Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meeting of Styles Chicago: QUAKE Interview

Quake, hailing from San Francisco, and writing since 1986, painted a fantastic piece on 49th and Ashland. He offered some really helpful insight about graffiti writing as a kind of a "consciousness" that tells you something about and reflects the specific cities that it in. Writing as a kind of mirror on its environment. The transcript follows:

Interview with Quake Sept 18 2011 49th and Ashland

CB: So what name do you write?

Q: I write Quake, Lord’s Crew CBS.

CB: When did you start writing?

Q: 1986

CB: What got you into it?

Q: Basically I was a skateboarder so I’d travel a lot and I just kind of started writing it just came naturally before I did graffiti I was already writing my name on stuff and hitting up punk rock bands. And things of that nature, so I pretty much was always a writer.

CB: Where did you get your style from, what inspired you?

Q: Mainly old Bay writers, DREAM, SPY, DOUG1 from TMF, those are my biggest influences, but, probably mostly DREAM because I think I have a lot of similarity to his style because it influenced me a lot.

CB: Have you painted in Chicago before?

Q: This is my first time painting in Chicago.

CB: And how did you find out about Meeting of Styles?

Q: I found out from XHAUST because me and XHAUST painted together in San Antonio for Clogged Caps then these guys, CBS basically invited me out.

CB: How do you prepare for the festival, did you have to do anything extra?

Q: I just did a sketch basically.

CB: Have you been to other Meeting of Styles events before?

Q: I have, I painted for the San Francisco one that was in town.

CB: what was the most exciting part for you?

Q: Probably just being with everybody, just hanging out with everyone, just using the same color schemes is always exciting to me…just painting with your boys. It’s a feeling that cant be beat.

CB: Whats most difficult about it?

Q: the weather.

CB: Do you have weather issues in San Francisco?

Q: No. it’s a little cold but it ain’t like this you know!

CB: How would you feel if there were no more Meeting of Styles?

Q: I would be bummed, because I think it really brings the scene so much closer together and you get to paint with a lot of people that you potentially would never have a chance to paint with and it also opens up doors for new walls, and more murals. It’s a good thing.

CB: How do you document your work—do you use Facebook do you us Flikr do you use like online…

Q: I don’t. I just buy a lot of memory cards, fill em up, and throw em in a drawer and then someday maybe I’ll get to doing something with it.

CB: How do you feel when your work gets gone over?

Q: I don’t mind, it just makes, pushes me to do more work.

CB: How do you network with other writers, or do you try to network at all?

Q: I do, I really do, usually through events like this but usually, my crews are so big each of our crews is probably about a hundred people all together so petty much that’s enough people right there for me to do everything I want to do—I don’t have to look for new partners or anything like that because I already have a ton.

CB: Do you have any concerns about the future of graffiti?

Q: Well I think its obviously going more of a commercial direction just like skateboarding did. Ten fifteen years ago. And I think its pretty interesting, I know a lot of people are afraid of it, and worried about selling out and all these different things, but I think its great, the more exposure the better. Its great.

CB: Do you think its important to see international writers at MOS and why?

Q: Definitely, because they have such a unique style. I think it adds so much more flavor just like spending time in Europe over there and living in Austria and Vienna with the Lords Crew out there I brought back without even knowing it, after I returned I realized how much I had taken in and how much it had changed and developed my style , so I think it kind of opens up your eyes to a completely different style based on the environment that they live in.

CB: Do you feel like Meeting of Styles is for just graffiti writers or do you think it has other audiences that it speaks to?

Q: I think it could speak to muralists, could speak to so many street artists things like that. I think it kind of speaks to everyone. It also kind of teaches people about this because there are so many misconceptions about graffiti art so it allows them to meet us and you know.

CB: Do you think it could be better publicized—like in San Francisco did people know about it?

Q: No it just kind of happened. We knew because some of the paint sponsors we knew so they told us about it—it could definitely use more than just word of mouth.

CB: Okay, I just have one more question and this is sort of a philosophical question. What do you think the social function of graffiti is, what do you think the most good it could do, would be?

Q: Well I think really it’s a consciousness. Graffiti writers by nature are very unique individuals and they all have their own perspectives and everybody has their own interests, like you said, the Dark Arts, music, there’s a wide variety so it speaks to all different types of people there is not one, its not a very clone thing or following a bunch of sheep—everybody has their own path. So I think that you meet a lot of interesting people through graffiti. You meet a lot of assholes as well, but, I think more times than not most of the people are very unique individuals that teach you something.

CB: Cool, thank you.

Q: Hope that helps you girl.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scandal and Effectiveness: Interview with "Declaration of Immigration" Lead Artist Salvador Jimenez

If anyone is wondering what the image is behind the title of the blog it is the "Declaration of Immigration" mural, a Yollocalli production, on 18th Street in Pilsen, Chicago. It was painted during the summer of 2009 following an exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art, also in Pilsen. The mural was vandalized before it was completed, with an unsophisticated black spraypaint scrawl: "Mexicans are racist" it read, which generated a lot of attention. However, after the defacement was removed, the mural went on to be the backdrop for important immigration rallies in Chicago spring of 2010, and likely continues to be. This mural is interesting for many reasons: its lack of human figures, its bold polemical text, its clean execution, making it look almost machine, not handmade, among others. However rather than continue to totally speculate (I wrote a far too long MA thesis on the mural that was completed in the winter of 2010) I finally got a chance to interview Salvador Jimenez, the lead artist. My recorder failed so this transcript is based on my written notes and so is choppier than usual, many many apologies to the reader, and to Salvador, for not getting down all of the complexity and sophistication in his very thoughtful responses.

Interview with Salvador Jimenez about “Declaration of Immigration” Mural

CB: So I just wanted to start with the design process for “Declaration of Immigration,” its role in the community, reactions by people, and things like that. So I was hoping you could sort of start by talking about how the idea for the mural came about.

SJ: the director of Yollocalli wanted us to create a mural that would represent more of the community, The actual idea came from the previous exhibit at the NMMA which had the same title, and they had created a statement. We selected some phrases from the statement and condensed them so that there was less text, so it was smaller, and treated it like a billboard—I have a graphic design background—that was typographical, in order to get the message across. We selected a set of powerful words, decided on that part, and designed it on the computer based on wall measurements, figuring out the phrases and starting to trace out the letters.

CB: To what degree was this project funded by the NMMA? If not where did the funding come from? Did that create any constraints on the content?

SJ: We were able to use extra funding that Yollocalli had, which is different than in the past when we receive other funding and have to portray something that is watereed down. This funding was private, so we were free to say what we wanted to say. The museum didn’t have much say in it. It was more what Yollocalli wanted to say.

CB: I was struck by the lack of figurative images in the mural—almost all of the other murals in Pilsen have people in them—what motivated that decision?

SJ: We wanted to do something different, it is kind of an inversion of what the big muralists of the Revolutionary period did—they used a lot of figures and very little text because many people at the time could not read. Those great muralists told stories. Now most people can read and most people can write so we decided to use text, and it was kind of a commentary, we live in a time where we are bombarded by commercials and advertisements, we also wanted to be direct and use typography to get attention.

