Street art tour of Barcelona part 1 – El Barri Gòtic to El Born

Happy (belated) New Year!

It’s been quite quiet on Urban Kultur Blog throughout much of December 2014 as I took some time off from writing, but managed to fit in a really great trip to Barcelona in which I roamed the streets of the city and came across some great work from old faces and discovering some amazing new artists too.

Like the recent virtual tour of east London I’ll be doing the same for this trip, with the first blog covering El Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) and El Born. The second part covers the dynamic El Raval, El Poble-sec and Gràcia, probably my favourite parts of this Catalonian urban jungle.

As it was a few weeks back, the routes I’ve shown are really as a rough guide, especially within El Born. It was easy to deviate from the main roads and disappear down the many alleyways in search of shutters and doorways. For the vast majority of my time within this area of the city I had no idea where I was in relation to Passeig del Born…some guide!

Roaming data charges were not an option, so it was down to critically under detailed map and pigeon’s instinct…

Barcelona Map

El Barri Gòtic

Having taken the metro to Les Rambles, I walked near enough the entire length before dropping off to the left into the Gothic Quarter. While heavily touristic, when diving down alleyways and even occasionally on the main routes, there was plenty of work on the walls.

Pretty much my first find of the trip was an older piece from C215 (Christian Guemy) on one of the typically grand entries to apartment buildings in this area.

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Throughout El Barri Gòtic and El Born there were so many paste-ups and posters, a couple of examples of those from artists who had a lot of work in these areas are below. It felt like pretty much every wall or door had at least one up there. Zone’s “bomb art” featured heavily throughout the streets of Barcelona as paste ups and a variety of other forms.

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El Born

Further east and down into quirky El Born, crammed with independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants and covered walls.

One of the many new artists I discovered during my time here was Momo whose caricature-esque posters with really vivid colour were really cool. Unsure if these are of anyone in particular – I can’t make up my mind That obviously doesn’t take anything away from them, but shows my ignorance instead…

I only came across a handful of these but they were among my favourites.

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Some of the doorways and walls were so heavily tagged, painted and covered in stickers that on occasion there were some gems hidden behind the layers. See if you can spot this old Alice Pasquini piece nestled in here.

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Another new artist whose work I saw a couple of examples throughout the city created these really detailed and intricate posters in black and white. Unfortuantely I was unable to identify the artist, so any help on the name of the artist would be much appreciated, as I’d really like to check out more of their work…

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More unknown poster goodness from this artist – potentially called SHNSHNSHN? Tapping into the latest 21st century obsession of selfies. You can believe in yourself(ies) with our without the narcissist’s tool of choice, the “selfie-stick”…

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There were some really nice pieces from Ozzy throughout the city (particularly in Gracia and near Poble-Sec – more on that in part 2 of this shambolic online tour) but I was a particular fan of his work, and these posters especially.

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The hot topic in the Catalonian capital the month before this trip was of course the vote for independence, that ended up not being a vote for independence but merely an indicator of public opinion.

The cage over the ballot box symbolising that whatever the vote, the outcome would make little difference to their current situation.

The highly political piece not far from the fantastic Arc de Triomf proclaims that “Despite everything, I, we, you, are free! Independence!” – an indication that the spirit of the people remains as strong as ever.

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In the second part of this Barcelona street art tour, I’ll be talking about some of the coolest pieces from Gràcia, El Raval as well as Poble-sec, three of the most diverse and exciting areas that I spent time in.

With El Raval traditionally being the working class neighbourhood of central Barcelona, it was home to some very interesting social/political artwork.

Check back for more on this shortly…

Steven
UKB

Max Zorn shining new light on old tape

Earlier last month I was contacted by the guys behind SXSW Eco (the partner event to the SXSW music and film festivals) about some work that Amsterdam based tape artist Max Zorn had put together for them at their event back in March. They were keen, and rightly so, to promote the finished installation.

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 Creating the SXSW Eco installation in downtown Austin.

