BASELGEDDON: GARBAGE BEAUTY Q&A
What do you write? Are you in a crew?
We are four guys who operate under the name GARBAGE BEAUTY. We prefer to act as one main entity, as opposed to doing so with our individual names. We use calligraphy to write funny messages on abandoned items like furniture, tv’s, couches, tables, chairs etc. We make a wordplay on the objects, mostly inspired by the main usage of the objects to find the most appropriate quotes. Giving voices to the trash.
In what city did you start painting in the streets? Do you feel your work has influenced the community in return? If so, how? Is there a relationship between the artist and the community in which they work?
We are Montreal based and started at home before spreading our art in other cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, NYC, Miami, Austin, New Orleans, Detroit, Paris, Berlin, Bruxelles, Amsterdam and London.
So the first community return that we got was from our own hometown. Street art is about interactivity, connection with the people to give them a good experience within the urban context. People want to be surprised, and it's what we do. We have and continue to change minds on the presence of trash in the street. We are surrounded by signs, by ads and logos, garbage is the last place you'd expect to see a message. So when this message makes you smile, you feel as though you are a part of this piece of art. Now people pay more attention to the trash in the streets of Montreal, they want to find GARBAGE BEAUTY. A good portion of GARBAGE BEAUTY pieces are saved by citizens. They post pictures or messages to thank us. We have followers from all around the world who have never found a GARBAGE BEAUTY piece and who sometimes ask us to come to their city in the USA, Brazil, Russia, Portugal, Chile or Ecuador, etc.
Something that was once perceived as dirty and disturbing on the sidewalk turns into a cool and nice piece of art. But it's ephemeral, more so than a wall. The chance for one to encounter our pieces is scarce and time sensitive. This is why people are very happy to find our pieces. Today many artists want to be a part of the street art movement and many individuals want a piece of it as well. GARBAGE BEAUTY offers them something tangible that they can bring into their households. We create pieces on the street and they find owners who give them a new destiny. For us, the most important skills in street art isn't about colors, lines or effect. It's about surprising people and connecting with them.
Did you go to school or are you self taught?
We have taken calligraphy courses from a master. We constantly work on our techniques and our individual styles in our own time. It's a fine balance between our learnings and our inspiration from the urban environments we live in. Street art is a lifestyle. You can’t tune off your brain, it works 24/7.
How did you get started in the arts and why?
Each of the four guys have their own path. Vincent’s story is that he was never quite the model student and was mostly distracted at all times. His notebooks featured tons of sketches. One of his teacher’s got the idea for him to apply at an art school. While not having a portfolio per se, Vincent submitted his French and English notebooks and he was accepted. Art was what kept him in school and he is now making a successful living out of it. Art is his life.
How long have you been working in the streets?
Some of the team members started graffiti when they were teens, but calligraphy took their main interest almost 4 years ago. GARBAGE BEAUTY started in around 2010.
Who or what inspires you the most?
The two main sources of inspiration are the street and the internet.
The streets provide an unlimited resource of people, colours, buildings, shops and garbage. While the world wide web showcases multiple industries all at once; music, movies, pictures, poetry etc.
More specifically, with regards to the discipline of calligraphy, we keep an eye on Lucas Barcelona and Neil Shoes. But now with the advent of Instagram you can find a lot of crazy stuff from everyone. The project "BEFORE I DIE" is one of the best interactive street art installations, in our opinion.
What should the general public know about street art? What stereotype about street art/graffiti do you hate the most?
First of all, I think people don't always differentiate between graffiti, street art and murals. They tend to put everything in the same bag. Perhaps the media are to blame because they use these words without truly knowing the meaning and their background.
Graffiti is a current type of art that is not fully respected for its authentic value. It is very inclusive and disregards the public opinion of it. It is illegal and it’s aesthetics are generally misunderstood by the uninitiated. It owns social claims just like other types of current art forms. Street art is more about connecting with people, carrying a message, communicating with or surprising them. It is art that creates an interaction with people. Most of the time street art uses soft claim from the public's state of mind. Sometimes for politically claimed causes. But, never against the public itself.
Muralist are more like illustrators. They copy their sketches from their sketchbook on a bigger canvas. Sometimes on walls, sometimes on objects. Their art may or may not have some claim, sometimes it's only about the aesthetic. The results are more important than the claim in most cases and the level of skill is very important to them.
The main reason why people are confused about these three kinds of art is because they use the same canvas, the streets.
Are you a full time artist? Do you have a day job? Is it best to be full time artist or not worry about it and make your $$$ elsewhere, that way you can paint what and how you want, which one offers a more creative outlook?
As mentioned earlier, the work is a lifestyle and the clock never really stops. But we want to keep GARBAGE BEAUTY away from the commercial aspect. So we offer our calligraphy services and lettering under another entity's name; Les Hommes De Lettres (The Men of Letters). We have done advertisements, events, design, logos, walls and more under this entity.
The idea of selling our street art goes against what we believe in, because it is contrary to the founding values behind GARBAGE BEAUTY. Just as the fine arts has it’s place in a gallery, Street art belongs to the streets. We would rather keep what comes from the urban environment where it was made to be. Just like animals belong in the wild, not in a zoo.
What are you working on now?
We just finished an art installation in Paris City Hall 13e for "Nuit Blanche 2014". We made this collaboration with students from Estienne school and Lazare Ponticelli school. It was very different because we have worked within a controlled environment, in the school’s classrooms. We received a lot of furniture and had to build an installation with other people outside of the GB team. We had to teach them calligraphy and create the concept with them. The place of the event was so luxurious, it was a big contrast between the GARBAGE BEAUTY installation and the gilding of the showroom. The room was so big too! So we decided to create a cocoon with a white and sanitized cover surrounding the outside of the installation. We let the real texture of the objects with lots of calligraphic messages on them transpire through that first layer. This way, we encouraged people to come inside the installation. It was a very successful project, thanks to everyone who was a part of that piece.
What do you hope to achieve or accomplish by putting your work in the street?
We want to generate a reaction from the people in the streets, we want to surprise them. It's like a game or an addiction. Perhaps a reason to exist, a purpose to fulfill. If you leave a mark, you will stay alive in people’s minds. Nobody wants to die and be forgotten. You can have a family, you can get into politics or go to war or create a religion or you can just make art. So everybody is trying to stay alive in their own ways.
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