CB: I read that the mural was vandalized before it was completed—what are your thoughts on that—how did you react and how did the students?

SJ: I got a call, and was told that someone had vandalized the mural. The first reaction is that you are mad—we were working so hard. Then I had to think, what would I tell the students? I was thinking about that a lot, so when we met that day to work I gathered the group together—I had shown them videos of other very political artwork that had caused some controversy prior to that, from a documentary about “The Power of Art”—that powerful art creates some kind of attention—and said that this vandalism was a clear example of that, that someone didn’t agree and had decided to deface the mural. The students got really mad. I tried to turn that around, to explain that it was proof of the mural’s success, because despite that reaction people had looked at it. In reality the physical reaction caused people to talk more about it, to post online, to create blogs…it created a broader audience. Because we got more media attention than if something hadn’t happened.

CB: What was the documentary?

SJ: It’s called “The Power of Art” and has different artists. I showed them the part that explained what happened with Picasso’s “Guernica” mural, about World War II.

CB: What were your hopes for what this mural would do?

SJ: Like any other public mural it is a social thing, it is a way to think about community and a way to get to know the community, and to listen to the people. Through art we can create images, or murals or symbols that people can relate to and empathize with. They might like it or hate it. No matter what it creates some sort of dialogue. I hoped that people would talk about it, and that it could educate people outside the community, that they could learn about the the community.

CB: To educate outsiders about immigration?

SJ: The location of Pilsen has an important history—Pilsen is an immigration bridge for many cultures. First the Czechs, the Italians, and later the Mexicans—it is a landing point.

CB: Did you anticipate that the mural would be a backdrop for many immigration protests in Chicago after its completion?

SJ: I didn’t expect that it would create such attention. The mural has done its job. [It would be good] if people created more in that direct form [of address] in different places of in the United States. Public murals [are powerful in that they] promote something 24/7. One thing that we did was design the text into posters and stickers and massed produced it to give the stickers away so that people could take them, put them up, and take a picture in different parts of the United States. This part of the project is still in progress, I still am receiving pictures. It is the idea, the concept of a sticker migrating to different places as the same thing that people do, and to mass produce it will have more people post them, to create more dialogue.

CB: Do you have any ideas about what the mural means to the neighborhood residents? To the students?

SJ: Like all art people will look at it and make their own opinion about it, and it will represent something different to each of the viewers. Some people who live there might not even care about it, they might care about it and like it. People from outside Pilsen might see it and understand what the neighborhood is going through.

CB: Do you think the majority of outsiders will understand the mural?

SJ: They should understand unless they don’t speak English—immigration has been going on for decades.

It is obviously a broken system that needs to be fixed, and people have been hurting from it. Its been an issue in past election years and its like a ball that keeps being passed around, which started with Bush and now with Obama, who made a lot of promises but is doing nothing.

CB: have you received any criticisms of your work, or encountered any people with problems with it?

SJ: I have gotten all kinds of comments, good and bad. As an artist I will look at any project and think that it could be a lot better. But with only eight weeks, it is not easy, to complete the painting, composition and color…with this mural though what I see in it is a quick reaction to a situation, saying something that needed to be said, and it doesn’t matter how wells executed it was.

CB: What were the students’ reactions?

SJ: For that project the student volunteers were outstanding. They were interviewed by the radio, and were in the papers, and their work proved how art could have an impact on people, and how art can provide a powerful voice especially for people that don’t have a voice. Many came back to Yollocalli for other programs, they enjoyed the art and making it. Yollocalli isn’t about telling students that they have to be artists, its just inviting them to come and learn something different and develop their creativity. That is especially important now that we are in an economic crisis like this: we need people who are more creative and can do more than one thing. We try to promote different programs all year round.

CB: As someone who has worked in Pilsen for a long time, are you concerned about the potential commodification of murals?

SJ: Since I live in Grand Rapids now I’ve been able to take a step back. My heart is there, in Pilsen, and I know I will come back, but I have mixed feelings knowing that every year there is more gentrification, and what you get with gentrification is that many people living there cannot afford rent, or the high property taxes. I am wondering what will happen with that. It has been a place where artists live, and I don’t know if gentrification will make it better or worse. If people are going to Pilsen just to get a sense of what it is like there, I do not see why it is bad. One thing that is [positive] is that people are paying more attention to the neighborhood, there are more cops, and the city is doing things now that they didn’t do before. Now there are more upper middle, upper class young people. I’ve passed people there for years, and some like it, and some complain. But public works are a perfect way to engage the community, and make a dialogue about community development and gentrification.

CB: Thank you so much for your time, and insight.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meeting of Styles Chicago: FLASH Interview

I made contact with FLASH before the Meeting of Styles festival, and he helpfully sent me a link to the ABC website (, which is a good resource to learn about the history of Chicago graffiti as well as live debates in the community now. FLASH's commitment to supporting young artists as well as his generosity in sharing stories about the old days was really inspiring. Transcript follows:

Flash Interview September 19th New Wave Café:

F: So I guess I will give a little of my background. I was born in Humboldt Park and by ’71 we were burned out with all the gang wars that go on over there. So then my parents moved to Logan Square, around here, by Schubert, as you can see it’s a nice neighborhood …but in the ‘80s it was really gang infested. There were a lot of gangs on every corner. And we had friends that associated with them. They would pay us to do pieces every time a guy would die. Those were our first murals which were peoples’ names with “Rest in Peace.” So, “Style Wars” came out on Channel 11 in ’83 or ’84, that movie. People in my Hispanic neighborhood tend to send their kids back and forth when they are bad, like I was sent to Puerto Rico in ’79 and my friends were sent to New York. [Because] of that and the movie “Style Wars” we found something new to do, which was graffiti, the at of getting up. Getting your name on everything. You know, so you start in your own neighborhood and if you look we are right next to the line, right across the street, we discovered the line, and what happens is there was this crew called CTA cew. That was really the first crew in Chicago. You met Nick Sassa [spelling not sure] you met was the guy painting next to me, he came over here and it started influencing others. But he is in Humboldt Park, and the problem with CTA is that you can’t be in CTA unless you are from New York. They started [frustrating?] gangs, and one night they came over here, before those murals were there you saw [Logan Square Chicago Public Art Group Mural titled “What do You See?” along Blue Line supports] theydid New York pieces out there, they stated piecing, by the train. The next day the gangs saw it and they came up to us and they said “You can’t piece any more. You guys have gone over our stuff” they had gone over the gang lines. They stated calling them, since they were from Humboldt Park, Cobras, Cobras tagging all day. They were really influenced by New York and you couldn’t be in CTA unless you were from New York and that’s how they excluded the whole city for a while. What happened is that we [decided] “We don’t need that.” So we started our own crew called the Angel Roberta [spelling?] Crew. Angel lives right across from me, Roberto is …and we start getting up. Its weird because they [the gangs] don’t want us piecing but they will still come up to us and say “Hey, you’ve gotta put up a name for someone who died.” So we get up on the megamall, and we piece “Rest in Peace Joey”, graffiti style, but we paint the letters, and when we took the train to take pictures of it everyone was just looking at it, and the train was full, and you just see everybody’s eyes turning and turning, and that’s when we decided, we’re going to do all the rooftops. We started going further and further until we get to Wicker Park.