SXSW Eco runs in early October and is a unique platform for professionals, examining the critical challenges of our times through design innovation, technological breakthroughs, conservation practice, entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of creativity to transform inspiration into action.

As part of this they helped hook up an interview between myself and Max to discuss his tape based art more generally, as well as his work for SXSW Eco. There are a number of artists working with this medium at the moment.

Those that stick (initially unintentional, but now welcomed pun) in mind are Buff Diss and Aakash Nihalani, creating really nice effects with very different materials. Aakash NihalaniNihalini (below/right) adds an extra layer by interacting, or encouraging interaction.

But how is Max Zorn’s work any different?

With a surgeon’s scalpel as his brush, he intricately cuts the tape and attaches it to acrylic glass to make use of its semi transparency, casting light from behind to create some really mesmerising work.

So mesmerising, in fact, that when I look at some of the examples I struggle to understand how something so dull and drab as packing tape can be completely transformed by adding light! More about that installation for SXSW Eco, then.

The concept of using tape to make art is like a form of upcycling — taking something away from its intended purpose and giving it a creative touch.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and it took months of brainstorming to lock in a concept, but on March 5th 2014 Max arrived in Austin with a beat up purple Ford Escort and a wide load of brown Scotch tape to get down to business Teaming up with SXSW and SXSW Eco to make this massive 10ft x 6ft tape art installation downtown was no easy feat, however. The artwork itself was lifted two feet in the air, installed in a customized SXSW Eco lightbox, and lit up like a billboard for foot traffic at Brush Square Park in Austin.

Check this video out to see the process from start to finish.

I was interested to find out more about how he got into using tape for such an impressive display, was there a link to a graffiti-based past? “Not really graffiti, but you could say that the art I was putting on lamps was for the streets before it was put in frames for a gallery.”

“I started hanging my tape art on street lamps around Amsterdam in the spring around 2011. That was right before I went on a road trip, so I brought some work with me and started hanging them on street lamps wherever we went, like Cologne, Madrid, and all around Portugal. And it just kind of went from there…”

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Earlier Max Zorn artwork, hanging from lamp posts worldwide

The effect created by using brown packaging tape for his art is really something, so I was curious to discover how exactly he came to settle on an obscure medium like this, carving out stunning designs and his own niche in the process.

“…I like the idea of taking something ordinary, that isn’t used as an artist’s medium, and shedding new light on it…”

“I like the idea of taking something ordinary, that isn’t used as an artist’s medium, and shedding new light on it. I thought tape could be cool because the brown is slightly transparent, and adding more layers creates depth and different shades of brown.”

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An example of his work representing the vintage nostalgia, enhanced by the sepia tone

“In return it creates sepia tones that people associate with vintage eras and the nostalgic past. And I love that, I’m a big fan of The Lost Generation writers like Steinbeck and Hemingway and their stories…the tones align with the subjects I like, such as Americana, roaring eras, etc.”

But as important as the tape is, none of this would work without the back-lit glass, something that Max is keen to stress. “I guess it’s also important to point out I work with light just as much as tape, so the tape needs to be able to compliment light.”

“It’s like a stained glass window, and some tape just can’t work like that. Others do, I’m trying out green and reds at the moment and it looks pretty cool too.”

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Incredible use of packing tape

From humble beginnings, Max’s work has gone on to receive widespread acclaim, hanging in galleries like Wynwood in Miami and exhibitions like ArtBasel in Hong Kong.

But is there something the four walls of a gallery can’t do that working in the street can? I dug a bit deeper to find out if he misses the more DIY aspect of creation.

“Well, I don’t have as much time as I used to. So that’s why I started Stick Together. Fans can apply to win a handmade artwork and it’s their job to put it up in their town on a street lamp.”

“It was working out really well until people started just keeping them for themselves! Which I guess is a compliment but totally stops the point of spreading street art to the people who love it.”

