Doesn't matter if it's New York,
London, Tokyo, or Rio. Our urban environment is
defined as much by street art (graffiti, murals,
and installations) as by commercial graphic art
(signs, ads, and billboards). Walk around any
downtown and you'll see that some of the best
art is just ... lying around. Mysterious works
of visual alchemy and anarchy appear overnight,
oblique messages that are unsigned and evanescent,
waiting to be picked up or erased by the elements
or the day's foot traffic.
Who creates street art? What motivates
street artists and how do they make a living?
Sessions Product Director Scott Chappell talked
to Marc Schiller, co-founder of a street art organization
called the Wooster
Collective. A street artist by night, by day
Marc is the CEO of ElectricArtists, a innovative
marketing services company. Oh, and he is also
a photographer of the world beneath his feet. An ideal tour
guide for the urban world. . .
art decal created by the artist Swoon.
Q: Who visits the Wooster Collective
Marc: Well, it's certainly a sub-culture that's attracted
to the Wooster site. I think that in all walks of life
people are looking for something authentic and fresh.
Street art is both. There isn't one kind of person or
group that frequents the Wooster site. It's very diverse.
Artists, business professionals, gallery owners, writersyou
Q: Who are the most respected
street artists among other street artistsand why
are they respected?
Marc: Wow, that's a great question. Banksy, an absolutely
incredible stencil artist in England, is certainly one
of the most respected amongst his peers for not only
being a creative genius, but also having an incredible
wit and for being extremely clever. Swoon, an artist
in New York, is well respected for perfecting her craft,
for her dedication, and for her passion. Dalek, another
New York artist, is well respected for the precision
of the line work in his drawings. Shepard Fairey is
respected for showing that not only can you go "all
city" you can also go "all cities." Others that are
getting their due props amongst other artists include
Logan Hicks in LA, Revs in NYC, Freaklub in Barcelona,
and Blek Le Rat in Paris. But there are many, many others.
Q: What would you say to critics
of the movement? Is there a "message" to street art?
Marc: Absolutely. But there's no single message that umbrellas
the entire scene. Each artist has his or her own reason
for doing street art. Most street artists, by placing
art uncommissioned on the street, are making a statement
that urban public spaces need to be reclaimed by the
people who live in those spaces. Too much "space" in
our urban cities is sold to advertisers and large corporations.
Lots of people live in downtown areas in cities all
over the world. Not everyone lives in the suburbs or
in the countryside. Street artists are trying to reclaim
a bit of their space, even if it means doing it without
the approval of the people who control that space.
Vivid characters from the artist
Q: What techniques do street artists
use? What are the trends right now?
Marc: The most prominent techniques are graffiti, stencils,
stickers, and wheat pastes. There has also been an emergence
of three-dimensional pieces such as sculptures that
are being attached to buildings and signs.
Graf was an incredible
"trend" that continues to prosper. But the trend now
is towards stickers and wheat pastes. Many of the old
school graf artists who are tired of getting arrested
are now doing incredible stickers and wheat pastes.
For me, wheat pasting is where it's at right now.
Q: What are the distinctions between
graffiti and tagging?
Marc: I never did any graf or tagging so it would be unfair
for me to sound like an expert on either of them. Tagging
is more of a sport. Taggers try to get up on as many
places as possible. For most taggers, it's not about
the art, it's about the number of places you've tagged.
Graffiti is about the art. It's an art movement. Graffiti
artists perfect their talent. Taggers perfect their
ability to avoid getting arrested.
Q: It's clear to me that many
street artists are wildly talented and creative. Are
street artists involved in commercial art (like graphic
design) or vice versa? And is going commercial "selling
Marc: I think that debating whether an artist is "selling
out" by doing something for money is, quite frankly,
stupid and a complete waste of time. The ultimate goal
of most artists is to pay their rent doing what they
love the most, which is creating art. Artists should
do whatever they need, or want, to do, to live as they
desire, even if that means doing commissions for brands
and having corporate clients. It's not for me, or anyone
else, to judge. Each artist should live by their own
code of ethics and decide what is right for them.
Criticizing how an artist
goes about putting food on their table and paying their
rent is [sound of frustration]. Nobody wants struggle
to pay the bills. "Going commercial" allows an artist
to stop worrying about money and start worrying about
their craft. The idea that the "struggling artist" is
a romantic notion and that the struggling artist has
more "freedom" is, to me, complete crap.
A message from the artist Shepard
Q: How about the legitimate art
space: is it difficult for street artists to land shows
Marc: No, not if they're
talented. There's an amazing gallery scene for young
contemporary artists in New York and in cities around
the world. Most talented street artists are doing gallery
shows. Actually, right now there's more opportunity
for street artists to land shows in galleries than for
Q: Talking of contradictions,
you started the Wooster Collective and yet you are also
co-founder and CEO of ElectricArtists,
a marketing services agency...
Marc: ElectricArtists is a marketing agency that I founded
six years ago to better understand how brands can leverage
word-of-mouth. We develop and implement strategies that
create an environment for word-of-mouth to happen during
for products and programming. We have clients in most
of the media and entertainment sectors spanning film,
video games, television, music, brands...
Q: Wooster Collective and ElectricArtists
seem to be opposite ends of the cultural landscape,
or are they? Do they complement one another in any ways?
are indeed on opposite ends of the cultural landscape.
But sometimes opposite ends are closer to each other
then you might think. Like two ends of a string that
meet in a knot. I'm not sure if ElectricArtists and
Wooster complement each other as entities, but they
do complement me as a person. I've planted myself in
the middle of both sensibilities with my feet straddling
each sidethe fiercely independent mindset and
the extremely corporate mindset.
Being "in the middle" is exactly the place I want to
be! I don't want to be typecast. I don't want to be
so in love with marketing and advertising that I lose
my objectivity about art. And at the same time, I don't
want to be so much "the consummate artist" that I can't
see the merits of being involved with good advertising
and marketing. By having my feet in two completely different
sensibilities, I can see both sides more clearly. By
being in the middle, I'm not on one side struggling
desperately to look over the top of one to see the other.
I like contradictions. I like ambiguities. I like grey
as a color much better than black or white.
We started with the question: who creates
street art? The answer seems to be: real artists with
serious talent, many of whom have careers that span
both street art and "legitimate" or commercial
art worlds. Marc Schiller has profiled scores of street
artists for Woostercollective.com, and each interviews
starts with a series of questions he calls "The Vitals."
So to wrap up, we turned the tables on him:
Marc Schiller - The Vitals
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Where do you now live? On the opposite
coast from LA: New York City.
How long have you been interested in street
art? I guess that it's been a little over two
years nowever since I moved to Lower Manhattan.
What did you do last night? We held
a salon at our flat in Soho. I drank some nice wine
and met some terrific artists and designers.
What is your favorite thing to eat for dinner?
Sushi. Sitting at a nice Sushi bar for me is
one of life's great pleasuresand at times one
of life's true indulgences.
Who is your favorite fictional character? Right
now it's probably Dale's Space Monkeys. They're brilliant.
These days, I'm also into Gary Baseman's twisted characters.
What do you currently have in your pockets? Well, my pockets are actually pretty boring
right now. Sorry about that. I currently have my mobile
phone, my wallet, and my keys in them.
If you were given "more time," what would you
do with it? I would hope that I would do more
of my own artwork but the truth is that I would probably
waste a great deal of it. I try to do so much stuff
now that it makes sense that I would spend most of the
additional time relaxing.
Whom do you love? My wife Sara, Hudson
our Weimeraner, and all of the artists who are out there
putting their shit up.