« Through these images in public space, I call for a real awareness »: interview with Jérôme Catz on the occasion of the « Resilience » edition of the Street Art Fest

By Michel Fily, May 27, 2020

The Spacejunk Grenoble team has just announced the « Resilience Edition » of the Street Art Fest Grenoble Alpes, an edition reinvented and adapted to current circumstances which will take place first during the month of June, then secondly during the September and October 2020. The very first period of achievements will take place with renowned national artists: Brusk, Snek, Combo and Marco Lallemant. The festival will start welcoming international artists afterwards. Urban Street Art Urbain met the Director of Spacejunk during the 2019 edition of the Street Art Fest.

A visionary interview…

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Hello Jérôme Catz, can you introduce yourself to the readers?

I am Director of Street Art Face Grenoble Alpes, Curator of exhibitions and Director of three art centers in France, which are called Space Junk. The first opened in Grenoble in 2003, the second in 2007 in Bayonne before that of Lyon in 2009. I take care of the artistic programming of these three places, by rotating exhibitions to increase the reach of artists, allowing them meet an audience three times larger than in one place. The primary vocation of these art centers is the optimal meeting between the public and the work. Their programming revolves around three artistic movements, both complementary and from the same culture, which are Lowbrow, Street Art and Pop Surrealism. In 2011, Flammarion editions asked me to write a book on Street Art. They were looking for someone with a global vision, on a global scale, of this discipline which is gaining its letters of nobility. I first wrote « Street Art user manual« , which allowed me to revise my basics, then I continued to « pull the wire », to specialize more and more in this discipline, which is multiple and which is enriched every day with new practices. I just started a university thesis on the subject.

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How do you go from snowboard champion to gallery owner, art center director and festival director?

I owe my journey to a multitude of factors. But I would speak more simply of « karma ». Between ten and fourteen years old, I discovered the sensations of skiing and sliding, I lived a waking dream, emotions, unexpected sensations, which made me passionate. From that moment, I did not stop looking, in all my activities, these same feelings, these same emotions. I rubbed shoulders, on an equal basis, with idols like Serge Vitelli, Emmanuel Petit, the Guillochin brothers … Guardian figures who welcomed me with kindness and who made me feel great. At the age of thirty-three, I had to give way to the young people who were arriving on the boardsports scene. I had planned for a long time. I opened Space Junk and said to myself, « I’m going to offer white walls to artists who find it difficult to exhibit elsewhere than in bars or clothes stores ». I called my first Board Culture Art Center space, I exposed artists whose work had been used by the board sports industry. And already at the time, I chose boards more for their aesthetics than for their qualities of sporting objects.

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« The primary vocation of my art centers is the optimal meeting between the public and the work»

I grew up in Saint Martin D’Hères, cradled by the Bol d’Or, a legendary 24 hour international motorcycle race. I saw artists there every year with their screen printing machines who made decals for t-shirts, etc. It was there that I met, in the early 1980s, Rat Fink by Ed Roth and the American « Custom Culture ». It was also at this time that Hip-hop started and Street Art arrived in France. I think I had my first aesthetic shock with the Guns and Roses album. The original cover is a painting by Robert Williams, a lead painting titled « Appetite for Destruction ». At the time, digital did not exist. I spent days and hours watching this work … It was Robert Williams who coined the term « Low Brow » and who contributed to the advent of Pop Surrealism. I was also an unconditional fan of Reiser and Métal Hurlant. I am also lucky to come from a generation where punk and RAP coexisted. My artistic vision is at the intersection of all these universes.

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How far is it from your art centers to your first festivals?

Thirteen years have passed between the first Space Junk and the first Street Art Fest. The economic equation has never prioritized the sale of works of art. I always make a point of presenting what I find interesting and the only vocation is educational. So there were exhibitions where nothing was sold and others where there was nothing for sale. At one point, I wondered how to continue to make the machine grow to reach more audiences. Address as many people as possible. The idea has always been that of popular education. In 2013, when my book was published, I noticed that there was missing a global event that aggregates all the ways of making Street Art known. And I thought it would be nice to create it. So that the work of art is both in art centers and in city centers. In 2012, I first submitted the project to the city of Lyon, which refused it. But in 2014, Grenoble changed municipal team. I met Corinne Bernard who told me that it was exactly what she was looking for, that the people of Grenoble meet a work of art every day on their daily journey. They put 9,000 euros on the table. It was not much, but they showed their good will, their desire to do. We are doing a nice edition over ten days. The second lasted two and a half weeks and the third a month. Today, budgets are much larger, but the artistic line has remained the same: Street Art in all its diversity and in all its forms.

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And what is Street Art for you?

It is visual art in public space, combined with the fact that the artist who creates his work in this space defines himself as a Street Artist. It’s not always the case. In addition, a Street Artist must exercise his art long enough to be able to claim this movement.

How do you choose your artists?

There is only Street Art. And I try to offer the most eclectic offer possible. I have the same requirement for Space Junks as for the selection and programming of the festival, a requirement for artistic know-how. I am very attentive to the technical qualities, but also to the subjects treated. I am looking for the perfect combination of people who have an excellent mastery of their medium and who use this medium to say things. Things sometimes said very head on as for Goin, others with more humor as at Beast. Sometimes with an almost frightening, but incredibly imposing bias. Sometimes with unexpected subtlety …

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Has this artistic line evolved since the first editions of the festival?

The requirement that I had from the start, I can’t really refine. I always want to give the best and invite the artists who are the best in their disciplines. I’m just trying to stay true to this guideline. Not to fall into the trap of a catalog of big names, famous but who say nothing. I must remain vigilant.

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«I’m looking for the perfect combination of people who have an excellent mastery of their medium and who use this medium to say things »

How do you see the future today?

With the prospect of three more degrees due to global warming in eleven years, in my opinion, in two or three years, we will worry more about how to grow potatoes and how to try to conserve them than Street Art… Today, I try, as much as possible to raise public awareness of Street Art, among others so that through these images in public space, there is a real ecological, social awareness, so that people want to fight to defend ideas, not to let themselves go, to speak. But I’m not sure that Street Art has a future. Our society will soon be overtaken by subjects far more serious than Street Art…

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You mean that art will no longer have a place?

I mean that at some point we are going to have a monster slap! We are all an integral part of nature, and we are the thing that is disturbing it. At some point, nature will take back control and reset the counters.

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If I were the genius of Aladdin’s lamp and I could grant three wishes, which would you choose?

The first and the last would be that all men on this planet recognize the part of nature that there is in them. Let them recognize it from an organic point of view. And let them reconnect with nature. If this wish were fulfilled, it would solve almost all the problems in the world…

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With the assurance of their coming, the Spacejunk Grenoble team will announce the artists of the Street Art Fest Grenoble progressively on its media and social networks. In addition to the various achievements, certain activities have been specially imagined for this “Resilience Edition”. In partnership with Graaly, you will be offered an Escape Game that mixes Street Art and the discovery of the city of Grenoble. A group exhibition of artists from local and international Street Art, as well as those produced by students of the Univeria Institute in Grenoble, will be presented at the Maison de l’International. And many more surprises are in the works …

https://www.streetartfest.org

https://www.facebook.com/grenoblestreetartfest/

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