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It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Scaling a lamp post in the name of art.

I really love the idea of “Stick Together“, it’s just a shame the work he’s putting out there is so highly sought after that it soon began to find it’s place hanging in people’s homes instead of from streetlamps!

“…it [Stick Together] was working out really well until people started just keeping them for themselves! Which I guess is a compliment…”

With that increasing popularity, bigger and better opportunities come his way more and more often. So what has changed for him and his art with this rise in the urban art world?

“Well, I definitely can go bigger now in size, which was hard to imagine at first. It’s not easy to visualize the larger you go. Some things still take a while, other things don’t take a long as they used to, like re-creating artworks I’ve already made 5 or 10 times.”

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SXSW Eco Installation nearing completion

“I got used to being flexible too. You’re not always gonna find the same conditions all over the world, and that used to be scary but now it’s pretty cool.”

At the moment the website for Stick Together is a gallery page. It has been re-purposed to sell artwork in Miami this coming December.

The project itself transformed into an event where 50 artists painted live in Amsterdam. Now it’s taking some of those artists to Florida to showcase their work. Word has it that a re-launch is planned for the end of 2014 though, so keep checking back… There’s nothing to suggest that the Dutchman is planning on easing up any time soon either.

Expect some more work from Max over the coming months – “I’ll be hanging some work up around the world this year and next though, and you can always check that out on my Facebook page!” stciking together

Max reaching for the light at the Louvre in Paris. 

It was really cool to get the chance to fire a few questions Max’s way. I’m excited to see what Stick Together brings back in 2015, as well as what lies in store for the master of brown packing tape. Give him a wave if you see him clambering up a lamp post near you. Steven UKB

Vote for UKB – UK Blog Awards 2015

VOTE NOW to help UKB reach the UK Blog Awards final!

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If you’ve been keeping tabs on the Urban Kultur Facebook and Twitter profiles, you’ll probably have seen mention of this year’s blog awards, to be held in London again in early 2015.

In order to try and go one better than last year – where UKB came in as a runner-up to the fantastic “Skyliner” blog – I need your help again to reach the final shortlist.

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Making the final shortlist earlier in 2014

Until December 3rd, voting takes place to select the top 10 Arts & Culture blogs in the UK. If you follow the blog on social media, enjoy reading blogs here, or would just like to show your support, I’d love it if you’d consider voting for UKB here. It would mean so much to make it to the final for the second year in a row, so hopefully with your support I will be in with a shout in 2015…

With just under a week left, you won’t have to endure this shameless self-promotion much longer, I promise!

Thanks for considering voting!

Steven
UKB

Street art tour of east London – part 2

Carrying on from part 1 of the virtual street art tour of east London, which ended at the north end of Brick Lane, I meander my way back from Hanbury Street, cross back over Shoreditch High street and catch a few really nice walls on my way back to my initial starting point on Scrutton street, picking up a new favourite in Francisco de Pajaro along the way. More on that shortly…

To recap, we’ve had work from Alexis Diaz, Matt Adnate and C215 among others, but not to be outdone, this concluding part of the tour takes in some equally impressive art.

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Cheshire Street…

Art is Trash. Art is Rubbish. Art is Garbage. This is anti-art. This is Francisco de Pajaro, and I absolutely love it. His statement on his website, although badly translated via an online tool, can’t help but keep the fire of the original text.

“Art is Trash rebels against all of you, to all of you who look the other way, toward walking poisoned with eyes glued to a mobile phone and to those who prefer to look at the windows of a fashion store, or admire the abhorrent architectures of large cities.”

His description of his work as being “an anti-art aesthetic weapon of mass destruction to human savagery, ignorance and intolerance in our society” can’t help but get a reaction. Created from the rubbish that is discarded on the streets, his work appears to be a comment perhaps on a global society increasingly prone to disposing of the imperfect without a second thought.