That’s kind of how it starts, you know, neighborhood kids. After that we were one of the biggest crews in the city, but we kept everything in Logan Square. What happens is kids from around the city start coming to the writers’ bench, to the Eagle, to meet up with us. They want to be in the crew, so first the crew takes on another name, the Atomic Bombing Crew, and then we had some really good artists—TAKE 2, TRIXTER, and it became the Artistic Bombing Crew, and we start to invade the yards. We went into the yards one time and it was ’85, so the Bears Superbowl was at its prime. There was a celebration downtown, over a hundred people, and we were doing throw ups, in front of everybody, and everyone was like “Throw my name up! Throw my name up!” That was a highlight. We get into the yards and start to do a lot of damage, but my year is short because by 1987 I was already in the National Guard, and with bombers in my neighborhood, once they got caught they didn’t go back to it, but I still have 70 photos, to this day. It was the beginning so there was no Vandal Squad [New York derived group of special detectives to catch graffiti writers bombing trains], it was kind of like the beginning of New York in the ‘60s, but over here it took so long because of the gang influence. The gang influence is terrible here. It goes back to the ‘20s if you actually think about it, because this is Capone City, and it’s a tradition. My parents were very influential on me as far as art goes. They were always showing me art, taking me to the art institute, and I didn’t want to fall into the gang trap, so I did find the avenue of bombing as art.

CB: Were you influenced by anyone in particular? I guess that’s sort of the beginning because you guys were the beginning of graffiti in Chicago.

F: My influence is by SEEN who goes to New York and meets the SEEN in New York, and the guy tells him “Put that name up in Chicago.” If you look at the history of graffiti there is a SEEN in every city, two or three of them. In new York there is two…that’s just a name that he took and he built with it a lot. I don’t think they [the SEENs in New York] understood that he was going to do that much bombing with it. He was told he was a biter, and even then Nick Sassa told us he was a biter, but that’s New York and we’re Chicago, and a lot of writers that started in CTA had New York names, from subway art. PHASE3 and all these names—but always someone is trying to knock someone else down, to have something on them. But all it did was motivate us more. We felt that they weren’t from Chicago, they didn’t know anything about Chicago, and we knew what we wanted to do.

One thing that happens is that there is a wall over here by the [California] train station, and they give it to us to paint [the Chicago Transit Authority].

CB: The CTA does?

F: Yes, and its 1985, before all of those CTA [transit authority] competitions that you hear of. And Trixter puts up a red skyline because the fire department gave us red spraypaint, BBoy puts up Logan Square, CTA they did put up the Windy City but then they left, we don’t know why, maybe they were intimidated, we don’t know, but we came and finished it and put a train in and everything. Then we painted “Sponsored by” and started messing around with the spraypaint on the final wall and created a piece titled “Nightmare on the Yellow Tab” it was a tribute to all the drugs that were sold by Schubert and Spalding. It was an acid city.

CB: What reaction did you get from that?

F: They buffed it.

CB: After they sponsored it?

F: Yeah, because they said “Nightmare on the Yellow Tab” we did not have permission to do. They wanted to keep really tight control. We didn’t even sign it because they were there watching us to see what we tagged, and if you look Trixter is the only one who signed it and he was made to erase it, but he was just getting into graffiti, he was still a young pup and he didn’t have a lot of work up…after that, that wall, you would go to it and see everyone from the city saying hi to us at first. “Oh hi what’s up ABC” but then they started to flip us. But we kept bombing, that’s what we did. We were bombers. There weren’t really permission walls. And if there was a project, we did one in Wicker Park, after Wicker Park—close to downtown by Halsted, we put a nice production on there, and I think that like with everything we grow up, and one guy dies, one guy gets shot, and the group starts to fall apart. SEEN got shot, he was shot by his girlfriend, he is still alive, he still paints but that’s when the crew precipitated. And I went to the army, you know, and so from ’87 to ’03 the internet gets big and in 2003 we started a website called the Artistic Bombing Crew. That is when we started to come back out and start doing things and people talked ot us and we went to peoples’ galleries. Then ZORE from SB brought us out to this big 59th and Western production wth the help of a DJ named Third Rail. We had the biggest gallery of graffiti artists, over 200, painting from 59th and Western all the way down to State and the viaducts down there. To this day there are still some paintings the original stuff.

CB: How do you feel about permission walls now?

F: I think in Chicago it’s important because if you look at the map of Chicago its where all the freights start and it goes like that [shows a hand shape] and there are so many viaducts and bridges and ugly walls, I think they should let anyone put a production up. If someone wakes up one morning and says “I want to paint my wall,” then they have the right if they work with the neighborhood. The walls for the crews are important.

CB: When you do productions what is the process you go through to work with the neighborhood?

F: In the South Side, they don’t care. You talk to the guy [wall owner] and he says ‘paint a sign for me,’ and you work out a deal with him and its cool. Once you pass Chicago Avenue…it took me six months to put up the wall for the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival: going to meetings and assuring them and getting permission and…to me its tedious, it’s a wall that’s in an alley and you see it off the Blue Line but for years [writers] used to bomb it but now the owners are allowing it to be opened up. But it is important for the old school to keep working to get these walls open, so that when we do, we can bring this young kids with a lot of talent and put them on and show positive images. I’ve already done my damage, my destruction, what I feel I’m doing, sometimes, is giving back to the neighborhoods. I’ve taught at the Humboldt Art Center, I’ve donated time with the Cooperative Image Group, and we’ve helped those neighborhoods build just by putting our names to it. Those other people that want to work with the youth, I cant work with kids all the time. I will work with kids on a wall project. But I have to give props to these teachers that want to work with these kids every single day: I did try it, one of the best experiences was teaching at the Humboldt Arts Center because it was different. Its something that I’ve never experienced, and I’ve experienced everything, I’ve experienced bombing, I’ve experienced the military, I’ve experienced working in professional corporate offices, but I’ll tell anybody: Sit there with ten kids and try to keep ten kids in today’s era of videogames to keep their attention, that is outstanding.

CB: Where in Chicago is the best graffiti being done right now?

F: Its not even being seen. I think a lot of it is on the trains. Its because I get pictures of the trains.

CB: Do you paint in Little Village when its not Meeting of Styles?

F: Yeah, when I came back to painting in 2003 the only place we could paint was on the South Side. I talked to millions of businesses over here [Logan Square] and it was a very Gestapo feel about how they would come down on me. Over there [South Side] it has always been open. We have never had a problem.

CB: Why do you think that is?

F: [People] say it is because nobody lives over there [on the South Side]. You and I were there, we saw the neighborhood, I really do think it is because of the culture. There is a different culture over there, they accept it, I’m very proud to say that the average Mexican knows more about art than a lot of people, and they see it [art] as a progression in their neighborhood not a defect.

