Lapiz is the Hamburg-based street artist whose practice involves handmade stencils to convey his message to the public. He places them in many cities around Germany and internationally and he says he has finally found a way to convey something that has been on his mind since China hosted the Winter Olympics Games in 2022. He says he has a preoccupation with being a part of a team in collaboration with other teams where something big and vital is created. This has brought him to expand on a popular sports slogan in Germany: “Dabei sein ist alles,” or “it is more important to take part in something big than anything else.”
For his participation in this year’s edition of Ibug 2023 in Leipzig, Germany, he decided to use the slogan as the genesis for his contribution by way of illustrating with his stencils the meaning of the slogan.
“Coincidentally, Leipzig is very fitting, as the world’s most important chip company, Taiwan’s TSMC, is building a factory in Dresden (about an hour’s drive from Leipzig). It is heavily supported by the state of Germany (contributing up to 5 billion Euros). This is also interesting as Germany, just like the majority of the world, still does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state but plays into China’s interpretation of it being a separatist province,” says Lapiz.
“The central motif is China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping holding shackles; attached to his left are Tibet, the Uighurs, and most recently, Hong Kong. To his right, a shackle lies on the floor, waiting to catch the next “member”: Taiwan, which is depicted in the person of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.”
Lapiz says that he painted a second piece for the festival called “Liberté” (Freedom). According to the artist, freedom is one of the most pressing social and humanitarian issues currently occupying people’s minds on the world stage. He previously painted the female figure holding a brush with the word Liberté in Paris in 2017 in response to the attack on the Bataclan Theater, and in support of the victims and the survivors. So Liberté appears as a recurring theme for the street artist.
“More than a year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine, which since then has fought for its freedom. For months, the people of Iran have been fighting in a new revolution for the rights and lives of Iranian women. Everywhere in the world, there is still much to do to get equal rights for all genders.” Lapiz
“Happy kids are playing the game, but something is off, the chairs have been replaced by life vests and the EU is playing the music.”
Street artist LAPIZ says his darkly themed new stencil piece is based on the game ‘musical chairs’ and is pointing directly to the number of refugees who drown in the Mediterranean Sea. So many die so frequently that people in Europe have grown tired from the news, he says. And that’s why he’s depicted this ‘game’ of children playing with life vests.
“It is supposed to look that way because it became normal that people are drowning in the Mediterranean which is why we do not hear anything about it anymore,” he says.
Painted in the stairway of Kunstlabor in Munich for their second Urban Art show, street artist and immunologist Lapiz brought his strong opinions and shares them with you here.
There is no Planet B
A searing damnation of the 1st world consumer mentality, Lapiz critiques the guy in this scene, finding him guilty of oblivious attitudes and self-serving behaviors.
“A man is sitting in a comfortable lounge chair escaping into the digital world. Maybe, he watches a documentary about the “green lung” – the untouched part of the Amazon rainforest on Netflix. As he is sitting there enjoying himself he does not pay any attention to his surroundings. The almond milk in his feel-good tote bag might protect dairy cows but their plantations demand so much water that vast areas are running dry. He doesn’t pay attention to the rose that is cultivated cheap in Africa and flown to Europe for Valentine’s Day (he is a romantic after all), nor the energy used to order his VR glasses or streaming. Instead of enjoying nature as it is, a parallel, untouched universe is consumed.”
Still Love and Wallporn For his second installation Lapiz says he wanted to question how the female body and sexuality are viewed in public.
“Commonly, the female body is sexualized in advertisements, media, pornography, or prostitution while female sexuality and normal bodily functions are deemed private or even taboo (period shaming, pinky gloves). Disguised as fancy wallpaper and hiding in plain sight are all sorts of sex toys: dildos, vibrators, etc. The flowers of the still life (“Still Love”) look a bit off as they show soft tampons, which are also often used by prostitutes to keep on working. My motive was to try and take these seemingly private things that are supposed to happen behind closed doors and show them as what they are – normal and beautiful.”