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Dray Walk…

Carrying on down the main artery of East London’s street art scene, I veered off towards Rough Trade Records for a dig about their store. Last time I was down there Paul ‘Don’ Smith had just completed a really cool piece nearby as a tribute to the Godfather of House Music – Frankie Knuckles.

Another legend of music has sadly passed away since then. He paid his respects in the same spot by producing this portrait of the Bobby Womack.

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More recently the suicide of Robin Williams highlighted the often taboo subject of depression that affects many today. A character whose work is still some of the finest in the business was appreciated by Smith by painting his character ‘Mork’ (from the TV programme, Mork and Mindy) on the same pillar.

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Hanbury Street…

I pulled myself away from Rough Trade Records and rejoined Brick Lane briefly before nipping off onto Hanbury Street to catch this from Sheffield’s Phlegm completed, making great use of the slightly unusual space available.

His incredible, and slightly creepy monochrome wooden characters are always great to get up close to and see how they are put together.

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Spinning round I caught this older shutter work from Dscreet, whose electrified owls only appear, fittingly, in the evenings and early mornings when this shop is closed – for nocturnal eyes only.

Behind this shutter lies work from Borondo, a window painted white and scratched away to create a really impressive effect. Take a look at Borondo’s work from this post earlier in the year.

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This street is something of a hotspot, only a few yards down from Dscreet is this from NDA – an artist I’m not overly familiar with, but I’m definitely excited to see and find out more about.

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Leonard Street…

Swedish artist and designer Amara por Dios, now living in London, created this just across from one of my favourite spots in this part of town, the Book Club. Her designs are great, her t-shirts I particularly like, with that vibrant Incan/Aztec inspiration bubbling just beneath the surface.

You should definitely check out more of her work.

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Ravey Street…

What can been said about Ben Eine’s work that hasn’t been said before. A former graffiti writer whose lettering adorned many a wall and train in the past (illegally), now creates legal artworks in the main, not too dissimilar to this example. Iconic stuff.

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New North Place…

Scrutton Street, and the end of the tour, is just around the corner, but what a way to finish. Roes’ wall just along the road from what appeared to be Boiler Room HQ – at least that’s what the gleaning metallic sign suggested – blew me away a bit! A surreal masterpiece, whose colours burst out against the backdrop of dirty brick walls.

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And that was that – my super speedy tour around some of the finest art on the streets of this section of east London right now. Chances are by the time you’re reading this at least one will have disappeared (probably Francis de Pajaro’s Art is Trash installation), but if you get the chance to retrace my steps and check out at least a few of these, you’ll not be disappointed. And you’ll probably pick up a few new pieces along the way…

Steven
UKB

Street art tour of east London – part 1

Last week I found myself with a spare hour or so while down in London, so armed with a bottle of Scotland’s finest hangover cure, and embracing a refreshing but biting morning wind, I took myself on a mini tour of some of Shoreditch’s best street art spots.

Scrutton Street…

Starting and finishing at Scrutton Street, I wandered my way without any real plan and stumbled across some great new (well, new since my last visit in April) pieces from some familiar and less familiar names. Check out the best of my mini tour below, and use the map beneath if you want to retrace my steps the next time you’re in town.

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Invader’s Star Wars mosaic was one I came across online back in May, but it was a real thrill to see it in the flesh (or in the…ceramic), with the sun just beginning to rise. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Flash Invaders street art collector app installed which I reviewed a month or so ago, if I did that would have been the perfect opportunity to open my account. Regardless, I really like this 8-bit take on a classic piece of movie history, and it’s a considerable size for a mosaic piece when compared to his smaller original alien artworks.

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Holywell Lane…

Along Holywell Lane I made a point of stopping by the Village Underground showcase wall. Some seriously impressive murals have covered this staple of the London scene over the last few years. Martin Ron, and Nick Kuszyk most recently making the most of the sizable canvas.

This piece by Ian Stevenson is characteristic of his satirical illustrations, and was created with support from sworn enemy of the Fox network, Russell Brand. The revolution will not be televised…but it may well be photographed.

