The brilliant Patrick Hartl & Christian Hundertmark (C100) have been at the graffiti/street art/contemporary art nexus for much of the last decade, delineating the boundaries, and then artfully shifting them.
A multi-year project now welcoming guests at Urban Nation’s Special Projects space in Berlin reveals the imprecision of terminologies and commonly-used nomenclature in this period of hyper-hybridization.
When you consider the volley of influences that bounce and collide on metro cars and street walls and digital screens these days, it makes sense to describe the experimentation now afoot as a dialogue. As the Munich-based duo called Layer Cake, the two artists have been doing exactly that with one another’s art for a half dozen years.
“One begins to paint, the other reacts,” say Hartl and Hundertmark in their recent interview for the UN website. “Thus (we) conduct an artistic dialogue. The marker asks a question, the paint can answers, the brush completes or provokes,” they say, “until both artists agree that the mural is finished.”
It is not an automatic process for graffiti writers to create work this way; as one of the basic tenets of the street, you don’t go over someone else’s work unless you mean to show disrespect or provoke a battle.
Drawing upon an eclectic selection of participants with experience on the street, the two act as curators of the new show called ‘Versus’. The rules are similar to their personal practice – produce a collaborative piece with another artist whose style and references may not match yours directly – with each contributor agreeing when the piece is complete.
The clashing and crashing can be seen on the canvass as each new addition rebalances the abstraction, and not everyone was sure it would work.
Artist Flavien Demarigny hesitated to participate versus Layer Cake because he wasn’t sure if he could work with their style that often incorporates calligraffiti techniques, he says. “As it is a major ingredient of Layer Cake‘s visual language I wasn’t sure if I was the right fit for it,” he says in a Facebook post.
“Then I remembered this is precisely what collaborations are about: pushing your limits, opening your perception, and create together new horizons. As a result, we started three collaborative pieces and one came out fantastic, which we decided to present in this show. Their choice of sticking to the repetitive pattern of my style was the wise one, so the two vocabularies can interact, as accidents make it unexpected and create the poetry of it.”
With 13 different artists passing canvasses back and forth – each adding and subtracting, obliterating and augmenting, they say that at the root of the process was a rule not to consult, but rather, react.
The results fairly wrestle under the constraints, each cutting forward, marking and gesturing and claiming space on the canvass. These works illustrate the tension you may associate with the harshly pounding street in cities, sometimes still glittering insistently despite the struggle.
“It is not easy to make an intervention in someone else’s painting,” says graffiti style-writing veteran Mick La Rock of her ingrained hesitancy during the art-making process. “You want to avoid taking the painting over and make it your own style. Every part I added to the painting was thought over at least ten times before painting it,” she says in an interview for the show.
On view in the Special Projects room near the museum, “Versus” is a sharp reminder of the community that joins together on walls and surfaces all over the world. Each style challenges the one next to it, sometimes holds it accountable, other times revealing its true nature. The curators say “The Versus Project is an artistic experiment in communication, challenging dialogue, the struggle for a final form.”
“The Versus Project” curated by Layer Cake is currently open to the general public at the Urban Nation Project Space. The exhibition will be on view until December 31, 2021. Click HERE to find more information about the exhibition, Covid protocols, and schedule.
Project space of the URBAN NATION Museum, Bülowstrasse 97, 10783 Berlin
When Jan Sauerwald, Urban Nation’s Artistic Director, began making plans in earnest for the new facade for the museum, he was pondering what the art on the walls should convey. Given the difficult Covid-inflicted times we are living in he thought that possibly something fun and humorous was what Berlin needed. Indeed, humor has the power to provide levity, but humor is also an exceptionally effective vehicle to impart knowledge and spread a positive message without appearing to be lecturing.
So it seemed most appropriate to gift the denizens of Berlin a fresh, humorous new mural, especially considering that collectively, the whole city had just endured months of lockdown, and they are just now slowly coming out to play outdoors and drink some beers with friends in the parks. Luckily Sauerwald knew who to call. Dave The Chimp. A Berlin-based artist, illustrator, and skateboarder who is known on the streets of Berlin for his simple but street-smart orange characters shaped like a bean. He calls them “Human Beans”.
