My name is Stak. I painted my 1st piece with Colorz in the late eighties in Paris suburbs.
Till 1995, i’ve painted with the P2B & VAD.
In 1995 i’ve completely stopped making classic graffiti. In that time i’ve started painting my 1st logos, it is also when i’ve painted for the 1st time a « block text ». A bit later i’ve kept on developping various work in urban space. More logo based work with a pictogram as a name.
Today, i use writing again in my work. It is texts or words that i link to various elements in order to have several reading levels
From your 1st letters with « spikes », you made an identifiable black shape with some of the characteristics of your spiky letters. Then you made that slogan serie « I’m a pleb baby !", "Most loved, Most hated", "Hardder dan Hâkkuh"... Do you know what will you do next ? Something new, or go deeply into the slogans ?
Wow, you took a quick short-cut, i think !! From 1988 to 1995, i’ve painted in a « classic » way. In 1995 i’ve begun something different, i was fed up painting in a « traditional » way : it took me a lot of time, and i had no fun anymore. In that time, that’s right my letters were quite original. I was in a band (the P2B that was, not very into New York style. We were not interested into Hip-hop and all that things. We had a punk spirit, not hip-hop, and it could be seen in our graffiti. In that time it was pretty funny to do graffiti in a different way, something against the trend. I loved that time when everybody were pissing on our style (some people pretty famous have even said, that we « killed graffiti in Paris »… !!!)
When all those guys started doing the same things as us, it was time to do something new. It was around 1995 that i developed my 1st logos, based on my letters. I went in abandoned places, and i painted there, not to destroy but with the aim to beautify. I worked with the space and about the space. It’s a bit later that i made my 1st block text « Working With ». Then from 1996 to 1998, i’ve only done pieces based on that logo i had created. I only made that, because it was the only thing that interested me.
In 1998 when we started to make pieces in the street , there were the 1st operations against graffiti (massive buff) in Paris with Hnt & So.6. Consequently we had a very strong impact with all the graffiti buffed and with our super identifiable logos. Bit by bit i realised i was a bit a prisoner with this logo, i wanted to express things that i couldn’t. To only make logos didn’t bring me anything interesting. So i decided to bring back to text and to write slogans who deal with what i was living, about what i wanted to express. All my texts have a story. At this moment all my pieces deal with the « working-class », and « I’m a pleb baby » is a kind of reference-text. You know all my work is about a kind of rehabilitation of city discredited elements. Actually, what interest me today, is to take popular connoted icons and to bring them in a different context to change their image. To achieve that, i use all means necessary : video, neon tube, photography and of course text and language. About what will be my work next orientation , i’m quite interested in making motif. They allow me to develop my work in a different way…and for the future... who knows ?
Do you have a conscious influence for your slogans : advertissement, other artists ? Is the choice of the "impact" font a matter of chance or is it deliberate?
Yes indeed, i'm under influences, and i know where they are from. I like artists who work with language, the artists of the minimal art or conceptual artists. I like also those who are capable of using very few components in their work. I don't like decoration. At the same time, other worlds improve my work : publicity or fashion for instance... As for the "impact" font, it is a complete deliberate choice. "Impact" is the anti-decorative typo "par excellence", it is heavy, neutral, and i must confess that i like its "boorish" aspect. This is exactly what i want to express in my work and i like when the whole work is pure, without fuss nor ornaments.
From september,19th, to october,15th, you'll exhibit in Bagnolet (Gallery (...) ) . Can you give us a foretaste of what we'll see there? Does the fact of being in a gallery mean that you have to sell pieces and that the wall, your usual medium, is now unsuitable?
As i have always done, i will directly work upon the walls of both rooms. I'll show news pieces and olders ones. I don't want to give you more details, but, in addition to the customary "block texts", there also will be some "pattern", which is quite new for me. Moreover i will show two videos, from which one was especially realized for this exhhibition... In my opinion, the fact of working in a gallery is not necessarily synonymous with selling. That simply allows me to win a different audience and, at last, perhaps to be taken for serious. I have no work from studio, the only pieces that could make me earn money would be pieces made for me ( like the neon lightings for instance) or the drawings i make before my interventions. I don't necessarily consider the gallery as a place of business ( maybe this detail makes me differ from the majority of the street artists ) : i'm not ready to do anything for dough. The gallery space simply allows me to develop a work which takes place in the contemporary art freely and to present it to an experimented population. I want my generation to be recognized, and this could obviously realize through the gallery. I'm not against the fact of earning money provided to one's art, but i'm against the fact of making dough at any price. My stand is very simple : for me, to customize a pair of Nike shoes is not art, it is only an eye-catching business. I don't want that.