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Bethnal Green Road…

Strolling on along Bethnal Green Road, and with the hangover beginning to subside, I couldn’t miss this colourful creation from Barcelona’s El Pez. His signature fish are simple but effective and stood out among some of the other pieces that fill the walls of this part of town.

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Sclater Street…

I moved on along Sclater Street and began walking down graffiti mecca, Brick Lane. Too early, but only just, for a curry I settled for a bagel and stumbled across a two-legged piece of toast within this vibrant potion from Artista*, in the doorway of an empty shop.

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Bacon Street…

As I began to move further down Brick Lane, I remembered about the spaces on Bacon Street round from the Sclater Street car park. This short stretch always seems to have some of the finest work on it, so I swung round for an unplanned, but essential, detour. Roa has left his mark here, and in the past the likes of Dscreet have also painted the walls too. This new work from Alexis Diaz ensured that reputation remained untarnished, with such staggering detail I got up closer for a few zoomed in snaps.

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Spin round 180 degrees and you’ll be greeted by a piece of aboriginal inspired art from Aussie Matt Adnate. The subject of this painting is Djalu Gurruwiwi who is arguably the most important Australian musician alive today.

According to the project Dscreet was working on when we last spoke, “Baywara: The Film” that documented the life of Djalu, “he is a spiritual custodian of Australia’s most iconic instrument, the Didgeridoo. He carries with him ancient songlines that have documented our planet’s history for the past 60,000 years. Though Djalu is highly respected by those familiar with his music, he has yet to receive the wider recognition that he deserves.”

This almost photo-real piece mirrors the importance of Djalu  Gurruwiwi with it’s intense level of detail.

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Over on the east side of Brick Lane, Bacon street continues, and holds this hidden gem from one of my favourite stencil artists, C215 aka Christian Guemy. This portrait is the perfect example of his style, not usually in your face (although he has worked on a number of larger scale projects recently) but hidden away, which makes it all the more satisfying to stumble upon.

Beneath it lies a piece from Paul ‘Don’ Smith whose similar work will crop up in part 2 of this blog (to be posted shortly) as the tour continued from Brick Lane onto Hanbury St, looping back round over Shoreditch High St and onto where it started back on Scrutton St.

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Steven
UKB

 

Getting into Dubl Trubl with Dscreet

Dub TrublThis week I caught up with London based artist Dscreet for an interview to find out about the work he’s been putting out lately, as well as collaborating with other artists to curate the highly anticipated Dubl Tubl show, launching later this week at Urban Spree in Berlin. The show brings together a staggering 80 street artists to collaborate in pairs, with some very interesting combinations.

Although perhaps more commonly known among street art fans as the man behind the ‘electrified owls’ that perch around parts of east London, he’s worked with a range other media – film, interactive design, painting, sculpture and installation.

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Dscreet first experienced graffiti, as many do, through friends who painted. “We used to tag all the spots we skated and at some point drawing and piecing became more important to me than skating”. He later moved onto his trademark character, “the owl is a really loaded image, it means different things to me and the more I learn about owl symbology around the world the more I realise how diverse the interpretations are.” [Interview with Street Art London, 2012]

In between filming in Australia for “Baywara: The Film” and setting up at Revaler Str., he took some time to shoot the breeze with UKB.

UKB: You mention you got into street art now via skating, painting & tagging etc, but how did you come to settle on the character you have now?

D: I was doing letter throwups but I grew up drawing cartoons and just wanted to incorporate that character style into a quick iconic throwie.

Owls are my favourite animals and they already look like caricatures of a bird, so they fit the bill. I love painting those dudes.

UKB: Have you ever felt like changing style completely and starting over? DJs/Producers start to release stuff under different aliases, can a street artist do the same?