We reached out to Dave The Chimp and asked him a few questions about the artists he invited to paint along with him and about his experience being able to get up and to get dirty again on the streets.
BSA: How did it feel to get up after the lockdown? How was the experience of working outdoors for the first time in many weeks?
DtC: I don’t work outside often. My work practice is constantly changing, sometimes painting, sometimes drawing comics or creating skateboard graphics, writing the text for zines, and in the past, I’ve organized costumed wrestling parties, played in a punk band, directed pop videos and tv commercials, compiled books… painting outside is just one of a constantly changing set of fun problems to solve!
I personally enjoyed the lockdown. I started meditating again, I was stretching and doing yoga and working out almost every day. Sitting on my balcony in the April sun, reading, catching up on all the movies I don’t have time to watch, helping plug the gaps in my son’s education, trying new recipes. All my projects and exhibitions were canceled so I figured “ok, guess I’m on holiday for a few months, so let’s forget about work”. I realized that this was a very unusual time, so why would I try and carry on with my usual life?
Germany locked-down early. Berlin was quick to organize an emergency fund for freelance workers, so most were able to receive money that meant they could survive a few months without worry. This lessened the fear. Fear shuts down the immune system, and during a pandemic, the one thing you need is a strong immune system!
It was great to come out of the lockdown here and be straight on a worksite, mingling with people, getting dirty, laying in the street. After two months of washing my hands constantly, it was fascinating to feel just how grimy I get just living a normal life! We’re a bunch of filthy little monkeys!
BSA:UN invited you to paint the UN facade for the first time. In turn, you invited four artists to join you. What were your criteria for inviting the other artists?
DtC: Due to Corona, the new museum exhibition had to be delayed until September. They had planned to paint the facade for this exhibition with other artists, so had the city permit to put the lift in the street at the end of May. The crisis has meant that all government offices are running slowly, and a new permit wouldn’t be possible until early 2021. Jan called me and asked me if I could paint the facade two weeks before work had to begin!
The first idea was for me to paint it with Flying Fortress, but unfortunately, he wasn’t available. This sowed the idea of working with others in my mind and I figured “if it would have been fun painting with one friend, why don’t I invite four?” I chose people I like, and whose work I like, and that I could see working with the theme I wanted to portray on the wall.
Originally I had a team of two boys and two girls, but one of the girls wasn’t available, and I couldn’t find another making the kind of thing I needed. Luckily my friend Matt Jones had recently sent me a zine of his doodles, and I saw how some of these could work as a kind of ancient alien language etched into my Stone Henge “stargate”. I invited Mina to paint her powerful females as prehistoric rock paintings, got my skateboard buddy Humble Writerz to chisel the faces he bombs in the streets into stone columns, and had Señor Schnu paste his posters onto boulders. And then I added my own characters so it looked like they were doing all of this work! 😉
BSA: The mural has a playful tone to it which goes well with your character but it also has a message of a team effort in order to build a better world. Is that right?
DtC: I’m pretty sure we don’t need to use fear and anger to change the world. As PiL said, anger is an energy, but I’ve learned that it’s one that is soon burnt out. Much better to try and make the world a better place with love as your fuel. There’s an endless supply of love in all of us. Political action doesn’t need to always be a raised fist, a black, red, and white stenciled shout at the world. Why can’t protests be a fun day out, just like a festival, a carnival of change?
BSA: Can you tell us about the genesis of the concept for the mural? Did you have a brainstorming session with the other artists or did you know what you wanted and just told them your idea and they jumped into action?