Also included in the show were Sebastian Bühler, Miriam Ganser, Patricija Gilyte, Julia Klemm, Eva Krusche, Lando, Lapiz, Christine Liebich, Loomit, Timur Lukas, Sophia Mainka, Daniel Man, Nina Annabelle Märkl, Bernhard McQueen, Marlene Meier, Ray Moore, Monika Morito, Matthias Mross, Ena Oppenheimer, Esther Irina Pschibul, Cornelia Rapp, Felix Rodewaldt, Sophie Schmidt, Magdalena Waller, Matt Wiegele, Zrok, and Ian Zak. Learn more about KunstLabor HERE.
Observing the events of the last weeks and today on the world stage, we are reminded of this street art piece created by artist Lapiz in Lemwerder, Germany in 2018.
“I painted it during the time that the FIFA WorldCup took place in Russia,” the artist tells us, “and it was intended to highlight Putin’s narcissism and homophobia.” You can see the reference to homophobia in the artist choice of multiple colors that are in the LGBTQ pride flag.
“This is not a piece about gloating but about the anger I feel,” says street artist Lapiz about his newest public stencils renders beautifully the jarring facts of hospital workers right now in overwhelmed hospitals everywhere.
“I’ve been shocked to see the nurses wearing so much protective gear that one can not see their faces, nothing really that identifies them as caring,” he remarks on the healthcare professionals who cover their faces, then feel compelled to tape a photo of them on the outside of their uniform to reassure patients that there is a warm smiling person under all those layers.
For all you know, it could be Santa under there this Christmas.
For another consecutive holiday season, many of us, like those in Germany, are finding that they live in a hotspot for infections again. And some have become patients.
“But this is how intensive care units now look like since they are overrun by infected antivaxxers,” he says. “This is not a painting of schadenfreude but of anger. It shows the Christmas that many of these disbelievers are facing for a final time.” Oof! There are many complex feelings rolled into this one obviously.
Hamburg-based Lapiz is lamenting the current state of vaccines and Covid-19 limitations on the average German’s ability to travel. As spring is on the cusp, and Easter holidays are only a couple weeks from now, he admits to suffering from “Reisefieber”, or travel fever.
A global citizen, Lapiz also highlights the hypocrisy of so-called “western” developed economies worrying about taking vacations while other countries haven’t even seen the vaccine.
“Rich countries, which count for ~ 14 % of the world’s population, have bought 54 % of the global available vaccine doses while many countries like Nigeria, with a population of 200 Million, do not get any,” he says. “In January this year, 25 people in all of Africa had been vaccinated compared to 39 million in rich countries. While we are getting back to normal life including travel to exotic locations, these countries will not get any glimpse of it in the years to come.”
As ever Lapiz is using his street art to critique gently his society, and possibly himself. This new intervention takes a plaintive look at a “typical” traveler transfixed with a trifle of wanderlust.
What the hell just happened? Has it been a year? Or has it been 10 years? Or just one long nightmare/daymare? Or has it been 10 years? Did we already ask that?
In March 2020 we awoke to a world that was transforming before all of our eyes, yet we felt so cut-off from it and each other. The first days seem so long ago as we mark the first anniversary of the pandemic. Still, the initial shock of those days resonates in our chests so strongly that we confidently talk about a collective global trauma that has indelibly marked a generation.
From Stockholm to Mexico City to Barcelona to Bethlehem to New York to LA, BSA brought you street art that was responding with fear, derision, critique, hope, and humor to the never-static, always evolving barrage of Covid news. Stuck inside and afraid to expose ourselves to each other, we New Yorkers became accustomed to experiencing the outdoors only through our windows, connecting with neighbors we’ve never met who were also banging pots and pans or clapping and waving and yelling.
We listened to ambulances screaming past our windows every half hour or so during those first weeks, imagining the torn families, the terrified fellow New Yorkers now being rushed to the hospital and separated from their loved ones without a goodbye, gasping for air. We wondered if we would be next.