CB: Have you noticed at past Meeting of Styles neighborhood folks wandering in, participating?

F: At one, it wasn’t Meeting of Styles but it was the reunion I told you about, and this neighborhood gentleman came to Statik and says to him “Why do you guys always come and paint on the South Side? You should just paint on your side of town, you do nothing for the neighborhood,” and Statik says to him “Okay sir, which one is your kid” and he points to a kid, “This one,” and right there in front of him Statik did a whole face portrait of the kid that just astounded the man and that is my favorite story. I love that. It is still there, it is still up, and the neighborhood loves it. Made U Look did a mural it is a city map. This was the first Meeting of Styles and they did, if you at the train map, they did a train map with their name in green, blue, and I was astonished because this lady then comes and shows her kid and goes “Look, we live here. Mommy gotta travel allll the way over here for work.” Any little thing like that is awesome and you remember it, and you feel it as something positive. That’s why I like those guys, their murals always have good content.

CB: Do you feel like that level of community interaction has been consistent in the last eight years at meeting of Styles?

F: It can get hairy. It is also done during the Mexican Independence so sometimes it gets rowdy with the neighborhood. When you are on 27th and Kedzie there was so much traffic that the police turned the traffic onto us and I was surprised how many people knew who was Trixter, who was Flash, who was Glow, and would hear that come out “Oh that’s glow, that’s flash.” And you hear that and are like, I don’t even know these people. The Mexican people are more in tune with the art I think because they grow up out of it. They see us over there every year painting. If you go on Ashland you will see some of the biggest murals you will ever see. Over here [Logan Square/North Side] we fight for it. Sometimes its draining. I’m old, I don’t have time to argue. My biggest reason, why I am doing this is the felony charges. When I got arrested for this [graffiti] I was made to go to an old folks home and clean up. And spend some time with some senior citizens. Now, its like you are walking around with crack cocaine. You have actual writers doing four to five years, and I understand the ones that get carried away, that that is what happens, but if a kid for the first time gets caught when he is seventeen, that is going to stay with him until he is 100. He gets no job, whatever he wants to do he is always going to have that on his record. And in a day and age hwere there are scarcely any jobs, that’s what he will live for [illegal graffiti]. So I feel that there are a lot of kids that don’t want to do it [legal graffiti?], so it is our job as the old school to get them places to paint, to burn that energy, to take that energy and grab it at its young age and burn it up and they will end up being a graphic designer, photographer, whatever they want to do. The city is designed to take people in and try to hold them.

CB: When you are preparing for MOS do you do anything extra?

F: Every year a bunch of us sit around and do the Photoshop thing and everything but as we get older and this is out seventh or eighth one we didn’t have time to do that this year and they kept us in the dark about who will be painting next to who so we just showed up to the wall and did whatever this year.

CB: Improvising?

F: Which graffiti is. It shouldn’t be that planned out. I’m not condemning the kid who uses a projector, I’m not condemning the people who use straight line or whatever, but sometimes I like the originality of it which is just like freestyling. It is a freestyle form of art. You see a break dancer and he stops like that [mimicking a breaker standing on their head legs out at an angle], that’s the arrow [in a wildstyle piece], I always see those images, a guy from new york was telling me, free styling that is in skateboarders is also in graffiti, because you don’t plan where that arrow is going to come out where you are going to put your doo-dads and that’s the way it should be sometimes.

CB: What’s your reaction when your work gets gone over?

F: I live in Chicago I don’t care. Because I’m going to go over someboday else. You cant get attached. I see it as you are giving someone another chance to paint.

CB: Do you document your work, and if so how?

F: I have an external hard drive and I have been documenting—my first document phase is ’82 to ’87 and I have about 180 photos so out of those I’ve been able to make a good little old school career out of it. From 2003 I’ve been documenting from there on. The things in the galleries, the bombing, and mostly on the Blue Line, since that’s the train I take, I always have my camera with me.

CB: Do you use Facebook or Flickr?

F: I like to sit on the computer and have facebook, photobucket, graffiti forums and Chicago Graffiti Forums and just hit em at the same time with 200 photos, hence I have to live up to the name Flash.

CB: I’m sort of interested in how artists network globally—do you have preferred graffiti sites that you use?

F: I like Flickr a lot, it ahs a lot on that of bombing and I am a fan of that, and I like our own forums, you can’t get in unless you know somebody’s name. The kids come on it. There are different crews. There is always someone new who wants to show their stuff from Chicago. There’s other ones set up that are worldwide and you go into it and you feel like you get lost. So I like the forums that have specifically New Yorkers, you get to see whats going on in that town. What we did, when we started our forum [ABC’s Website] is we put in a bad word filter so that the colleges don’t block it, the schools, and we’ve had it like that. Every year I get a kid whos trying to do a video from Columbia or something like that, and that’s how this [DVD of interviews] came about, it’s a collection of Columbia College that went around with me documenting, we put it together, made a video out of it.

CB: How would you feel if there weren’t any more Meeting of Styles?

F: I would still paint. We would make our own thing in Chicago and we would invite other artists. I think we would still do it.

CB: Do you ever get involved in the planning?

F: No, SB is the crew that handles that, and they do a pretty good job, of organizing and changing up the artists. I haven’t painted at the wall I was at this year for a pretty long time. As the old school I like to go to the other different walls, participate. This year there wasn’t a lot of out of towners so they gave the wall in the front to the old school and it was pretty cool.

CB: Who else was on that wall?

F: Nick Sassa, Chumbley, Meek, Drastic, Trams, and I’ll send you the others, Seesa Crew, and Dean 4.

CB: Dean 4 was the one who did the brush painting for his mom?

F: Yeah, he always paints like an old schooler, and I get my hats from him, my shirts, I support him. We just tried to keep it to the eighties this year, which was hard.

CB: Do you have any concerns about the future of graffiti? For example its commercialization.

F: I think that commercialization is terrible right now because you have a lot of guys just setting up companies and grabbing from people. Because we are a generous beast as it is, and will help anybody, and then you go back and see the person try to do a project and you want to work with them and its like “Oh no I’ve got enough of you don’t worry about it.” And that’s where the abuse, the being used comes in, and you don’t keep a relationship with the artist that you used for your book or whatever, and there is a lot of that going on.

CB: You said there were few out of towners this year, what do you think the importance of having out of towners at MOS is?

F: To show that Chicago accepts people from out of town. We don’t want a cold society.

CB: Would you say MOS is just graff writers or is it also for other audiences?

F: I would say that its for other audiences because as you saw, Sunday, there is a community of photographers that come out now to take pictures, so I think it is for everybody to enjoy.

CB: That’s all I’ve got. Thank you so much.

**Photo used with permission

Monday, September 26, 2011

About this Blog

I thought now would be a good time to clarify what on earth I am doing here. This blog is based on a dissertation (future book?) project that is titled "Transitional Art Transnational Murmurs: Public Art and Urban Community." This title is likely to change. It is a little over the top. But the key terms imply what you might think they do. Basically I start with the Diego Rivera controversy at Rockefeller Center, over the "Man at a Crossroads" mural, and argue that the conflict over the mural, and its subsequent destruction, established a series of questions relevant to public art practitioners and analysts today. I look at contemporary muralism in Mexico City, Chicago, and Philadelphia, as well as contemporary graffiti practices, and through a combination of artist interviews, newspaper and archive analysis, and site visits, seek to answer the questions:

* What is public art's social function in times of social crisis?

