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DAIM Interview for Art-Crimes

Submitted on 13. May 1997 – 18:20 Email | Print | PDF |

DAIM Interview for Art-CrimesThe interview was conducted in spring 1997. The Questions were asked by Susan and Brett of Art-Crimes (graffiti.org) and Dan of Digital Jungle. Translated into english by Neck/CNS.

How do you feel about trainwriting?
Graffiti is about presenting yourself, about writing your name as often and noticeable as possible. Trains are perfect for that, since they get used and seen by a huge number of people. Graffiti went around the world from New York — without the subways, maybe that wouldn’t have happened. New York writers could realize their ideas on the trains. They had the time and they knew the trains would run for a long time. These days, the situation has changed: trains often run for a very short time only, or not at all; the amount of time you can spend in a yard is small. Additionally, there are tough laws on writing and there’s the harassment by the police. Now you also have the possibility to realize your ideas on big legal walls, and you can reach a big number of people that way, too. Media, the magazines, the internet etc. play their part in spreading graffiti. Trainwriting is more about the action itself than about the outcome. Because, subconsciously, it surely also is about showing society that we (the youth) are not happy with the way the city looks and we want to make our own decisions, allowed or not. Working illegally, especially on trains, you combine things that legal writing can’t give you: adventure, excitement, trust in your friends, risk and an enormous activity. Combined with the possibilty to do whatever you want, while at the same time not breaking your own rules. The feeling to shock and provoke, to get respect from your fellow writers, to have expressed yourself, to have worked creatively is something you can rarely get from today’s society. I believe that someone who writes only legally cannot grasp the whole spirit of graffiti.

Who do you believe your audience is, writers or regular folks or who?
I always considered myself writing for other wirters mostly. That gives you the most satisfaction. But there are more and more people interested in graffiti, through all the books and the internet. To know that you reach and inspire people all over the world is a great experience. And because writers keep growing older and new ones keep coming up, you’re having an influence on a constantly growing part of society.

Is the letter the heart of graffiti, or is it about murals or a combination?
Letters are the graffiti-specific code. You want to make your mark, be noticed. Publicity shows us the way: you need a logo, a code to reach those people you want to reach. It can either be encoded, not decipherable for everyone, or exactly the opposite: readable for everyone, to get the most attention, to stand out from the flood of other visual input. Letters are the perfect way for presenting yourself. But of course it’s not about reducing yourself to using only letters, characters, backgrounds etc. are important elements for decorating letters.

Is graffiti political? should it be more so?
What graffiti depicts is hardly political, but the act of doing it itself can be seen as political, because a lot of youths worldwide who have to fight against laws and prejudice to lead a self-determined and creative life show society that they’re unhappy with what it has to offer.

What is it about fish that you find most fascinating? Are there other natural shapes that you study for inspiration?
Nature always interested me a lot. I used to collect all kinds of things you can find in nature: insects, seashells, minerals etc. I always wanted to become a geologist, until the fascination for writing brought me off that track. I believe all inspiration begins in nature. There are all shapes, colors, patterns etc. In nature, you just have to keep your eyes open. Many people are inspired by things in their direct surroundings, e.g., publicity. But publicity gets its ideas from nature as well. When you work on four letters for years and try to make them perfect and make them a unit, it is only logical to let perfect things from nature influence you. Insects especially are perfect for that. Together with MATE (who studies art with me here in Luzern) I work on the metamorphosis between letters and other things, like insects or architecture. The fisheye series gives you a good feeling for colors and shapes. They’re more of a technical exercise and encourage me to try out colorshadings or shapes in my pieces. Just like landscapes or nudes, they school the eye and provide inspiration. It’s new and very interesting to paint untypical motives using the technique typical for graffiti: spraypaint (and vice versa).

How did you do those black and white sketches (the wire frames and reverse black and white drawings) by hand?
Would you have used a computer if you could have, or is it important to do things the hard way?

I draw everything by hand. I only use a pencil and Copic art markers for my sketches. The wire frames and reverse black and white drawings were done by hand too. The only thing I use is a photocopier. That way I can reverse black and white drawings, which is how I did my sketch for the pixelated piece. Doing everything by hand has the advantage that you understand every step. It takes longer, but it gives you the feeling that you understand what you’re doing. A computer relieves you of a lot of the work, but it often takes away the possibility to trace each and every step. When doing sketches by hand I can accept mistakes. There probably is no sketch that I did that doesn’t contain mistakes, but they belong there just like there can be drips in a piece. Also, I can build in mistakes by design, include elements that enhance the composition or the effect. A computer would always do it correctly, boringly. It would probably be easy to do a perfect 3D style with the right equipment, but where’s the art in that? I prefer oldschool Walt Disney characters to those of „Toy Story”. The main reason for doing everything by hand is also that I don’t want to waste my time getting used to a computer enough to be able realize my ideas on it.

