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Ateliersi

Interviewed by Raimonda Tamuleviciute

Main photo: Zilvinas Stravinskas

Translated by Gabija Seiliute

How did you come up with an idea to transform graffiti into performance? How has the “Urban Spray Lexicon” working process evolved since the beginning?

The idea came up 4 years ago. We were invited to participate in a street art festival organized by a girl who owns an urban themed bookshop in Bologna. In order to present a live performance during the festival we began to collect some short writings and to write some metrical structure poems. We have also started to work with the wall writings from the past: from the period of the students’ movements in Paris in 1968, as well as with protest in Bologna in 1977. We began to think about the relationship between public and private spheres in the city and how do citizens react to the writings on the walls, while asking a question of what controls the city? Who does the city belong to?

Also, I would like to highlight that “Urban Spray Lexicon” is closely related with real social issues, visible in the city. Even though we work in the theater, we consider the work outside the theater to be very important. We worked on the residency in Macedonia with the gipsy people, and on the refugee issue in Lampedusa island for quite a long period of time. It is important to us to highlight the relationship between theater and reality and to create new texts, inspired by the problems that exist in real life. The nucleus of our work is to share the experience of what is happening in reality and the problems that today’s society encounters.

The wall writings are in the center of a public debate in Bologna now. It seems that this topic is one of the most important issues in our community. With this performance, we are touching a sensitive point in society.

Tell me more about the process of creating the dramaturgy from graffiti. Do you focus just specifically on graffiti as a form of immediate message? Or do you do some additional research about Vilnius’ actualities, history and politics?

We are not doing any additional research on Vilnius, as in this project we are solely focusing on the wall writings. It is really important to us to feel the sense of the city from the writings only and it’s an interesting way to observe the city. In our work it is very important to let the audience to have its own experience, a personal link between the writings and their thoughts. So we edit the poems in an analogical sense, avoiding direct meaning.

Speaking of our performance, we want to create a complete atmosphere with it. The city is like a chorus, if you look around you can see a lot of voices coming from the walls. Putting together wall writings in the metrical way allows us to express that the writings can be very musical. We want to create a complete atmosphere with our performance: the wall writings combined with voice and music.

Even though we don’t work on a scene with the drama that already exists, one of the greatest inspiration sources for us is literature of course. We choose ideas from certain books, especially from Louis-Ferdinand Céline “Journey to the End of the Night” (fr. Au bout de la nuit). In this book the author is alone with his words, so full of his thoughts which he cannot contain inside of him. The moment when a person decides to go to the city and make a gesture of art is very powerful. We took some parts of this book and transformed it in the sentences as wall writings that did not exist in the city, and made it available for the public use, for the audience. We don’t know what the audience will do or not with these sentences. One of the most significant things in street art, and in art generally is the moment when a person cannot stand all his thoughts, ideas and society’s influence on him, and has this need to go out and leave his thoughts in the city. Our project captures a growing tension in a daily life, which is subtle but visible in the city and is reflected the society as well.

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The project was born in Italy, where else was this project made apart from Vilnius?

We perform a lot with the Bologna version, but now we want to extend this project. Our idea is to make the project “chapters” in different cities. We will do it in Milan, Italy and in Marseille, France. In Vilnius, we are producing a specific “chapter” of this project, based on original wall writings of the city for the first time.

Have you noticed any specific characteristics of Vilnius graffiti while living and collecting writings on the walls here? What graffiti can reveal about the city and the society?

There are not many political writings in Vilnius, unlike in Italy for example, but you do have a lot of existential or philosophical writings and it’s amazing! I think that whilist collecting and reading the writings on city’s walls you can perceive the society and the inner city’s life.

Another interesting idea is observing the graffiti artist’s movement around the city. You can make an alternative itinerary of the city using graffiti writers’ logic and it can also be a way to explore the city and to understand the local problems.

Vilnius’ wall writings expresses the sensation of its life strongly. In Lithuania you have a lot of wall writings in the city center, but not so much in the suburbs. In Italy it is vice versa. Another peculiar thing here in Vilnius is that you have a lot of ironic writings. For example, if this makes sense, we found one graffiti which states: “Who will stop men making graffiti? -the police, – the prime minister, -the cold” and the answer marked was “the cold”. You have to have quite a big of strength to do graffiti in an open space, because it is mostly cold in Lithuania! It is easier to stay outdoor and to make graffiti in Italy (smiling). On a serious note, you possibly don’t make graffiti in suburbs, because you don’t feel that you belong to these places. In comparison to Italy, we do have a lot of graffiti in the suburbs. Maybe you refuse these urban interventions in suburbs, maybe people want to feel a part of the center, with the values that city center has, maybe this is the reason why some graffiti writers come to the city center to write. I don’t know, I am just guessing.

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Is your performance also aimed to preserving graffiti? And finally, can you tell us about your future projects?

Well, yes we want to preserve graffiti, but we want to keep its evidence without preserving it in a physical form. When it comes to preserving graffiti in a physical form, it is usually business-related. In Italy we had an important exhibition on street art. The museum that organized the exhibition actually stole some wall paintings made by the street artist Blu from Bologna street and put them in a museum without the permission of the artist. We are interested in maintaining the memory of what was written, but not conserving graffiti as an object. Once you preserve street art as an object, it loses its sense. Also, putting street art in a museum destroys the context, since often its made on a particular place where it should be, giving an important meaning to the work. If you take the street art away from the context you cannot understand it.

In the future we would like to do full performances in different cities, here in Vilnius we will do just a small part of our future project. We are searching for possibilities to stay in Vilnius longer as we want to work with Lithuanian musicians for project “Urban Spay Lexicon”. The musical atmosphere is completely different here, you have a very different musical quality than in Italy. It would be very interesting to work on this project with some local performers and musicians. It will also be interesting to see how all the writings have changed, because “Urban Spray Lexicon” is also about observing the city’s changes in a perspective of time.

Paskelbta: December 30, 2017

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