* Who is the "public" that such art communicates with?

* How is a sense of collective, local, national, or transnational identity forged through muralism and graffiti?

* How does the legacy of Rivera's scandal continue to haunt the form, content, and dialogues surrounding public art?

* What is the relationship or non relationship between muralism and graffiti, and what does it tell us about how both art forms are means of collective communication or protest?

In order to answer these questions I have a few research clusters. First, I want to tackle the "afterlife" of the Rivera controversy by learning about the mural's ("Man at a Crossroads") role for Mexican muralism today. I will interview muralists in Mexico City about their perspectives on their work, relationship to Rivera, and thoughts about the above issues.

Second I look at graffiti as another "heir" to Revolutionary muralism, and will study the Meeting of Styles, a global graffiti event, in Chicago and Mexico City, as a way to investigate how graffiti functions as a form of public communication that might provide a kind of global solidarity. This is also largely interview based.

Third, I will learn about how muralists in Chicago use their art socially. Artists from Chicago Public Art Group and Yollocalli have agreed to speak to me about their various projects.

Fourth, I will look at a couple of mural projects in Philadelphia, a place where public art has an incredibly respected and institutionally supported role, in contrast perhaps to the situation that faces graffiti in general, muralism in many cities, and Rivera's work in the United States during the 1930s.

Finally, I will reflect on the threat to 5pointz in New York, as a way to reflect on how the scandalous and ephemeral nature of public art continues. I hope to speak with MERES about this issue.

I am an academic, so these clusters will be informed by some theory, some history, and some of my own readings of secondary texts. I am using this blog as the public side to this research, and hopefully a way to create a broader conversation (art world and beyond) about issues of public art, public space, and urban community.

I will post the majority of my interviews. I have not yet figured out how polished the transcripts will be (they are at the moment pretty raw) and how much to mess with the "original" recording to make them more grammatically proper (zero percent of the population myself included uses perfect sentence structure for spoken word), or whether I want to, because part of what I want to do is portray some of the texture and sense of the art scenes I encounter. Any suggestions or criticisms or comments on this issue are appreciated. I know I may have spelled some writers names wrong, and that I may have misheard some things. I come at this with the greatest respect.

I started this research more or less six years ago in undergrad, in Chicago, and hope to finish most of it by the Spring of 2012, somewhere in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Mexico City.

I am extremely grateful to the artists, scholars, fellow art lovers and friends who put up with my ignorance, single-mindedness, and sometimes verbal flat-footedness. Bespectacled, notebooked and slightly deaf in my left ear, making them repeat themselves more than once and clarify things that seem obvious, I appreciate their willingness to share stories, answer questions they must have heard many times, and reflect on their work for an outsider. The generosity of the interlocutors who make up this project provide the motive for this project, and the energy for it. Thank you so much.

**photo by Tommy Territt Photography

Meeting of Styles Chicago: HASTE Interview

Writing since 1992, HASTE hails from LA. He, as noted in an earlier post, makes a strong argument for graffiti to become more legible to a broader public, as well as highlighting the importance of graffiti socially, and its limits at the moment. I was grateful to learn about his perspectives and his sophisticated perspective on an art he does so well.**

CB: When did you start writing?

H: We grew up in Chile, I was born here, grew up in Chile, moved out here when I was seven, and soon as I moved out here it drew my attention so I really pretty much started writing graffiti when I was seven years old, eight years old, from as young as second, third grade. I remember writing on stuff, in the fifth grade I came up with the name HASTE, it was kind of a mutual friend who wrote it who also had the same first name. And it was something he played around with and he let it go, I personally took off with it. HASTE also came up a few different times when I was in school. It was also part of the constitution, [or]... if it was the constitution or something that somebody wrote, John Adams or somebody, it just caught my attention, I really liked it. In the 70s, 80s and 90s your graffiti name was really important...names like HASTE were kind of popular because of what it meant; swift, haste makes waste, a lot of names were like that, like Quake like earth-quake, little things that kind of have a deeper meaning than just writing your real name. I’d say I was writing HASTE since I was 10 years old. I’ve been writing on stuff since I was ten, using spraypaint, tagging on stuff since I was twelve,

CB: What year would that be?

H: That would be ’92. But I’d say ’95 was when I really got serious with going, getting paint, a lot, going to the underbridges and alleyways and stuff like that, 94, 95 when I really started painting, really started graffiti.

CB: Did any person in particular get you into it?

H: I grew up in a really—I grew up in a gang neighborhood—um, no. usually that’s the way it happens in graffiti, it happens with your peers, but all my peers were little brothers of gangsters so I was more around the gang culture, I was never drawn to the gang culture, I always enjoyed the Los Angeles gang culture. The importance of respect, and the honor and how much their neighborhood meant to them, but I didn’t really see eye to eye with any of them. I was into playing sports, I was more of an athlete- so the graffiti thing was just for me, I really loved the way graffiti looked. I loved the way gang writing looked, placas, the history of LA graffiti, the history of LA gang graffiti. Its very intimidating. Its amazing what some type[ography] can do, and how it can affect you.

CB: If I were to go to LA, what are your favorite spots to see other writers’ work?

H: Its LA. It’s the whole city of LA because every neighborhood is different and its run pretty much by different crews like the Hollywood area, we CBS, have had it on lock. We’ve had it on lock for over twenty years, we are pretty much one of the only crews in LA that’s been able to have steady walls for twenty years...also the largest amount of square footage to paint on than anyone else in LA. And I’m biased so I would say Melrose for us, Hollywood being Hollywood. But if you go into East LA you are going to run into some other crews like STN, K2S, UTIs, you can go into also into some Hollywood areas, some LA areas where MSK has a ton of walls out there. So LA just in general, you just have to drive around from neighborhood to neighborhood and you are going to see different murals. By phenomenal artists.

CB: And have you painted in Chicago before?

H: No. this is my first time here. I have actually been trying to come out here for a real[ly] long time.. I’m actually an architecture buff and I love the history of Chicago, its one of the only cities I haven’t seen that I really wanted to check out. I’ve driven cross country three times and I’ve tried to come through and this is my first time in Chicago and when I met XAUST about six months ago, and he told me about this, I told him I was going to be here, I guaranteed I would be here because of how important it is for me to be in Chicago, and how much I wanted to see the city more than anything.

CB: Have you been to other MOS festivals before?

H: They had one in Los Angeles, in the LA River,

CB: This year?