When we did go to the streets, they were empty – or nearly. In New York this was unheard of. In this bustling, noisy metropolis, we experienced a daily disconcerting quiet. That is, until the killing of George Floyd by cops finally pushed the anger/anxiety into the streets all summer.
The deadly hotspot of New York quelled, but the fires of Covid spread west, grabbing communities who thought they would avoid impact. At the same time, local, state, and national leaders fumbled and argued or famously callously ignored the desperation of citizens, occasionally admirably filling the shoes they were elected to occupy, often misstepping through no fault of their own.
We have no particular wisdom to offer you today beyond the obvious; this pandemic laid bare inequity, social and racial and class fault-lines, the shredded social net, the effect of institutional negligence, the ravages of 40 years of corporate privatization, and the power of community rising to the occasion to be in service to one another in ways that made us all more than proud.
Here are some of our favorite Covid-themed street art pieces from over the last year, a mere sampling of the artistic responses. Interspersed we paste screenshots of the daily events (via Wikipedia) in 2020 that shaped our lives, and our society.
We mourn the losses of family and friends and the broken hearts and minds in all of our communities. And we still believe in the power of art to heal and the power of love to balance our asymmetries.
As NYC went on complete lock-down and New Yorkers were ordered to remain in their homes in complete isolation the city’s residents organically joined together in a collective 7:00 pm ritual in support to the first responders. To the nurses, doctors, paramedics, trash collectors, public transportation, police, fire fighters, supermarkets workers etc…with their services and sacrifices we, the residents of this megalopolis were able to keep out hopes for brighter days to come.
Video of four former presidents urging people to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” and get the vaccine.
This grouchy-looking elf by Lapiz in this shopping district in the Sankt Pauli district in Hamburg Germany doesn’t look like he wants to be helpful. The stenciled piece is only in a t-shirt and a grimace in this normally busy area. His T-shirt lists the cultural items that are all restricted because of Covid.
But shopping? That is allowed.
“What really matters to society, what really counts – and what defines the system – is the ever-growing economy,” Lapiz opines. “We shall reduce our social contacts so we can consume. Restaurants and Bars need to close, socialising and eating is not important anymore, neither is culture. Even worse it is punishable.”
“All hail the GDP,” says Lapiz, “Who needs to be happy anyway?”
Corona has killed off the street art
festivals in many ways. These days we think that all street art is local, and
the nature of the graffiti street scene is changed by it as well. Additionally
with so many people out of work, many artists have more time, we see more
thoughtfully considered pieces and perhaps better executed pieces. Just a theory.
Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic,
Lapiz says that he has gone back to his earlier days more than a decade ago: posters
and wheatpaste. Living in Hamburg, Germany now, he has travelled to places like
New Zealand and parts of Africa and South America in the past, but right now he’s
more focused on developing work with a message – partly as a way to communicate
ideas to passersby but partly as a way to contemplate complex modern matters.
Today Lapiz tells BSA readers in his own words about three recent
socio-political issues, with his own approach to critique.
Again, time has passed, restrictions
have further been lifted, travel is possible again, so are services at church,
the museums are open again. Protests are possible if the rules of social
distancing and wearing a mask are observed. Rightfully, people started to
protest against the restrictions implemented by the government, but a small
group took the stage. The Covidiot, according to the urban dictionary, is a
person ignoring the warnings regarding public health and safety.
On top of that all kinds of wild
stories are spun to explain the virus in ways that can be interpreted as
anti-Semitic. The challenge for me to address this was to not resort to the
obvious and paint a mask; but here it had to be done. But here the black-white-red
mask is covering the eyes. The colours are taken from the Reichs-flag, a symbol
of all those rejecting the legitimacy of the modern German state. Here it was
used as a metaphor for people blinded by anti-Semitic propaganda something all
Corona-deniers around the world have in common,
So far, the Covidiot is the last
entry in this body of work. However, the pandemic is not over and it is just
days since the best-known Covidiot in the world tested positive. We will see
what other challenges lay ahead.