DtC: I pretty much see complete ideas in my head. I knew I wanted to paint rocks, and I knew the work of the artists I wanted to paint with. And I had a week to work out the design of an 8 meter high by 50-meter long wall, with three doors, six windows, various corners, and parts inaccessible by the lift! I didn’t have time for brainstorming! I came up with concepts, told the artists what it was I’d like them to do, and then trusted them to do their thing. I had way too many things to think about – five artists with different schedules, a lift that took 20 minutes to move each time, and three days when we were not allowed to use the lift, created an organizational nightmare! Plus I had to try and paint huge structures that I’d never painted before, and 25 characters, all doing different things. But that’s kinda what I like. Painting is setting myself problems, then trying to solve them. It’s fun! If I know what I’m doing, how exactly to do something, and how it will turn out, in advance, then it just becomes work. Better to keep yourself on your toes, make it play!
BSA: Where do you see public murals/outdoor murals going after Covid-19 and the worldwide protests about racial injustice, racism, and police brutality?
DtC: I’ve always thought of graffiti and street art as a political act. It is a reclaiming of the commons. In our cities only those with the money to buy the walls around us – public space – get to have a voice. Advertising is designed to make you require more, to feel like what you have, who you are, is not enough. This is psychological oppression and we are exposed to it thousands of times a day. If we can use walls to make people feel less than, can’t we also use them to feel greater than, to inspire, to cheer, or just simply to help people be satisfied that they are ok? Like Picasso, I believe art can be a weapon to wage war. Bad people win when good people stay silent.
I have been known to make political work and to use a lot of slogans and messages in my work, but right now, in 2020, I find that I am overwhelmed with things that need to be spoken about, with things that are being spoken about, and, frankly, I don’t feel able to speak. Things are changing so quickly. It’s all too confusing. So I am trying to keep my use of words to a minimum, and to try and communicate on a more subtle level. The rocks in this mural represent our belief in the human-built structures and systems of life. The scaffolding, the planks and ropes, represent just how fragile all these systems are, as we have been seeing, and show our need to work together to make life function.
A mural like this couldn’t have been made without a huge network of people. The group of artists I worked with, the production crew at YAP, the lift hire guys, the factory workers that made the brushes, the chemists who brewed the paint, the people that built the wall, the people that cooked our lunch, the people that farmed the food for our lunch, the people that made the bikes we rode to the site every day, that built the roads we rode on… thousands of people are involved in every single human action.
The world is a crazy place right now, and it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Maybe it’s better we stop finding ways to divide ourselves, and instead unite.
Dave the Chimp is not really a chimp. And he’s not really Berlinian.
Like all good comedians, he’s channeling exasperation into something more
A loveable and able debater, his carrot colored human bean is often discovered strolling through the streets and alleys of Berlin. A natural, easy and happy jaunt, his character is quick with an affable lecture, mini tirade, or bright insight. Of course, its open to your interpretation
Contrarian enough to not want to be called a Street Artist, the
UK born Mr. Chimp takes his initial inspirations from his 1980s-90s skateboard
culture immersion and he’s parlayed his illustrative style into work with
fanzines, comics, brands, and art curation. An omnivore for the experiences of life, he’d love you to
unplug from your electronic devices and plug into to your city, and relish the
world around you.
This week in Berlin we keep seeing Dave’s human beans
popping in the neighborhood of Kreuzberg, so we collected a few to share them
A partnership of artists, curators, and real estate interests is giving a seriously entertaining show this week to Street Art and Graffiti Fans with this site-specific exhibition of ingenious interventions of many disciplines. Primarily Berlin-based artists and spearheaded by organizers Señor Schnu, Baye Fall and Moritz Tonn, we’re pleased that we have a first-person account of the inspiration behind the show from the guy who came up with the name ‘Wandelism’, Denis Leo Hegic.
Wandelism – Spray Can Change
By Denis Leo Hegic
There we are, in the midst of a lively bustle at the production ground of the Wandelism exhibition in Berlin.
Sparks are literally flying around as Olly is about to cut open a stretch limo and hang it in the air. Behind the shower of sparks Jerome and Señor Schnu are working on their large scale mural while Kitra is about to create a giant piece on a wall, which actually consists more of void then wall surface. C0MPUTERJAN is transforming a half of a Cadillac into a computer-controlled DJ booth and Ostap is turning a window into a tape-art piece.