You were the creator and editor in chief of WorldSigns. Five noticed issues were released . And then the venture reached its end. Was it because of differences concerning the editorial content or because of economical difficulties?
WorldSigns was my artistic space, it was my gallery. It was a kind of platform which was allowing me to feature artists I wanted to support. This was a great experience. But at a certain point I felt bored of being only considered as a journalist ( a « maecenas ») or even as a public relations expert. Yeah, lots of events gave me the feeling it was time to stop. But above all, I wanted to focus on my own work. Take care of myself, this is what I am doing right now.
While you are exposing, a book about your work is about to be released. What will be found inside ? Your last works, or older graffiti things?
Olivier Stak, Selected Works, is a 64 pages selection of the most important stuff that I realized from 1988 to 2004 and that represent the most relevant as far as my work is concerned.
Buy it, it will allow me to pay for new shoes at Vuitton's ...
I feel it's important for you to be considered as a "real artist" , and not as a writer or even worse a graphic designer. Am I wrong?
I don't bother being considered as a "real artist", I just want to be taken seriously. I am an artist working in areas linked with graffiti. Why calling me a "writerr" while I just paint walls twice a month, or "graphic-designer" while I am not working for any brand and i am my own boss.
The word "artist" sounds better to me. It's also my full time job : I only do this and I am only willing to doing this.
Are you still interested in graffiti ? (as a participant and as a spectator)
Yes and no. Classic graffiti bores me, as much as street art does. There are a few people I am enjoying though, but hey I'm not spending days in yards & graffiti spots.
You’ve been the Artistic Director. of Nusign 2.4. An exhibition in Paris gathering more than 40 « post-graffiti » artists. The exhibition shows many artists for the very first time in Paris, and has been appreciated. But it also has been pretty controversial. What’s the balance sheet look like ?
I was not actually an « Artistic Director » of NuSign, i was just a simple consultant. My balance sheet ? It doesn’t change anything in my life. For some other, coming from nowhere but with a business plan in the head, it allowed them to meet people and get more opportunities. Anybody takes what he has to take… and the more you are hungry the more you get !
Some people think you are always bitching about commerce in relation to urban art and put yourself in interviews as a very moral person in relation to your art. How do you get your money. and if you get money
thru your art, does it never brings you in conflict. how do you deal with that?
With Hnt and a few friends, you seem to be a small community sharing same esthetic tastes, very far away from hip-hop : with some particular clothing brands, a fascination for eastern-europe, for the abandonned and hard to access places…
Absolutely, i’m more into Rotterdam Terror Corps than Wu-Tang, i prefer Fred Perry than Karl Kani, i like more Adidas than Nike, I love Champagne more than cheap wine. I have more fun in « Colette » parties than in « Nouveau Casino ». I prefer when it shines than when it stinks… though i also like a bit when it stinks !
Liza n'Elias, Manu le Malin , les Spiral Tribe or… Flamenco ?
Tough question…any of this name coincides with a time in my life. But if i had to choose one, i would say Liza n’Elias for her crazy dj-sets and a bygone age.
According to you who should i interview next for ekosystem ?
You should interview someone with balls who is on the fringe of our scene, someone who doesn’t give a fuck about political correctness… Someone able to say what he loves and what he doesn’t in post-graffiti without thinking about opportunities he may lost for hurling abuse at some street-artists…
It should be pretty fun.
Any last word ?
NO HAPPY SHIT !
ekosystem.org :: Octobre 2004
Photo animation coded by v3ga using Processing.
Thanks to Stak for answering the questions + to G, Influenza, Snob, Pork & the others for the questions + Céline & v3ga to help me for the english translation