The feeling of loneliness did not go
away, but it felt as if the people adapted to it, the new normal, this is what
life is now. Since the first intervention of this piece on the street some
time has passed and the second installment was glued up on the same poster
board a few weeks after the restriction of the lockdown were loosened. While
supermarkets, shops and restaurants were allowed to open again, most other
things are strictly forbidden and many liberties granted in the constitution are
“temporarily” suspended in favour of safety and security.
So, while shopping was possible,
protest wasn’t, religious groups could not gather, access to playgrounds was
restricted and culture was declared obsolete. A new feeling came about,
disbelief: how easy it is to take human rights away. These printed big sheets are
of the first articles of the German constitution, crossing the articles that
are now deemed to be irrelevant to the system. Onto this changed constitution is
painted the universal symbol of freedom, Miss Liberty, wrapped in banner tape
used by police to mark restricted areas.
A girl hugging herself, surrounded
by a yellow social-distancing hoola-hoop was the first piece – it is glued on a
poster stand that is normally reserved for local politicians. It was right in
front one of the biggest supermarkets in Hamburg, one of the only shops open in
the first weeks. Instead of focusing on the mask, I wanted to concentrate on
what it would mean to be locked away in a city without having contact with
anyone, not even your neighbours or friends.
How would you feel if everyone else is
regarded as a potential threat – when hugging would be hazardous and close ones
would not be allowed to be close anymore? Would you hug yourself, close your
eyes and pretend it was someone else?
new joint mural from LAPIZ and Elmar Karla as the newly formed “Thealang
Collective”. Both formerly living in Argentina, the two artists have
distinctly different styles to combine here in a scene from a fever dream in
what a hot steamy shape-shifting surrealist diarama this is on a backyard wall
in St. Pauli, full of fire and raging destruction and ultimately, deception,
with the main character called EL CUCO.
combination of cut stencils and fluidly brushed paint, the two say that El Cuco
is a mystical creature who steals the souls of innocent children. The Wikipedia entry says “El Cuco is a
mythical ghost–monster, equivalent to the bogeyman, found in many Hispanophone and Lusophone countries.”
“The mural portrays the impact of today’s society,” they tell us as we gaze upon these exclusive shots, “the eternally growing economy is symbolized by the donations for the partially destroyed Notre Dame, and its effect is one of constantly destroying the environment, here symbolized by the burning green lung – the Amazon Rainforest.”
It’s fearfully treacherous, this adventurous scene mixing childhood myths and fun-loving characters who appear out of context under a sky of flames, Its an amalgam of the imaginations and experiences of the two –Elmar Karla’s painted characters from the comic world and the stencil techniques of Lapiz, who often likes to take a jab at socio-political themes.
Both members of Thealang have painted extensively internationally and have participated in festivals and exhibitions such as the Ibug, Meeting of Styles, Grenoble Street Art Fest and at the Street Art Museum Amsterdam.
The intervention “Life in Time of Corona” is Lapiz’s attempt
to fight the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
“I created and glued it up a day before the first phase of
lockdown happened here in Hamburg, just in front of one of the biggest
supermarkets in town,” he tells us.
The young woman exists with a margin of danger following her
– a buffer band of gold that prevents any other person from getting to close.
Of course, the hermit-like among the human family have been practicing social distancing
for years, but for most people it’s new and unusual.
For most of us the time of self-isolation, quarantine, and
illness is ahead of us and we have no idea how long this might take. We can
stay in contact with loved-ones, family, friends, and almost forgotten
acquaintances on the other side of the planet via email, skype or video link.
This might also be a great moment of solidarity and an
opportunity for empathy, but the minimum safety distance of 6 feet also
excludes affection, warmth and closeness.
Lapiz quotes Karl Marx; “Die
Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes” when he talks about the new ‘Opium
Den’ stencil he has completed on a street in Munich, Germany.
“Religion is the
opium of the people” is a close translation, and here he refers to the recently
burned Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. With it he questions the priorities of
people and what they do with their money.
caught fire and within a few weeks 800 million euros were donated to rebuild
it,” he says. “It was more than a church – it was a symbol for Western Society.
But just imagine what social projects you could have supported with this kind