I understand you have enrolled in art school. You must be way beyond the level of most beginning students they see. How are they receiving you there? Are the professors intimidated by your mastery of painting and drawing? What do you hope to get from formal education? Do you think art school is a good place for writers to go? Why(not)?
I do believe that I entered this school at a high level. But the criteria for being accepted are tough, so those who make it all work on a high level. But everyone has a different idea of what art is, so I don’t think that it’s possible to compare the works of the different artists. Some can’t understand our (MATE’s and mine) work, as much as we can’t understand theirs. I study free art, so our teachers don’t expect a perfect technical rendering as much as a good conceptual idea. I decided to enroll in this school when I saw the possibilities it offers. The workshops, the materials, the building and the low number of students offer the perfect environment to work on the things I would have worked on if I hadn’t enrolled. But now I have all the different workshops at my disposition. I have almost no contact with teachers and other students, it’s more about working independently. What I expect from this school is that it will teach me the different techniques and materials, not that it will show me new ways of style. I hope more and more writers decide to make their way into free art, as I believe that only here you can get the freedom you’re used to as a writer. Many might not want to go into free art because they don’t see their work as art, or because they believe they can’t do characters. I see many writers going into graphics, but if you really want to work creatively, you have to find ways that push your creativity. Being educated in graphics and design often restrains you to certain ways; you have to get a job afterwards. There isn’t really space for individual creativity. Anyway, more and more writers are going to go into all kinds of creative jobs and are going to influence the whole business immensely.

Your work often breaks out of the canvas, transforms the space in the room, and makes walls into other worlds and dimensions. How can this space-transforming aspect of your painting go to the next level? Have you considered virtual reality or animation as possible realms to work in?
My main goal was always to make my pieces as realistic as possible. The next step was to sculpture parts of the style onto the canvas. Now I have reached the phase of sculpting my styles completely. Now i want to complete the circle. Sketch, piece, sculpture, photography, then sketching from the photograph and then painting it again. A circle that offers many possibilities for variation. Animation is a technique that offers me a possibility to illustrate my ideas (the metamorphosis is a good example), but I don’t see it as the next step I’ll be concentrating on. That would be a world of its own.

How did you develop such good technical painting and drawing skills? What can the rest of us do to sharpen our own?
I am quite a perfectionist. I always try to improve everything. You have to try a lot of things and always keep your eyes open for new stuff. In Germany we have so many different brands, colors and caps for spraycans that you have to try and find the ones that suit you best.

What other media do you work in besides spray paint? How do you feel about using airbrushes?
My goal was to realize all my ideas using spray paint. But now I want to try out every possible technique to find out the most interesting ones for me. It’s important to not just try a technique superficially. Here in my school I have the possibilities to try everything thoroughly. Apart from pencil and marker sketches I’m painting with acrylics, they stink less than oil paint. I work on copperplate engraving, photography and scultpures. Airbrushing never interested me, even less when it’s about painting with stencils. I’m more and more moving away from perfectly finished pictures. Working with broad brushstrokes is much more interesting to me, especially as a counterpoint to the world of computers, where everything is getting more perfect and clean every day.

Which writers and artists most inspired you?
A lot of writers inspire me, I think everyone you work with does a little. But the time when you looked up to someone and you thought “I want to paint just like him one day” is over. There are many other artists that always influenced me a lot. I used to be very impressed by Dalí. Nowadays works of the impressionists inspire me, especially van Gogh and Monet.

What do you like the most and least about “graffiti” culture?
Many aspects have been answered in the first question. But one of the best things in graffiti is traveling so much. Writers are avid travelers and it’s good to know that you can travel around the globe and meet writers in lots of other countries, who you can work with and who will help you to get to know the country and the people. Graffiti is a worldwide language of youth. There is nothing absolutely negative in graffiti. Being chased by the police, narrowmindedness of people not liking graffiti and envy among those in the scene are just things that go along with itand keep motivating me to go on. In the past few years many things have changed for the better, so i’m sure it’s only going to improve.

If you could teach or tell the kids coming up something, what would it be?
Show respect, be true to yourself, and always wear a mask when painting.

What did you think about the UK graffiti scene when you were there?
I can’t really say anything about it. I spent a few days in London, saw a few pieces, and that was it. Apart from that I only know Graphotism magazine. That’s not enough to have an opinion. I hope the exchange between the UK and the rest of Europe will improve.

And what do you think about the NYC scene, since you went there recently?
When I first came to NY with HESH in 1995 , I was anxious to meet writers. I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t sure if they would like my 3D pieces. I was afraid they wouldn’t accept people trying to go different ways. The contrary was the case. Everyone I met gave us respect. Even those that didn’t personally like the 3d stuff said that it was good to explore that direction, too. I met few writers elsewhere that were as open-minded about new things as those from NYC. And later I realized that this was the reason graffiti could grow so big. Narrow-mindedness and fear of new ways would have killed it a long time ago. I can’t say much about the scene as a whole. I can just sense that it isn’t the way it used to be by far. But still, you can feel the hip hop flavor everywhere in NY and you always realize that this is where it all started.