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Art July, 14 2011

Talking Graffiti With… Kidult

Everyone heard about him. Everyone knows about KIDULT and what he did for the first time to some of the most famous shop windows around the globe, from JC/DC, Agnès b, YSL, colette Paris to Supreme in New York City. If not, you must be living in another world… By tagging all over and instantly going everywhere on the web, he has made an image of himself. He has become someone famous for his actions. And he also reminds us what real graffiti is about : protest and express yourself in a creative way, even if for some people its vandalism… But who is KIDULT and what is his plan – only little is known for now. Here you will find answers to some of your questions. Enjoy.

Interview/Text : Guillaume Le Goff
Photography: KIDULT

I guess you can’t reveal your real identity. How would you introduce yourself ?

My identity: Kidult aka KID, I was born in Paris and I live in NYC. West 129th Street, New York 10027. I am the enfant terrible (terrible kid) who attacks in a legitimate, simple way, without limits, with a spraypaint extinguisher. “Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” That quote from Pablo Picasso summarizes Kidult’s state of mind well. I try to remain a kid who paints his reality in a raw, carefree way. I aspire to maintain the creativity and honesty of a child in order to expose, simply and efficiently, an unsettling message. That is KIDULT !

Who is hiding behind Kidult ?

A vandal, a tagger, a writer. If graffiti is called “art” one of these days, then I would be an artist too.

Read the full interview after the jump.

Which artists or personalities might have an influence on you ?

John Heartfield, John Carpenter, Pablo Picasso, Stanley Kubrick, Taki 183, Josep Renau Berenguer, Raoul Haussman…

To take it further, could you say that you’ve had a “plan” in mind since the beginning of all this ?

I’ve never had any plans. I act in the moment, and it’s about a truth that’s not necessarily spoken, so I shout it and write it on stores. At some point, all these shops have used graffiti culture as a commercial image, riding the trend without being a part in the least and for which the only point is to make some cash. All I say to them is “hello”; if these brands really like graffiti, I only give them what they like, so what if it’s beautiful or ugly. We gotta stop these brands from dictating a culture that belongs to us.

Let’s go back then to your acts. In recent months, you blew up the internet with window displays (JC/DC, Agnès b., Colette, YSL, Supreme…) that you covered with your Kidult signature. Could you go back and explain your method and the timeline for all that ?

I use different tools, I adapt the visuals according to the message I want to convey. In this case, extinguisher is the perfect tool. They aren’t used to seeing this kind of visually violent actions. Myself, I call it visual dictatorship. Only the extinguisher makes them think about the savage, illegal and subversive side of graffiti. I have yet to find tools that are rougher… The adrenaline that graffiti brings out is enough to motivate me.

In your recent interview that appeared on video – and shown on every blogs on the planet – you gave explanations for these actions. Can you go back to that? Above all, it seems that beyond making it speak for you, there is also this wish to reinstate a high-profile quality to tagging and graffiti that has kind of fallen off…

If I have to relay a message via video or an interview, I prefer to do it myself to avoid any glossing over. That’s what happened with the documentary video. Coming from personal preoccupations, I send out a message with a collective aim, intellectualizing my approach. I look for the best way (internet, hacking, street…) to be as efficient as possible while using today’s technology. “Graffiti” is my school, and by using its essence, I try to give an unexpected subject to each person who finds himself face-to-face with what I’ve done. Question, shock, wake people up where they don’t expect it. Graffiti has become very widespread today. The notion that it must not lose is above its illegality. If graffiti becomes legal, i’ll stop.

Can you go back to the people’s reactions from JC/DC, Agnès b., Colette and YSL in Paris ?

In general, they misunderstood my “hellos” on their boutiques. JC/DC quickly posted on Facebook that he preferred tags done in chalk. He figured out afterward how to profit from tagging on riding the graffiti wave one more time, making people believe it was orchestrated. He found the extinguisher in a trashcan two blocks away, took a picture of it and posted in on the internet.

Colette didn’t call it graffiti at all and decided it was a “horrible pink thing.” From then on you understand pretty quickly what graffiti is for them. The “graffiti” that shines, is welcomed by big brand names, or by bottles of champagne… Obviously it’s more tempting for those brands; it’s really lucrative.

Agnès b. appreciated the first intervention and posted a photo and a thank you note on Twitter. I didn’t expect that reaction (it’s why I then did it a second time).

With YSL it was chaos: complaints, security in front of the stores every night, etc.

These spray paint extinguisher tag works remind those who don’t know that graffiti shows up where the author wishes, in savage and illegal ways. I don’t have anything against anyone; my approach with the spray gun aims neither to please nor displease. The message I wish to convey is the main reason for my actions.

You also tag a lot of Dior ad posters all around Paris, why ?

Dior has been hiding an ambiguous past for the longest. Especially with its affiliation to the Nazi regime in the past… The Galliano case wasn’t new so I decided to expose the truth by revisiting the Dior posters.

After, you’ve been followed to the States, NYC notably… You caused even more commotion over the windows of the Supreme store in Manhattan. How did that come about ?

In the States you do what you want, you just have to be conscious of the risks and there, yes, the risks are huge. Supreme likes the streets and graffiti ? I put them the test. Graffiti, street culture, is taken out of its context. Today, these brands make it luxurious and superficial, pointless. They try to intellectualize the practice by eliminating its crude essence, and that’s too bad.

Why do you think graffiti & vandalism lost some of its power ?

I don’t claim that graffiti or vandalism is dead but I denounce the fact that they have been taken by major brands for commercial purpose. Graffiti is far from being dead and we can see it every single day in the streets in the whole world. It is basically just a war between the street and those institutions that claim a culture not belonging to them.

What do you think about the reactions you’ve had and continue to have, the buzz, your image, your reputation, all that ? How does that affect and influence your approach now?

My work picks back up with constant researching, with little regard for what has been done, what is in style, or what is being said. I try to stay outside of all that and to keep an honest and personal reflection. We are all actors, it’s up to each person to take on the role he wants : contribute to the perversion of this movement or destroy everything in order to rebuild.

You speak about big brands that “use” graffiti, so you punished them, what other brands would deserve that ?

You never know before it’s done…

In the last days, you designed and produced – to sell on your own blog only – a t-shirt with your Kidult x Supreme tag. What about this ? When we saw it, we thought it was official…

Not a single one of my actions is official, far from it. This one is just another glimpse to mark a success, to say “hello” again. I think it’s the first time anyone has seen graffiti on Supreme. According to me, if someone has to make money on graffiti or street (culture), it should be the people from this movement only !

With respect to your enormous buzz, all that seems to me to be on its way to making you a “star” in the modern sense of the word. What do you have to say about that and above all, what do you project, a place in the sun?

I don’t project anything like that, just to stay in the shadows, those that surround us, because we are the streets. Above all to continue being creative and “spray the truth.”

Any final words ?

Shout out to www.thegrimtimes.com.

“Graffiti is not dead.”

Interview : Guillaume Le Goff (thanks to anyone involved in this)

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