By Michel Fily, May 4th 2019
Following the success of the first edition, which welcomed 37,600 festival-goers in 10 days, the international Street Art Peinture Fraîche festival returns to Lyon from May 1 to 7, 2020, with a second edition under the sign of innovation. Its artistic director, Cart 1, whose interview we are republishing below, insisted during the presentation of this new season, on his desire to « not repeat the 2019 edition » – by renewing not only the selection of artists, friends also the space and the scenography of the place – and to « get out of the cliché of the graffiti artist and his bomb », with a strong bias in favor of new technologies. « We invited Motion Designers to work on the entire space of Halle Debourg and 80% of the place will be open to visitors in augmented reality ». The festival will also offer ecological workshops on plant Street Art, Light Spray and initiation to creation in augmented reality, a Graffiti Contest on tablets, several conferences, among others on ecology and technologies, finally seven evenings with all genres of music represented. The prices remain very affordable for this second edition (5 euros individually), there will be passes and – new – a skip-the-line with the possibility of purchasing tickets in advance on the Internet. Watch the festival Facebook page for more information!
He is one of the oldest representatives of urban art in Lyon and in France. Street Artist for almost 30 years, Cart1 (pronounce « cart one ») is the new artistic director of the Peinture Fraiche (fresh paint) festival, whose first edition opened to the public on May 3rd. Urban Street Urban Art met him, to discuss his career as an artist, his new role of artistic direction and the vision that composed his festival.
Hello Cart1, you have been a Street Artist for many years and you have painted many walls around the world. What led you to become artistic director of projects like this one?
It’s a bit like acquiring an artistic style. I often say it’s not graffiti artists who find their styles, but rather their styles that find them. I became an artistic director this way, a little by necessity…
It’s been thirty years that you make walls. There are not many Street Artists who can say that!
It is true. This year, I’m celebrating my thirtieth year of hand spray. Initially, it was just a suburban activity of bored youngsters who went to paint walls because they liked to draw. Then, without thinking, it became a job. It was not at all premeditated and if it had been announced to me at the time, I would have laughed.
« I decorated a lot of toilets, like everyone else at the beginning. We all started in the toilets”
Are you a suburb child?
I am an Auverge immigrant, I was born in Aurillac. My family came to the big city, like many others, to find work. I was six months old when I arrived in Lyon. I grew up in the Moulin à Vent neighborhood. I am part of the second generation of Street Artists in Lyon. Those who gave me the desire to do graffiti were the TWA collective in Lyon, with DON, whom I also invited here to “Peinture Fraiche”. They were painting in my neighborhood at the time, and there was a new emerging musical style called hip-hop. We all fell in… Once again, nothing was premeditated. It became a trade of thread. I decorated a lot of toilets, like everyone else at the start. We all started in the toilets… Until I started to get orders for my first decorations. It grew crescendo. In 1996, I met a guy who worked for the brand Rossignol. They were launching their first snowboards and they needed a « young look », because Rossignol was a little « the brand of dad’s skis ». They booked an electronic DJ, a hip-hop DJ and me, as graffiti artist. We did a lot of tours in the ski resorts. After a while, they wanted a little more animation, so I started to book my friends and we worked for them for six years. This is how I became, unintentionally, a booker of national and international Street Artists. Then I helped to build several Street Art projects. I traveled to Slovakia where I met the creator of the Street Art Communication Festival, in Košice. He needed a professional guy for the Slovak Ministry of Culture and he asked me to be their sponsor. I wrote a letter in English to the Ministry and I became co-artistic director of the project. Then I built a few events, until I started my own project, in 2008. It was in Honduras.
When was your first event in Lyon?
It was the Wall Drawings Festival, in 2016, in resonance with the Museum of Contemporary Art. Then there was the Trublyon Festival in 2017, and today, the first edition of Peinture Fraiche, in coproduction with the group Unagi – Le Petit Bulletin.
What did this new job make you discover in yourself?