Marina Zumi, who is currently installing another of her new light works in the exhibition, joins me and Suzanne Forbes, who makes drawings of all of us in real time. There is some serious good energy in the air, and I’m not talking about welding and the aerosol, but about a group project that is truly created and lived in a spirit of a community.
When I was asked how to name the exhibition few weeks ago, I merged the words “vandalism“ and “Wandel“ (the German word for “Change“). That’s how Wandelism (or Changeism) was born and how it started transforming itself into an exhibition, which is truly accepting, embracing and living CHANGE.
On the grounds of a former car repair shop that is soon to be demolished, one can literally feel the constant movement and transformation of the urban fabric we all live in. Everything changes. Constantly. Change is evolution. Change is progress. Change is also the DNA of the art represented in the Wandelism show.
Berlin is one of the worlds’ capitals and one which has experienced a tremendous change in the last three decades. The city, which was divided in two by a 156-kilometer-long wall for a time period of 28 years, was first unified in 1989 and then exposed to an incredibly rapid development ever since.
Interestingly enough, this very Berlin Wall has proven something that is still a valid topic at the Wandelism Show today: the importance of the freedom of expression.
For decades, one side of the wall was an open-air gallery of graffiti and street art while the other (clean) side of the wall was a death zone. The failed experiment of division is historic proof of the importance of creative participation in the urban space.
On the first day of the opening, Wandelism attracted more than 1,700 visitors who, despite a protracted winter in Berlin, waited in long queues to attend the opening. The following day, 2000.
Nevertheless, the exhibition does not present itself in the usual language of superlatives (“The largest”, “The biggest”, “The best”), which is sometimes peculiar to these types of art shows. Instead, Wandelism promotes the notion of a democratic coexistence, where everyone is welcome and where all the different curiosities can be explored.
“We are socially responsible and work with lot of local talents. That’s very important because not every exhibition of this format has a social aspect. Almost 90 percent of the entire exhibition is created by Berlin-based artists and we would love to pursue our vision in the future and transform more temporarily vacant spaces into art events like this” – Señor Schnu
“You can not have ‘change’ without a little bit of ‘vandalism’. The one concept can not exist without the other one. A change requires revolution and revolution sometimes needs vandalism.” – Carolina Amaya
“Our ‘Fuck Fame’ toilet is a clear message. Just take a look at the whole social media and online addiction which is going on. Everybody is posting every single step of his life, and from other peoples’ lives; A public run for fame. Without thinking about it we are sacrificing our own privacy. As a reaction to that we decided to take even the last bit of privacy away and created the Fuck Fame toilet.” – Ron Miller Art Collective
“Somehow I do see myself in process of change. I’m coming more from this graffiti scene but I am also developing more and more into a mass-compatible area, so yes, I do see myself in a process of change. But I also believe that it is the entire scene that is changing and transforming itself into a more recognized and accepted art.” – Tobo
“I am in this business for such a long time already. I am doing this now for 35 years. I know that this place will be gone, but lot of people will see it. And nothing can be contained forever. The awareness that the art which you can see here will be there just for a certain limited time, which you have to experience now and can not wait until next year, because it will be gone – that’s part of the deal and I quite like that.” – Loomit
Of the thousands of images he took this year in places like New York, Berlin, Scotland, Hong Kong, Sweden, French Polynesia, Barcelona, and Mexico City, photographer Jaime Rojo found that Street Art and graffiti are more alive than every before. From aerosol to brush to wheat-paste to sculpture and installations, the individual acts of art on the street can be uniquely powerful – even if you don’t personally know where or who it is coming from. As you look at the faces and expressions it is significant to see a sense of unrest, anger, fear. We also see hope and determination.
Every Sunday on BrooklynStreetArt.com, we present “Images Of The Week”, our weekly interview with the street. Primarily New York based, BSA interviewed, shot, and displayed images from Street Artists from more than 100 cities over the last year, making the site a truly global resource for artists, fans, collectors, gallerists, museums, curators, academics, and others in the creative ecosystem. We are proud of the help we have given and thankful to the community for what you give back to us and we hope you enjoy this collection – some of the best from 2017.
