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DAIM Interview for Tribal

Submitted on 13. May 2001 – 18:12 Email | Print | PDF |

DAIM Interview for TribalThe interview was conducted in 2001 in San Diego / USA at the Tribal Headquater. The Questions were asked by Jesse Shamshoian.

To me, Daim has always been sort of an enigma. I imagine him as a silent shadow living and lurking below ground. Like some faceless superhero with two-readied spray cans for hands: scaling buildings and leaping between rail lines. Painting invisibly under the blackest nights when no one is looking on the streets of Gotham, or wherever, transmitting, in color, directly to the pages of every graffiti magazine worldwide. Elevating him to cult status in our generation. Daim aka Mirko Reisser is at the epicenter of art today. And it seems as his personal evolution as an artist goes; so goes the evolution of modern day art/graffiti itself. And there I was, unprepared for our last minute meeting, all of these ideas cluttering my conscience and even worse; I was late. Hastily I opened the door to the office where he was sitting, almost expecting to be instantly gunned down by deadly, laser-guided rays of aerosol or some shit, for him to somehow be larger than life. Instead, as I entered, I only saw his short sandy blonde hair barely reaching above the back of the brown leather couch on which he sat. And as he saw me, he grinned and quickly stood up. He shook my hand unassumingly and said, “Hello, I’m Daim.” So we sat down together and I began with the basics.

First, I wanted to know how you originally got into graffiti?
I started in 89’ in Hamburg. But I started by listening to hip-hop music around 86’ while I was in California. Then after a couple of years, I deejayed a little bit. And finally, I saw the graffiti in Hamburg. And at that time we had like a ‘hype’ [in Germany,] so a lot of graffiti was going on. But I didn’t know anybody; I just bought some spray cans and started messing around. After a few months, some friends and I got busted. We had this small crew called TCD and they busted us so we had to pay fines. At that time, when we started illegally, nobody even knew we were painting. But after they caught us, everybody knew us. So my first legal piece after that was a commissioned piece. So that was like the start of going in this direction, where people would actually pay us for our work.

Secondly, who did you look up to when you began writing? Did you look to New York writers…?
Not much to New York because I wasn’t “old school.” The old school writers in Europe, they looked to New York; they saw wildstyle and “Subway Art” and “Spray Can Art” and all of these books and magazines…But I saw more of the stuff in hamburg, and stuff from loomit, can two and other german writers. And the Paris scene too; like Mode 2. So, my influence comes from European graffiti. But I always drew and did sketches. And in school I took art classes and all of that; so I was influenced by people like Dali and Van Gogh as well.

And finally the last of the cliché interview questions, what artists presently influence you (if any?)
It’s really hard to say. Because I think there are other influences or inspirations, basically everything you see. Especially in this time with TV: there are a lot of commercials around, advertising, graphic design and all of that. I think you get a lot of input and all of those things give you ideas.

So no one specifically?
No, absolutely not. Sometimes you will see something and you don’t like it. But that influences you too. Because you think about it and say, ‘OK, this is what I don’t want to do.’ So you do it the other way. So it’s hard to say where you get influences. The time is over for me that I say, ‘One day I want to paint like so-and-so.’ That was my aim when I started, I used to say, ‘One day I will do a piece with Loomit and then I will die!’

I spoke with Erni from New York and he mentioned that one of the few current artists that influence him is you and a couple of your German counterparts. What does that mean to you?
I think it’s really cool. But for me it’s difficult to accept props or criticism. But if someone is really good and is working in a similar direction and really understands what I am doing and then he gives me props-then that means a lot to me. Especially when Erni says that. Because whenever people talk about the originators of the whole 3-D thing, they always talk about Erni.

Could you talk a little more about the 3-D ‘thing,’ your 3-D style that is now well known…
My interest has always been in photo-realistic things, so I started painting from photos and characters and all that. So I did like Einstein and an Egyptian mask…And if you’re doing photo-realistic characters, then you see that you can make everything just with shadow and no hard lines. I guess because I was never into comics. I have absolutely no influence from comics so I wasn’t used to making a fat black line around everything. I always came from the direction to make everything with light and shade. And after awhile I thought I could apply that to letters. But it took some time. I started to go in this direction in like 91.’

What things besides graffiti contributed to your personal style as an artist as you said you studied art for some years? Did you take anything like technical drawing, etc?
Well, I did my graffiti thing and after awhile, I felt a little bit stuck. I wanted to open my mind and get some new influences, so I studied fine art in Switzerland. It was good, but school influenced my graffiti only on the technical side; as far as doing things like etchings, etc. go. But sometimes a graffiti artist will study art and lose that graffiti direction and they will say, ‘OK, now I’m a fine artist and I’m better than a graffiti-writer.’ I think graffiti is art. Well, not everything you see, but we have a lot of good artists out there doing graffiti and I don’t want to lose that direction. I mean a lot of people think that when you are young you do your graffiti and then you should become an ‘artist;’ I think that’s stupid.

Many people feel that you and some of your various crew members, for example, some of the artists included in your latest book “Urban Discipline,” are miles ahead of everyone as far as the evolution of modern day art/graffiti goes. Why is that? Why are the Northern Europeans so far ahead; is it the paint, is it the fact that Europeans are more accepting of graffiti as art than Americans are?
I want to talk about Germany because that’s the country I’m from and I know it well. In Germany, there is a lot of support for graffiti. Because they see that some graffiti can be vandalism, but they are also accepting of a piece on a train if it’s nice. It’s not like here [in the states], when you say ‘graffiti,’ the response is usually negative. In Germany, if you’re a bomber or a tagger, then that’s negative. But you’re a graffiti artist, then that’s OK. And something else that contributes to this is the fact that, typically, Germans are perfectionists and are always trying to make everything perfect. That’s why we have a lot of good spray cans for graffiti art or for graffiti bombers. We work close together with the industry and we can go to the company and say, ‘I need this particular color,’ and they listen to us. And here, you can go to Krylon and they’ll kick you out of there.

So it’s generally about support?
I mean we also have a lot of jams, so you’re traveling a lot. In the summertime, every weekend we have like two or three jams. And the hip-hop scene is still good as a whole; we have the music, the break-dancers and the graffiti together. It’s not like here where the music industry is a multi-million dollar industry and on the side, you have the graffiti writers and dancers. So we try to keep it all together. I mean it’s hard. And it has changed a little bit because a lot of MC’s have had a lot of success. But we too have had our success; the writers and the dancers. So it’s all fair.

Everyone knows you as Daim the artist, but I don’t know if they know you are the one responsible for bringing so many artists together through your exhibitions, shows and books. Do you think your role as an individual artist is more important than your role as someone who brings artists together and to the people is?
I think that the main thing in all of these things is to connect people and to work together as a network. Sometimes you don’t see that in other countries…But in Germany we try to have a good network and extend that all over Europe or even worldwide. The internet has helped with that because now every artist has a site or email address and that’s important so we can connect. We have to stick together and share information, and share knowledge. We can’t have that attitude like, ‘I’m an artist and I have my information and my knowledge and I don’t want to share that because I want to be the best.’ That makes no sense. I always say that hip-hop, especially graffiti, is like a pool with all of the knowledge and information and history in it. And when you start doing graffiti you have to pick something from the pool; like an influence or something. You use it, do something new and then put it back so the next generation can take it. It’s all taking and giving. And it’s really necessary, because if you don’t do that then one day there will be nothing in the pool. The next generation will come and there will be nothing left and that will be it.