Meeting of Styles France (Perpignan)
Texts & Photos by Gregory Herpe
The last week of July, the world of Street Art rendezvoused in Perpignan at Meeting of Styles France, an international festival of graffiti & urban culture. Within the superb setting of the Arsenal and Casa Musicale, against the backdrop of the ruins of the Church du Couvent des Grands Carmelites, fifty artists represented the hip-hop culture on 1200m ².
Meeting of Styles France is the only French stage of this festival, which runs continuously around the world, from China to Germany, via the United States, Mexico, etc. etc. How can a festival like this settle down in a small town in southern France, when one imagines it in Paris or Marseille? To find out, I meet John Basso, director of the festival, volunteer, like all those who work here. John has just cut carpets and dismantled metallic structures.
He also slept on the spot, lack of budget. He is everywhere, nevertheless a little bit shabby but nobody blames him for that. He tackles everything, this little guy!
“Manuel Gerullis, aka Yours, created the MOS in Germany in 2002 and since then he has toured around the world. Between 2005 and 2007, it is the city of Lyon who has welcomed him and then…. nothing in France. We recovered in 2010, thanks to the commitment of Yours to keep a French stage, together with the quality of national artists that we have! It was Astro, a French artist, who introduced us and then the adventure began. We had only € 400 on the account of the association during the first edition! “
The last 7 years John and his partner Florent Jimenez have invited each year around 50 artists, with a growing success and with a public won over through multiple MOS events such as: DJ’s and urban dance battles, rollerblade, skateboard and video games contests.
“This is a popular event for all ages and all social classes,” John analysis.
Outside France, Perpignan is famous for only two things: the International Photojournalism Festival Visa pour l’Image, and Meeting of Styles. Yet the political class of the city does not seem to measure the impact of such an event and as Visa benefits from a very large budget, MOS survives in total volunteering by all of its teams. Even artists will come at their expense and for one reason only: MOS’s reputation …
This year, they come from 11 different countries; Yours, Isaac, Berns, Mr Dheo, Pariz One, Lahe, Treze, Zurik, Ekto, Ster, Rize, Brus, Shue, Shane, Dashe and the rest, come from Germany, Peru, Spain, Colombia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Portugal, and of course Great Britain and France … Big names who travel the world all year, with a spray can in one hand and a beer cup in the other, because it is hot, and one must cool off well, anyway!
And then I run in to him, the sage, the big boss, Master Yoda of graffiti, Yours himself, sitting on a bench watching others work. Yet, he is still not that old and it seems to me anew of working age!
So what, Yours? What are you doing all alone, sitting on your bench?
“I observe the others …” he said … Bloody hell … You will observe long?
“I want to capture the artistic direction they are heading for, what kind of colors they will use, and then I will launch … At the German stage, I organize, we have always a major reunion before we decide in which order the artists will share walls. We communicate a lot with them, by sending them pictures of the walls, we link them to each other so that they can prepare as teams. “
He’s smart, Yours, but above all he understands that working in harmony with others is beneficial to everyone.
“Graffiti is a very individualistic art form, but at Meeting of Styles, the challenge is to pick different artists from different countries, and to create a ‘common’ work, including all of our influences and our peculiarities,” he tells me. And it works …
I am amazed by the virtuosity of artists like the French Shane and his world full of madness, by the realism of the Portuguese Smile whose works look like photographs and the technique of Peruvian Isaac. There is a lot of talent and it is unnecessary to try to list them all.
Graffiti artists are really friendly and affordable types. And the whole point of this MOS is to show the public how they work, from sketch to finished product. The atmosphere is studious although respectful. I cross the Portuguese Pariz One, his surgical technique amazes me. However, with him, I did not speak about urban culture but about football! He is kind Pariz, because he apologizes a bit that Portugal just has beaten France in the final of the Euro. But … He’s happy, though! He is a big fan of PSG, although Benfica is his favorite team … and when I tell him that I write for LSD Magazine, he says with enormous smile:
“You work for LSD and Wayne Anthony? Wow! Cool, Bro! Wayne is a great friend!
It seems that the LSD’s reputation is as good as MOS with artists!
Later I have an appointment with Dashe, who won the Battle of Graff, Saturday night … but where do you come from, Dashe?
“I was born in Indonesia, but I arrived in France at the age of 4, in Bretagne. I am part of the crew the Bullshiters, but I live from tattooing “…
Street artist, tattoo artist, he has a lot of surprises! Am I wrong or does he take his victory in the battle completely as a joke?
“I really did not think of winning! I did not even enroll myself! I was tired after two nights in which I slept badly because I share a room with Shane and he snores very loudly! (Laughs) So, I slept in the bathroom! But to return to the battle, it was a joke and I did not take it seriously at all. It was without any fuss! “.
And that’s what makes the difference between the MOS and other events of the same kind: we do not feel competition, nor tension between participants, but instead it feels as a good group of friends who like to get together from one country to the other by sharing their art with the public, and a few sleep at night … anyway, Shane snores, so …
Texts & Photos by Gregory Herpe
Big Love & Thanks to Gregory Herpe & Meeting of Styles France