Brooklyn Street Art 2017 Images of the Year by Jaime Rojo includes the following artists;
Artists included in the video are: Suitswon, Curiot, Okuda, Astro, Sixe Paredes, Felipe Pantone, Hot Tea, Add Fuel, Hosh, Miss Van, Paola Delfin, Pantonio, Base23, R1, Jaune, Revok, Nick Walker, 1UP Crew, SotenOne, Phat1, Rime MSK, Martin Whatson, Alanis, Smells, UFO907, Kai, Tuts, Rambo, Martha Cooper, Lee Quinoes, Buster, Adam Fujita, Dirty Bandits, American Puppet, Disordered, Watchavato, Shepard Fairey, David Kramer, Yoko Ono, Dave The Chimp, Icy & Sot, Damien Mitchell, Molly Crabapple, Jerkface, Isaac Cordal, SacSix, Raf Urban, ATM Street Art, Stray Ones, Sony Sundancer, ROA, Telmo & Miel, Alexis Diaz, Space Invader, Nasca, BK Foxx, BordaloII, The Yok & Sheryo, Arty & Chikle, Daniel Buchsbaum, RIS Crew, Pichi & Avo, Lonac, Size Two, Cleon Peterson, Miquel Wert, Pyramid Oracle, Axe Colours, Swoon, Outings Project, Various & Gould, Alina Kiliwa, Tatiana Fazalalizadeh, Herakut, Jamal Shabaz, Seth, Vhils, KWets1, FinDac, Vinz Feel Free, Milamores & El Flaco, Alice Pasquini, Os Gemeos, Pixel Pancho, Kano Kid, Gutti Barrios, 3 x 3 x 3, Anonymouse, NeSpoon, Trashbird, M-city, ZoerOne, James Bullowgh, and 2501.
Cover image of Suits Won piece with Manhattan in the background, photo by Jaime Rojo.
How do you measure the success of a street piece? Foot traffic? How long it runs before being dissed?
The Internet revolutionized our lives and our definition of community and along with that we extend the experience of art on the street to the conversations and sharing that takes place in the digital “social” realm. BSA lives in both spheres daily, capturing stuff on the street and then telling its story to a global audience online. The truth is, we never really know what people will like.
Actually we do know some things will always be a hit as time moves forward – pop culture references. Banksy and Shepard and D*Face and their generation could always count on Sid Vicious, Marilyn, Mickey, Her Majesty QE2 and the ironic turn of pop parlance to drive a humorous, campy, sarcastic point home. Today we can count on 90s rapper Biggie Smalls and Star Wars Storm Troopers in any iteration to send the image volleying through our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter referrals, comments, feeds. In fact, both Biggie and the Trooper made it into the top 15 mural collection this year and last year – made by different artists.
In fact, these 15 images are not all murals but they resonate with larger numbers than others we published this year; a visual conversation that includes legal, illegal, small, anonymous, massive, deliberately confounding, tossed off scrawling, handmade and mass produced stickers, tags, poetry, diatribes, culture jamming, ad takeovers, sculpture, installations. Every week we aim to present a varied selection of expressions currently represented on the street, and then it is your turn to respond.
During 2017 BSA readers responded to images via our website, Instagram, Twitter, Tumbr, and Facebook pages. In a thoroughly unscientific survey that calculates “likes” and “clicks” and “re-Tweets” and “impressions”, we tallied up which murals (or images) got the most interest from you. Care to interpret the results?
Much art in the streets is often for aesthetics – whether figurative, representational, or abstract. With roots in graffiti and often influenced by advertising, political protest, and pop culture, you will always find text messages as well.
Whether small missives or massive billboards, direct or somewhat cryptic, many these days are in opposition to current political leaders or critiques of social, political, economic issues and systems. Others are just about love. Whether or not this collection is a true measure of the Vox Populi, it certainly can give you a meaningful survey of opinions on the streets.
Always good to get to Berlin to see what waves of text and pattern and outrage and snark and myriad metaphor are more-or-less relentlessly rippling across buildings and empty lots. The rippling effect was swelled by 4 days of rain, which makes windows streak with rivlets and wheat-pastes peel from the top, leaning forward and down and toward their demise, often sticking to themselves, halved and horrid in the process.