H: Oof, I’m bad with years. I’d say this would be 2008, no maybe 2008, 2007, we had it in the LA River. It was put together by MAN ONE from Crew West gallery. He is a really old school graffiti writer. It was a big deal because he had major crews from LA painting next to each other, massive murals. In the LA river where they do a lot of filming. We had permission so people had to come down, down to the LA River. Which is a duct system for the water system for when it rains, so it is amazing to have people from the neighborhood and people walking around to come down there, because no one would ever come down there. It was painted and unfortunately a council-woman at the time was really against it, and they ended up painting over it, without permission, without city permission, she just kind of painted half of it. And when the neighborhood came and complained and told them to stop they stopped so for a while half the walls at meeting of styles were still up. That's the politics of Los Angeles. A lot of people base their public persona as councilmen and district attorneys on graffiti. Small petty crimes. Especially too because now it gets so, so much press as far as being in the mainstream. That’s the way people, you can get peoples’ attention

CB: And you had told me yesterday that you had a perspective about characters being important to get more public acceptance—do you mind reciting that?

H: Not at all. It’s the aspect of the abstract art of graffiti the fact that we are taking text and type and resetting it and skewing it, distorting it, and coming up with our own perspectives on it. Its hard for the common Joe, people in general and the public to understand that, to see any artistic value in that. Because they can’t understand any of it. They don’t know how to make an “H”, or an “A” or an “S” or a “T” out of what I am doing. They just see shapes where, when you bring characters into it, you bring realism or any kind of anything cartooney or that aspect it draws somebody right away. So what happens usually is somebody who would pass by, wouldn’t say hello or pay any attention to what you are doing, would automatically come up, it will actually just draw them in because it is something they can identify with. And if you do a Bugs Bunny next to the letters you did somebody’s going to come up and say “oh, I grew up with Bugs Bunny” or one of the guys is painting characters in his piece so automatically I guarantee you that half the people that come to the wall ae going to like that one the most because they will be able to understand that.

CB: Do you feel that with Meeting of Styles the audience is more than graffiti writers, and if so who do you think the various audiences are? Like just for graffiti writers to showcase their work to other graffiti writers?

H: I think yeah, its selfishly a lot of graffiti writers are just focused on thaw they are doing and they also want to be around other graffiti artists, because the culture, the subculture, is very much about themselves. The public, because the public’s always been so negative against graffiti writers the majority of graffiti writers don’t care what the public sees or..they just want to express themselves, and whether its legally or illegally its up to them and everyone will have their own opinion on it. I personally think that its bigger than them, bigger than us, I think we have the ability to draw more people, I just think the Meeting of Styles would have to become something that is more community based. Which would be extremely hard to do, where you’d theme out your murals based on giving something to the community, giving something back to the community, rather than just doing abstract art forms. But that’s a huge undertaking because a lot of graffiti writers don’t know how to step out of their state of mind of doing what I do, and how do I do something that’s beyond us.

CB: Because I mean your story is interesting about the LA MOS on the LA River because you said the community members did fight back to keep the graffiti murals.

H: Yes, yes.

CB: So there’s some level of identification happening.

H: There are people documenting graffiti in our area who are 60, 70 years old, I have people coming up to me all the time, support[ive], but it’s the negative stigma that graffiti is bad and they don’t see what possibilities of what you can actually do with it. Because of the way the media, some people in the news, especially on television, portray us.

CB: So how would you feel if there was no more MOS festivals, what would your reaction be?

H: Its bigger than MOS. So its, MOS is not the only festival. And it actually doesn’t really have the gusto that it has in Europe, I would have to say that they don’t put in the same amount of effort as they do in Europe, the festivals I’ve been in in Europe are definitely not only sponsored they are sponsored by larger corporations that don’t sponsor stuff here. I was at another [festival], it wasn’t MOS but it was another festival in Milan and it was sponsored by Adidas, it was also sponsored by the city or state of Milan, it had their seal, which is insane, thinking about a city sponsoring graffiti event, and also too a company like Adidas that has made their market off of America, off of the hip hop aspect of Run DMC did and everybody wearing Adidas – we made it popular. It's that element, that whole element that kind of made it push it forward, but companies out here, companies like Adidas, Carhart out there that supports graffiti, they don’t do it out here because of the negative aspect of it in the media. So they are afraid to.

CB: Do you have any worries about the commercialization of graffiti or the commercialization of Meeting of Styles?

H: That happens with every subculture so if you are going to base your life on keeping it real and worrying about your niche and this is for us and only for us, its, we have the ability to make things bigger than just about us and that’s where the progression of mural work is going, where you see the spike in murals has jumped up because of graffiti and we are rebuilding a mural community, we are rebuilding cities in color little by little. And as time goes by the powers that be are going to realize eventually that graffiti will not go away. No matter how many penalties you give somebody no matter how hefty the fines are its expression and the more and more programs that are getting cut off because of financial reasons in schools and afterschool programs, art programs, music, people don’t realize that that’s all expression for kids, that that’s a way for kids to kind of break out of their state of mind of the history aspect, the math, that’s where they actually get to break away, to let themselves figure out what do they like which is just gonna spike graffiti up even more, because kids have a lot of energy. And when you don’t give them something positive to do, they are gonna redirect that energy into something negative. So no matter what you do this graffiti aspect no matter how much cities try to ban it, its just not gonna stop. And they’re gonna find a way to do it. You can ban spray paint and you can be sure that they will be out there painting with rollers and brushes. Doesn’t matter.

CB: So, how do you document your work or do you document it at all?

H: Um, yeah, how do I document my work—digitally? I used to do it analogue just camera and film. I sketch out every single piece that I do so everything is on paper also. I’m a big sketch person, for me that’s how I progress and keep things flowing, and I’ve been hesitant to do a website because I didn’t really know how I wanted to represent what I do and its just because I do it professionally too I didn’t know which way I wanted to do. But now its that which everybody does. Social networking sites like Flikr is big thast one way I do that too to stay current and stay connected with different artists around the world.

CB: Why do you think its important to network with international artists?

H: inspiration, sense of community, I’d have to say it’s a common thread how we stay connected. The international community, is because of graffiti, the only art form I can think of right now that stays connected in a way that I can pretty much go anywhere in the world and have somebody’s couch to sleep on. That I never met, its just by association, its through the collective, the crew that I’m in that knows somebody else, I mean it could be a distant cousin of a best friend’s sister’s mother…doesn’t matter. Its just that somebody is going to know somebody else in a city and because of graffiti they welcome you. And I don’t know any other art form, actually anything else in our society right now that allows people to do that for no gain whatsoever. No financial gain. Its just for camaraderie. Its just for the enjoyment of painting next to someone you are not used to painting with. Its seeing somebody express themselves – you see LIKE painting above me and you see how well we complement each other and he wasn’t really on here but the person who was gonna be on here couldn’t make it, so he’s above me, but look how well that works. For me its like, I never knew of LIKE’s work, so me coming to Chicago and seeing him he didn’t know of my work. But now you get to see that, its that some things work well. There’s an influence now, we will influence each other on things different ways. And internationally that’s what happens too. You break away from your town, everybody has a different way of doing letter structures and all those things are very regional so going internationally you get to see what they do. And because of them, because of internationally most places a lot of places, a lot of places, especially Europe, they see things as, spraypaint as medium. So they use spraypaint as a medium so their art background starts at a very young age. When I was in Italy I was in a small town called Spoleto and the people I was staying with their daughter was ten years old and she was taking, they go to school six hours a week there, for about six hours a day, and she was taking three art classes. She was only ten years old. She was taking a drawing class, a painting class, and a drafting class. So when you have that nurturing process at such a young age, their development, just their expression, is going to be, which just affects them for the rest of their life. So being in Europe and going internationally is just phenomenally—their anatomy work, their shading, their structure, is just – [I was] blown away. Their difference in hand-styles is pretty obvious because we in the States that’s how we start, we start with the tag, with the letter, just catching that. While in Europe you have guys who can paint realistic face, and couldn’t write their name to save their life because that’s not the way—they picked it up as a medium—the culture isn’t the same there. And in a lot of countries I’ve been to, the graffiti bombing, the illegal aspect has nothing to do with the legal. Either you are doing your stuff illegally or you are doing your stuff legally. And there is not crossover because the guys who do it illegally do it for the love, for the rush of it, those who do it legally are doing it artistically are doing it for the mural aspect of it, and are trying to get fame from it, or trying to get financial gain from it, or are just trying to make an art career out of it. And that’s how things are going now. You don’t have to work in a gallery—you don’t have to work for a gallery anymore and do your work for an indoor aspect—there are guys who are just making their career out of painting outdoor structures. Which is amazing. And that’s where everything’s going now. You see that progression, that’s whats happened in the last five to ten years. Its insane.