In fact, like many others, before, I groaned at certain festivals saying « this is not complementary what I would like to see ». After a while, I told myself that instead of waiting for things to happen, for others to do what I would like to see in a festival, I only had to do it by myself. Give my own vision. This selection which is mine is surely not exhaustive and is totally subjective. It’s a vision with which one can agree or not, but that’s the whole point of an artistic direction. It’s going in one specific direction, and not another.
Is Lyon an easy or a hard city, for such an event?
Both, captain! I have always heard that the people from Lyon were complicated, but I realize that it’s not true. People are much more open than their reputation. I actually studied a little about the history of this city, and I found out that Lyon has always been open to new ideas. At each new event, we tested the reactions of the public. In 2016, for the first event, we had 3500 people in one day, despite a thunderstorm at 5 pm. The second festival, which lasted two days, welcomed 7600 people. These first successes allowed us to think about something bigger. On the other hand, in France (and not only in Lyon), people have often been among the last, in all Europe, to adopt new laws, like with euthanasia and with the medically assisted procreation… That’s why I went away for a while. I went to live in London at the end of the 1990s, then a year in Paris, then in Honduras, in the Ukraine and lately in Colombia. But I love my city and that’s why I came back to create this project here.
« We started being taken seriously when Banksy sold his first stencil for a big amount, in 2001 «
What changed, compared to the 90s? How do you feel about the evolution of Street Art?
When I started doing lettering, in 1989, we were stared at, we were called « cardboard zulus ». People were saying « anyway, your thing is just a fashion thing, it will not last more than two years ». We had bombs of poor quality and the guy that could manage to make a line without any paint-run was a « King ». It was complicated to do interesting things. Today, graffiti artists have “Rolls Royce” sprays. At the time, we were painting to be known and to recognize each-others, to develop our styles and also to master the tools. Personally, I have never been very good at lettering. I often forgot to even sign my walls. That’s how I started drawing characters. The graffiti culture has evolved a bit like the hip-hop music, which with some artists has turned into Rap and with others turned into RnB. It’s been separating into several ramifications. While 99.9% of the artists hate this term, I like very much the word « Street Art ». First, because it allows defining a creation that cannot be defined, apart from its common denominator : the fact of being in the streets. This creation is multiple, but it’s the same family. If I was asked to condemn the graffiti, I would refuse. It’s not my practice, but it’s the same family. Going back to the evolution of this movement, when we started, what we wanted was another culture, created by ourselves. A hyper-urban culture behind which we all stood, despite our social and origin differences. Today, as this culture finally begins to be recognized, I do not understand that some artists play the « frightened maidens », claiming to be « perverted ». I do not accept this kind of speech. What I like in the word « Street Art » is the philosophy behind this double word. If you remove one of the two words, it’s not the same thing anymore. We started being taken seriously because of Banksy, in 2001, when he sold his first stencil for a huge amount. After that, galleries owners and critics started to think « they may not be cardboard zulus, after all ».
How do you explain that some Street Artists are afraid of being « perverted »?
It certainly reflects fear, but, guys, we do not have to be poor to create! It’s funny, because this phenomenon exists only in the plastic arts. Try to tell a rock band, « I will not pay you for a concert ». Why would it be different for a Street Artist? It is also a very French phenomenon. Abroad, the artists are very poor, it will not make them run away if they are offered money. I have friends in Bogota who do business. It does not stop them from continuing to create. I think this fear comes from the idea that if someone pays them, it’s in order to make them « stop their bullshit ». In fact, it is the artist’s problem with himself. It is not necessary to project one’s own fears onto others. You just have to be able, sometimes, to say « no ». It actually happened to me. A Russian billionaire who wanted me to decorate her helicopter tried to treat me as her lackey, during an exchange of emails. So, I told her to go elsewhere. She told me that she had never been spoken to like this and I said that maybe I had no money, but I had my dignity and therefore, we would never work together…
You are at the beginning of the Peinture Fraiche festival. How do you feel?