Nonetheless we got a lot of work done, seeing artists, urban gallerists, and of course the labyrinthine interior of the ‘secret’ project that is no secret any longer, the five floor Berlin HAUS, a former bank building in a well trafficked part of the city that is swarmed every day and nearly every night with graffiti writers, professional painters, Street Artists, illustrators, and the like – mainly, if not entirely, Germany based artists doing elaborate installations throughout.
Across the street in the under-construction UN museum space the scene was a “secret dinner” for 100 thrown by Director Yasha Young to stir up the buzz for the inaugural exhibit in September as well as take stock of the hundreds of artist locally and internationally who have been part of the UN before the doors even open. In attendance were artists, graffiti writers, arts writers, photographers, academics, cultural organizers, supporters, elected officials, a spare ambassador or two, all lined up to hear of few speeches, a video or two about programming – and eat off plates designed by 100 or so artists.
But the real story of course was the stuff we found on the streets – legal and illegal, a bit of dashed text and time intensive murals. Berlin doesn’t stop surprising you, and regardless of rain that completely drenched us, we didn’t care frankly.
Here’s our weekly interview with the streets, this week featuring: 1Up, Alaniz, Berlin Kidz, BoxiTrixi, C215, Crisp, Damien Mitchell, Dave the Chimp, Don John, Eins92, Fink 22, Gilf!, Icy & Sot, K, Missing Girls, Priznu, Rinth-WLNY, Sozl35, Telmo & Miel, and Various & Gould.
Can we please not talk about snow? Spring, you temptress.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Angelina Christina, Bifido, BiP, Bortusk Leer, C215, Chris Stain, Crummy Gummy, Dan Witz, Dave the Chimp, Ease One, El Bocho, Icy & Sot, Little Lucy, London Kaye, Never, Otto “Osch” Shade, Peter Phobia, Punk Paul, Tuco, and Zid Leon.
ModArt – A Celebration of 20 Issues & All That Lay Ahead
August 14th – September 4th
Opening Reception: Fri, August 14th, 7-11PM
(Los Angeles, CA)Thinkspace is proud to present a very special group show which is being curated by the good folks from ModArt magazine out of Europe. The show helps to celebrate the release of ModArt’s 20th issue and a switch to a new quarterly book-based format. This is going to be one visually arresting show featuring a vast array of artists from around the globe.
UK based Mr. Jago will be the featured artist alongside a group show featuring works from an international lineup consisting of Ado Jahic, Bo130, Brooke Reidt, Chris Bourke, Christopher Lambert, Dave The Chimp, El Gato Chimney,Faith 47, Galo, Guillaume Desmarets, Jon Bugerman, KuKula, Laundry and Limbo, Microbo, Morcky, SheOne, Stefan Strumbel,Stephen Smith (aka Neasden Control Centre), Tim Biskup, Vincent Skoglund, Will Barras, & more
The folks from ModArt will be in town, so please plan to come through and help us properly welcome them to Los Angeles and offer them congratulations on fighting the good fight for the new contemporary movement over in Europe and beyond.
Mr. Jago (featured artist):
Bristol Based Mr. Jago, pioneer of the doodle, is a founding member of the Scrawl Collective and a veteran in the street art movement and much respected among his peers.
Growing up in a small town, Jago’s interests lie in art and design with influences ranging from classic Marvel comics to graffiti and hip-hop culture. These influences have helped to forge his unique freehand style and distinct color palette.
His work has shown the world over, including such established galleries as Stolen Space (UK), The Don Gallery (Italy), Gallery 1988 (Los Angeles), Space Junk (France), Opus Underground (UK), Compound Gallery (Portland), Scion Installation LA (Los Angeles), Nelly Duff (UK), Lazy Dog (France), and has taken part in such high profile events as Brave Art (Canada) and Artists 11 @ Bonhams (UK) plus numerous live painting events and exhibitions the world over as part of the Scrawl Collective.