CB: Do you think that’s happening more in Europe than in the States?

H: Oh its definitely happening more in Europe. Its documented. You can go on the internet and just see how many festivals they have going on just in Europe during the summer time its insane. When I was there were people that were leaving because they had to go to another festival four hours away in that same weekend and they are painting like massive, four storey, eight storey buildings, the whole side of them. With spraypaint or rollers, people wheat pasting or people doing stuff with mosaics. But you see how open it is over there. That’s why I was telling you about Art Basel—it’s the only time you are going to see a festival in the States that’s something like that but its even more because its more people per square footage—

CB: Except maybe Philadelphia because they have so much support

H: But not at the same time. Just in Philadelphia you will not see that many artists just working at one time. Doing massive work.

CB: So you think the kind of shared time and space of creation is important?

H: Oh I think its amazing what you walk away with. Friend ___ who was here he’s been kind of on the down and outs just about life in general for the last couple weeks, had girl problems, and we are talking about everything, and he just wasn’t feeling it, he hasn’t felt like expressing himself artistically its hard to when you have all these other things weighing on you, and he came here and he just had such a great time with all of us, so inspired by what we did here he was like now I can go home and paint. And he drove 24 hour drive and driving back but he’s feeling like wow now I’m inspired to go back and work. That’s what we can do when we paint together as a community, as a culture, we can actually give so much to each other, and back to the community at the same time.

CB: You’ve already gestured a few times towards what graffiti might be able to do and what I’ve gathered is that it creates a sense of community, it gives youth positive outlets, and it creates free expression—is there any other potential that graffiti has that would be great, socially, were it more supported by a broader public?

H: Yeah they just don’t understand what it is we can do. And we don’t understand what it is that we can do. So it takes a movement its gonna take a few people, which is happening right now with a few artists who are making things, who are breaking boundaries and its allowing everybody else to kind of jump on board with them to see what they can do. And its happening you can see, just little by little. We have to make sure that we are staying progressive, and that we are actually hungry enough to keep going and to see not just what you benefit from it, and what does the community benefit, how do we communicate, how does society as a whole benefit from what it is doing.

CB: And what do you think potentially it can be? You said ‘They don’t know what we could do’, what could it do?

H: Like what it did to Philadelphia, what the mural program did there. Putting murals in very poor neighborhoods, in very bad neighborhoods but opening up in a way so that everything they do is mapped, so you are driving around and going to places you wouldn’t- so you are opening up local businesses to people getting cash, people eating, so you are giving so much more back, also at the same time it’s the color therapy I was speaking of yesterday, it’s amazing what color can do for somebody. And a lot of times people forget that. People forget what color can do for you. So we actually have the ability to improve our surroundings. In the same way architecture does. And we are part of architecture. And if architectects saw that, if society saw that, if we saw architecture as a beautiful thing, if society just started thinking about things as a whole, it would be great, and you would see things improve, you would see how much, if you go to poverty stricken neighborhoods in Los Angeles, like East LA, and you see the best murals in LA are in East LA, and nice beautiful ones in South Central too, because those people appreciate that people come to their neighborhood to actually give them something that nobody else would. Like that big businesses don’t care about. That you cant go to find a nice market in East LA that isn’t like a local, small, bodega type style. But you’ll see murals left and right. You’ll see murals as big as two hundred feet long and people appreciate it. When I paint in east LA or south central people actually come up and thank you. More than anywhere else, more than any other neighborhood in LA because people know that you are giving back to their community.

CB: How do you feel when your work gets gone over, or when a city municipality, or whatever, buffs it?

H: For me its my artistic lifestyle is about progression and movement so I am done once its done its over, I let it go, and for me that’s what great, what graffiti did for me is knowing that nothing I did is permanent. Nothing in life is permanent. So I don’t mind someone coming back next week going over what I’ve done, what I’ve spent three days on, as long as I know that—I know that this [gestures at wall] is going to get painted over – but the way I’m painting it, as slow as I’m painting it, you can see how important it is for me to make everything meticulously clean, to make it look like its gonna be there forever, that’s for me. When I walk away from something, its done. Its over with. Its documented, I took a picture of it to reflect on it from time to time but if I fall in love with what I’m doing and I’m so caught up with keeping that up and making sure that nobody goes over it, I’m not going to grow as an artist. For me its all about growth.

CB: thank you so much.

H: You’re welcome.

**The finished production at the 49th and Ashland Wall can be found at this address:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meeting of Styles Chicago: DEMON Interview

I met DEMON at the Zhou B Gallery during the opening party. MCing, saying hi to everyone, and appearing in several places at once, was clearly very busy. Throughout the festival I saw him pop up at every wall to check on things, interested in making sure everyone was doing ok and that everything was cool.

I was grateful to catch a few minutes to talk with him during the first day of MOS and learn a little about some of the MOS organization process, and his own perspective as a participant as well. Here is the transcript.

Sept 17 2011 30th and Kedzie wall:

Cb: When did you start painting and why?

D: I started when I was a kid, maybe 10 years old. It was because it was kind of just that hip hop was really big back then and it was all one package and you wanted to break dance, and rap and dj and do graffiti. I also was an artist, when I was a kid I would always draw and stuff before I started doing graffiti, trying to imitate comic books so it kind of went hand in hand. Years later I got more into the music side [of hip hop] when I was around 18, 19, and I kind of drifted from the art thing, but then through the music I intersected with ZORE G-TEK a couple other guys I went to high school with, and they kind of brought me back into the graffiti art. So from there I just started going.

Cb: Where did you get your style from?