D: Yea I already did. I used to do really technical wildstyles, detailed characters and experimental abstract pieces, played with 3D rendering and all that good stuff, but it got boring and so I reinvented my style and went back to basics, a lot more fun. People who used to dig my shit dubl hate it now, I think that’s the sign of a good move.

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UKB: Where would people be most likely to find you/your work in London just now? Any favourite parts of the city to paint at the moment?

D: Mostly East, a bit played out but I still like it there.

UKB: As a tagger back in the day, what are your thoughts on the so called ‘internet-age’ of street art and graffiti? Good or bad? A natural progression? Does the internet /street art blogs take away some of the appeal of street art?

D: Its all good, the internet’s cool, I often use it. You can also walk the street and kick cans in the gutter on your way to the internet caf.

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UKB: In an interview with Street Art London blog a few years back you mentioned that you thought “graffiti legends will be taught about in school”. How much closer do you think that is to becoming a reality given the number of street art based shows/exhibitions art auctions there are now?

D: It’s already happening, I get so many uni students writing and asking to do interviews for their latest art thesis and I’m not even a “Grafffiti Legend” so I know they are studying the big guns at school or at least incorporating those artists into their research.

UKB: You’re stranger to diverse collaborations having worked with Connor Harrington and Lush among others. What do you think makes a good collaborative piece? Does painting as a duo introduce any fear about screwing it up for your partner?! And, do you have any particular favourites of your own from the past?

D: Good collabs; just being pals who can have a laugh at each other and bounce ideas, it’s best if you bring completely different styles and ideas to the table and embrace the fact that someone else is way better than you at certain things. The duo thing actually frees you from all that anxiety about fucking it up ‘cus you can just blame the other dude, everybody’s happy.

“…the duo thing actually frees you from all that anxiety about fucking it up ‘cus you can just blame the other dude, everybody’s happy…”

Past favourite; the DUBL TRUBL streetfighter collab with Reka (below).

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UKB: Dubl Trubl sounds like it’ll be a blast – why did you decide to host the show in Berlin & Urban Spree? Will it make use of the big outdoor space, or will it be indoor? Or both?

D: Yea it’s gonna be a smash boom banger. Why Urban Spree? Because it’s the best fucking space in the universe and perfect to host the best fucking exhibition ever in the universe. Everything is in imminent danger of being “arted”.

“… [Dubl Trubl is] a bad idea that I fished out of the ether during a transcendental meditation session with David Lynch, the beast put it there….”

UKB: Where did the idea come from? Organising it must have been some serious ball ache?! What’s been the most fun & least fun (apart from answering these questions…) part of the whole experience?

D: Oh yea all these flakey fuckers are aching my balls to the max, it was a bad idea that I fished out of the ether during a transcendental meditation session with David Lynch, the beast put it there. Actually its been relatively painless so far…I know I’m speaking too soon.

I dig it when people tell me they had fun doing their collabs, if they’re having a laugh I know the piece is gonna be sick and loose and not the norm.

Least fun? We don’t speak about that here…

UKB: How did you pick the pairings ? Which of the pairings are you most looking forward to seeing complete a piece?

D: I chose people who despise each other and knew it would be difficult to spend time together with hatred oozing through their fake clenched smiles. I specifically look forward to seeing Timba and Twoone’s collab, because Timba told me it’s the best thing since Arnie immortalized the phrase “get to the chopper!”, he’s basically set himself up for a huge fall…

UKB: Any surprises/plans for the opening night? What should people expect?

D: Uber-long minimal techno sets, currywurst, glowsticks and Peruvian energy drinks, if that doesn’t get you excited then you’re dead inside.

I tend to agree with him there! Sounds like it’ll be a great exhibition and opening. If you’re in Berlin between the 18th of September and 26th October go check out the 40 collaborations of street art’s finest. Names like Reka, Lush, Thierry Noir, Nychos and Dave the Chimp will give you an idea of the standard!

In the meantime, check the video above of Skewville, who while unable to make any work for the upcoming exhibition, found 2 dead rats instead…

Steven
UKB