Fret – I was invited to Europe last year for projects in Italy and Germany, and while Edwin and I had only spoke via social media, I was trying to go to London to do work in the street and he was kind enough to invite and host me. So in my initial trip last year Edwin was my guide for much of the work I produced in London.
How would you describe the project?
Dont Fret – It began really simply. Through that initial trip I described, it became clear to me that Edwin and I both love graffiti and “street art” but were frustrated by certain aspects and implications of it. The bottom line was we were both very interested in using the street as a catalyst to talk about ideas, whether they be ridiculously serious or silly, and that we both used a lot of text and language in our works to accomplish that, whether it be on the street or in the gallery. The project grew from mutual admiration of each other’s talents in that field and grew even more with the events of 2016 in both of our home cities.
You’re both accomplished street artists so what made you choose the predominant text format as opposed to visual art?
Edwin – Text can be often undervalued and misrepresented. I think we both appreciate the power in text, the ability to demand the audience’s attention and subsequently their interpretation of the written word. Figurative art has its place but is quite saturated in this field with frankly, a lot of meaningless pretty shite.
Did anyone else know about the cross Atlantic monologue apart from the co-conspirators?
Dont Fret – I kept it very close to the chest for the most part. I was interested to see how Edwin’s texts and overall work would be perceived in Chicago, and to what extent (because ultimately his texts are being seen by the Chicago audience in my handwriting) the work would be seen as something new from me (which obviously in a way it is). It was definitely a part of the project that Edwin is this Australian/Londoner interpreting and experiencing American news in real time and offering an opinion that I then executed, and I thought it was important that the public who inevitable saw these works saw them with fresh eyes, and saw them as his understanding of the situation. We did this project for a year and we didn’t announce or publish anything on social media until about 6 weeks before the opening of the show. I thought that was important.
A lot happened over the course of twelve months, how much discussion went into your chosen subject matter?
Dont Fret – We spoke on the phone in person probably twice a month. I would say our texting varied from time to time. It was never too dissimilar from the kinds of conversations that friends who live on other sides of an ocean would have. Some conversations were very personal (how are things, who are you dating, so and so got really drunk last week and then this happened) and then other conversations were much more pragmatic about what was happening in our respective countries, the way the media was talking about these stories in our respective countries and what the major differences of those issues were, how we both felt about it, how it could be made fun of etc.
Did you count how many pieces went up?
Dont Fret – I didn’t keep a count, did you Edwin?
Edwin – No specific account of the totals but it’s gotta be close to the tonne!
Tell us about the limited edition book ‘The Distinct Sound of Laughter’
The book overall is an overview of the project, as well as some highlights from our initial time together in London that started this project.
You must’ve enjoyed some funny private moments during this exchange, what instantly springs to mind?
Dont Fret – For me, and this has become an occurring theme in my professional life as I travel more, it was the moments that are lost in translation in our dialogue, in this case even funnier because obviously English is both of our first languages. I remember one conversation, where I made a baseball joke. I said something along the lines of “Yeah man, it’s going to be great, and just remember we don’t have to hit a home run every time.” (I think we were talking about how we didn’t have to tag the most incredible spot every time) I knew he understood what I meant, but Edwin has never been to the USA as an adult, and as far as I know has never been to a baseball game, so perhaps maybe the analogy was lost. I explained myself in a less literal sense, and then asked him what he would say in Australia to allude to what I was saying. His response “We’re not here to fuck spiders”, I burst into laughter. “Were not here to fuck spiders” and actually in this instance he misunderstood me and to some extent said the opposite because what he was saying was essentially “if we’re going to do this, let’s do this the best we can”, but I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I had never heard that saying before. I love these moments in language that say something we all understand but through culture we often times say it in the most absurd ways.
You’re currently exhibiting this collection at the Unit 5 Gallery, what drove the decision to exhibit the monologue?
Dont Fret – The project needed a catharsis and why not have one when you can have two. So as exciting as it was to have the book be the sort of “term paper” for the project, it was equally exciting to work with Unit 5 to make this exhibition that touched on some themes from our collaboration, but in a very different way. Collaborating from 4500 miles away is obviously very different than collaborating when in the same city, and then inevitable the same room, and it was exciting to be able to take on that challenge.
Given recent events the following twelve months will be noteworthy. Any plans on extending the global monologue?
Dont Fret – As an artist, I love to travel the globe and interact in as many ways as I can, but I am also inherently just a Chicago guy, and I think growing up in Chicago informs a lot of my decision making. I was struggling to write something recently and I kept thinking about the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs (my baseball team) just won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. 108 years. The last time they won the championship the Ottoman Empire still existed. Al Capone (the soon to be famous Chicago gangster) was 9 years old. Apparently “sliced bread” HADN’T BEEN INVENTED YET. You have to understand that in Chicago (and much of America) the Cubs would never win the World Series, hell, would never GET TO THE WORLD SERIES. And then all of sudden they won, in an extremely dramatic fashion, and no one said it would happen, and then suddenly it did. I was in London preparing for the exhibition when this happened, and I could feel the joy from my hometown from 4500 miles away and it was amazing and uplifting and it felt like the skies had parted and a new era was upon us where dreams come true and possibility is endless.
And then a week later, Trump won the election, and from 4500 miles away I felt the sky sink, a city weep (a city remember, who was the first to step up and shut down the Trump rally platform) and I felt a lot of heartbreak for my friends, my country, and my city, and for women. Edwin and I obviously had many conversations about the comparisons between the election in the USA and Brexit over the course of the year, and in the weeks we spent together this year. Obviously the world has moved in a noteworthy direction. I can’t say I know what will happen next, none of us can, but I believe now more than ever it is the job of artists, comedians, poets, writers, satirists, realists, fools, intellectuals, and perhaps above all of that, the new kids who embody a bit of all of those traits, but also first and foremost happen to have a can of spray paint on them, to speak up.
EXHIBITION CURRENTLY SHOWING AT UNIT 5 GALLERY
UNTIL 3RD DECEMBER