It’s been two years since we started preparing this project. There was a lot of work, but today it feels a bit like a summer camp. This is one of the reasons why we create this kind of festivals. The guest artists are, for the most part, friends, with whom I have painted walls elsewhere in the world, whom I have already invited to previous events and with whom things are always going well. They all agreed to invest themselves in this first edition: Bordalo II, which I had already booked for a festival in Thailand, Lor K, that I did not know, but that I’ve been following for years, Satr … These are the artists I wanted to see painting. They are not and will not be here all at the same time, especially for logistical reasons, because we want to be able to welcome them properly. And also because our elevation equipment is limited, so we had to juggle, in terms of planning. Today, just after the opening, things are pretty cool, although I always say that an event without trouble is suspicious (laughs). We had some small problems, such as during the wind alert, when one of the doors of the hall was damaged. But at the end, we managed to repair it…
There will be an exhibition space for artists’ paintings?
Yes, we will put exhibition stands along the wharf to hang works and sell them.
Will we see your works of you among them?
No, it is not planned. « The one who is in his house and who receives guests is the last sitting at the table ». The bottom line is that the guests are well received…
« The idea is to present to the public a snapshot of what the current creation is »
Did being an artistic director hamper your career as an artist?
It slowed it down, because I have less time to produce. But a festival is also a work. I mean, it’s the realization of a vision. I have not only invited friends, I have invited very talented artists whom I have the good fortune to be friendly with. I invited graffiti artists like Der, from the legendary Toulouse « Truskool » movement, to whom I was in total admiration when I started. In front of whom I am always in awe, by the way. If I had to define this artistic direction, I would say that I tried to make « my ideal festival ». And his precise artistic line is to present to the public a snapshot of what the current creation is. It’s showing that today when you talk about Street Art, it’s more than just lettering, it’s not just about graffiti. There are artists who do collage, there are some others who use technology, or virtual reality … The idea is to gather all these ramifications and say « at this moment, this is what‘s happening », although it can never be completely exhaustive.
There will be video art?
Will there be a sequel to Peinture Fraiche?
We are already working on the second edition, which will take place next year, at the same time. The idea is to create a regular meeting with the public. For now, it’s on track ; we will readjust after this first experience, if necessary. I will not camp on my positions if they are wrong. The most important thing is to understand that when people come back to an event, they want to find the same state of mind. And we will also try to surprise them by proposing, each year, new ideas.
Do you have personal projects in preparation?
I am preparing an anniversary exhibition of my 30 years of graffiti, a project I have been working on for six years. I will present this exhibition at the “Demeure du Chaos” (House of Chaos), with which I have been collaborating for 15 years. It is scheduled for September 2019.
« The most important thing is to understand that when people come back to an event, they want to find the same state of mind »
Is there a question I did not ask you that you would like to answer?
What I would like to say is that when I started in this artistic movement, it was the Zulu Nation. We did not know where we were going. Today, I see that this movement is the image of its time, that is to say that it has extremist tendencies sometimes. There are people who come and say, « That’s Street Art; that’s not Street Art ». I cannot stand people who say « this is not possible » or « you do not have the right to do that ».
Is it important to maintain this freedom?
Yes, the creation must be totally free and without limits. I move away from extremists as far as possible. I like people who open doors, not people who close them.
Do you believe Street Art is the future of contemporary art…
I’m sure it is. When I started, we were in the middle of postmodernism. Everybody was saying that painting was finished. Well, Street Art is the big return of painting! It is a damn snub to the history of art.
If you could realize a crazy artist’s dream, which one would it be?
I have only one dream and it is to finish my life painting, and wearing flip flops, in a hot country somewhere in the world. I have simple dreams…
“Peinture Fraiche” (Fresh Paint) Festival, 10 days, 60 artists, . 1st to 17th of May 2020, Halle Debourg, 45-47 Avenue Debourg, Lyon (Metro, Tramway, station Debourg).
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