D: I started bombing this one name: I did this kind of square tag, it was a square big kind of throwup, and a friend of mine who was not even a writer was like, "you should do a 3-d on it and should make it look like a maze." I did and was like "oh that's cool but it was still just square." So after that I was like, "What if I d do these wildstyle tags with a lot of little bits and then do the 3-d from that," and I did it and was like "oh that’s cool." There is a couple of cats that do stuff like that: SACRED from LA is one, and there is an old school dude RIDDLE from Chicago,but it doesn’t have exactly the same kind of folded paper look. I call it the wild onion style, because its from Chicago, just for fun.

Cb: Is that what you did for the shrink wrap mural—yeah that was really cool. It does look like a maze, it also looks like roses.

D: Yeah its funny you say that. I did a piece in Barcelona and someone took a picture of it and its on google, and the picture itself is actually on google earth—if you go to google earth and go to Barcelona you can find the wall- and someone took a picture of it and under the caption, they just took a picture of the “o” and under the “o” it says “la rosa.”

CB: What year was it that you started writing?

D: ’84, though really 92 is when I started really piecing and stuff.

CB: Do you paint in Little Village external to meeting of styles or is it just during Meeting of Styles?

D: No this has been Zore’s wall since the 80s, and SB’s wall since the 90s. I’ve been painting here since the 90s, its one of the walls we’d come to if we want to do a piece. We have multiple walls around the city. Lately I don’t paint here unless its meeting of styles. I did do a piece here a month ago.

CB: Do you interact with the Little Village residents, non graffiti writers?

D: Oh sure. We know the owner. Which is basically how we got the walls, and there are families over on the Sawyer side that will set up and sell tacos to everybody. Its just whoever walks by. I always engage people that come up to me. Usually because I’m wearing something that says Meeting of Styles, so they know that I’m part of it, and they always come up to me.

CB: Have you run into any issues, conflicts, maybe with community members, getting walls, do you have to get permits for the walls?

D: No we haven’t had any conflicts, and no we don’t really get permits because we get permission from the owner and technically since its private property, and since its not advertising so there's not commission money or anything, you don’t have to get a permit from the city. The cops sometimes will try to tell you you do [need a permit] but you can call the city and they will say yeah you don’t need a permit if its your own property. But the cops around here are actually pretty cool. We’ve been painting here for so long and they actually see that we are trying to do something positive. As opposed to guys gangbanging they they are dealing with.

CB: How long have you been doing the Meeting of Styles?

D: I’ve been doing it since the beginning. Eight years.

CB: What changes have you seen?

D: There have been ups and downs. ...once in a while we’d get contributions from different companies which kind of helps.. Lately its been harder and harder to get the paint sponsorship and to get other money. I don’t know if it’s the economy or that people just don’t want to sponsor graffiti events, I don’t know what it is. The changes in spaces we get for the gallery shows and the party nights have gotten better. We used to just try and find any random gallery. We had a space in Pilsen called 54b, and this year it is the Zhou Brothers Art Center which is a very big step up.

CB: What are the strategies for every year raising money? Do you go to Montana Paints every year?

D: It's really just grass roots. Its all out of our pocket. I might get a little money from some of the local stores like Uprise, Silver Room, the Basement, maybe a couple dollars so I could get the flyers out, but the past couple years we haven’t really gotten any significant money from anybody, so we just do it out of pocket and we get paint from somewhere. Last year we had a paint sponsor, Blubber Colors, this year Montana they are sponsoring only the front side of the wall.

CB: Why the front side?

D: I guess because it's the focal point of the wall and it's more visible.

CB: Do you have any idea what happened in the festival in New York? Because it was posted and it just went away.

D: I really don’t know and I think the same thing is going to happen in Cali which is supposed to be this weekend. Those cities have kind of always been not as organized as we have as far as Meeting of Styles, I really don’t know the specifics. Really the one in Cali out of the last 7 or 8 years they have been doing it there 5 of them have been organized by ZORE. From Chicago, but he has connections out there and its constantly moving back and forth.

CB: So it doesn’t have a home base?

D: Exactly.

CB: How would you feel if there weren’t any more Meeting of Styles?

D: I guess sad, relieved in a way that I wouldn’t have to do as much work. I’m just joking. I think there is a lot of controversy with it, some people get mad about who paints and whatever what walls at the same time in a way everyone would be really disappointed because there aren't really any graffiti related events in Chicago. There used to be the CTA battle back in the early 90s and from that point there wasn’t anything until Meeting of Styles. Except for Grills and Skills out in Rockford, Paint Wars.

CB: What do you think the purpose is of Meeting of Styles?

D: It is supposed to be kind of a gathering of graffiti writers from different places and the meeting of their styles, and to paint with people that you don’t usually paint with. A lot of times in Chicago we don’t get to do it like that because we don’t get as many out of towners. But when we do we’ve had several times people on this front wall from Italy and Germany and Texas or Cali—we do have one from Cali—Basically its like graffiti awareness and kind of a way to celebrate the culture of graffiti and hip hop. All of the Meeting of the Styles usually have some hip hop along with them, usually we have some music, but the focal point is always graffiti. There aren't a whole lot of events that are for graffiti. Its kind of political. The main organizer from Germany YOURS, he likes to make every year a theme. And it usually has something about about dreams, dream bigger, or change the world types of things, or theVenus Project, so there is a deeper meaning behind it as far as what the themes are and trying to expose people to them…

CB: Do you think the themes are actually acted out in the specific productions that people do or is it sort of just like…

D: They [the themes] really are. We haven’t done it as much recently here, but a couple of years ago we did. The ones in Europe, they do a lot more. They usually have at least one wall dedicated to the theme and they will do all kind of different things. One year I was out there and these guys from Ireland did kind of the Hollow B-boys- these b-boys that just had really expensive clothes on and glasses but you could see their insides and they had just really small hearts and really small brains. It was pretty funny.

CB: Who is the audience for Meeting of Styles—is it just graffiti writers or are you trying to push it to a bigger—

D: Its everybody. It's an event for graffiti writers to paint and for everyone else to see.

CB: What publicity strategies do you use to create that effect?

D: We use internet, facebook, emailing. We usually put out flyers or posters and a lot of times we’ll get stuff from the Reader, advertise in the Reader, and there is an artist archive in Chicago [60 Inches from Center] and they have posted our stuff, and we work with Columbia and the Art Institute.

CB: How many helpers do you usually have every year?

D: Anywhere from ten to twenty, in various ways. Some drift in and out.

CB: What do you think the future of graffiti—and as it becomes more an more global?

D: It's already being used highly in advertising, there is a group in Chicago that is all graffiti writers and they are a company who does ads for companies and that’s their living. I don’t want to say that the future of graffiti is advertising but that’s one path. And there's just always going to be the underground element to graffiti because of the adrenaline rush that kids want to get out of bombing, so that part of it. That essential [element] of what graffiti is will always be around because kids are always going to want to rebel against society and put their name on things and show who they are. Especially, well most graffiti artists come from the inner cities and even if [not] consciously, they feel not heard and unappreciated. I think graffiti is a way for them to be heard.

CB: Thank you so much.

**pictures included with permission from DEMON, the top one from the MOS wall, the bottom one from the Zhou B gallery show.