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How 17 Street Artists Changed the Walls of a Swiss Prison Through the 4661m² Project

November 5, 2015
Bob Lansroth loves to explore the boundless diversity of artists and the various ways in which they strive to escape the quotidian life. It is through the creative force within us that we must attempt to connect with one another and share our ideas with the world. Writing for Widewalls, Bob Lansroth makes an effort to bring the world of art to as many people as possible. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Imagine the most constricted, oppressive, dreary and bleak place you can, where the greyness of the walls only amplifies the depressive atmosphere of confinement. Prison… Now, imagine seventeen street artists doing their best to bring those grey, dull walls to life with epic works of huge-scaled murals. Recently, we’ve celebrated our 100th street update with the best murals from the past two years, but this is something completely different. 4661m² Project started out as a new challenge and an exciting idea, but ended up as an educational, sociological exploration of the role of art and our collective humanity. 4661m² Project is a Swiss prison mural program gathering 17 street artists to enter the confines of the new high security Lenzburg Prison in order to create artwork on exterior walls, hallways, courtyards and common areas. The number refers to the quantity of area and space that were embellished with stunning street art, and it is also the name of the project and the book which documented this massive artistic endeavor in its entirety. Over 1,000 spray cans, more than 18 months of hard work, countless hours spent painting on corridors, stairwells and vast outer walls, this is 4661m² Art in Prison.

4661m² Art In Prison . Malik . Claude Luethi. Niggli Imprint. Zurich . Malik. (photo © courtesy of 4661m²)
4661m² Art In Prison – Malik (photo © 4661m²)

An Idea Turned to the Biggest Street Art Project in Switzerland

Initiated in 2012 by Aarau-based street/graffiti/fine artist Malik, the idea, at first, didn’t include that many artists, nor was it aimed to become an endeavor of such magnitude. But, after the first tour of the prison and initial plans, Malik Claude soon realized the vast size of the walls would be too much for a one-man show, and it quickly became a much bigger thing. In fact, it was probably the biggest street art project in Switzerland. Marcel Ruf, the Director of the prison, wasn’t quite familiar with the full potential of street art and the artists involved, but he was very open to Malik’s offer and aware that the place desperately needed some color. With such a specific and different audience, all of the participating artists felt a certain responsibility, also taking in consideration the fact that these pieces will be gazed upon for years, or in some cases for the remainder of life.

4661m² Art In Prison . Malik . Claude Luethi. Niggli Imprint. Zurich. Ti Lain. (photo © 4661m²)
4661m² Art In Prison – Ti Lain (photo © 4661m²)

4661m² Project was a Unique Experience for Everyone Involved

With 17 artists involved in the creation of murals, the themes and subjects range from abstract, figurative and representational, to illustration, collage, and photo-realism. It was almost necessary to provide something for everyone, a display of wide variety. The finalized pieces even acquired the roles of visual signposts for navigation in the sometimes confusing maze of concrete. The book entitled 4661m² Art in Prison recounts the personal experiences and opinions of the participating artists, documents the prison workers’ thoughts and the thoughts of the prisoners themselves. Some of them were quite dismissive and critical, while others commented on the project with gratitude and praise. The experiences of the artists were also varying and showed different feelings and atmosphere that followed the creative processes. With most of them used to working in closed studios, or even making illegal street art while hiding from the suspecting eyes, in this unusual surroundings they were constantly monitored and under continuous surveillance.

4661m² Art In Prison . Malik . Claude Luethi. Niggli Imprint. Zurich. Artist featured on this page David Monllor. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
4661m² Art In Prison – Artist featured on this page David Monllor (photo © Jaime Rojo)

4661m² Art in Prison – Book

The book offers a unique insight into this amazing story, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the artwork that you wouldn’t normally get to see, unless you are on the inside of the prison. The concepts of freedom, captivity and human spirit were questioned by the artists both internally and through the artwork they’d made. Curated by Malik and Claude “Note” Luethi, 4661m² Project included Malik, Note, Onur, Chromeo, Shark, Ata Bozaci, Robert Proch, Nevercrew, Mizzo, Daniel Zeltner, David Monllor, Benjamin Solt, Lain, Ti, and Sarah Parsons as the participating artists. For more information about the book and project, visit 4661m2.com

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All images and the full story found on BrooklynStreetArt.com

Featured images: 4661m² Art In Prison – Malik at work (photo © 4661m²) 4661m² Art In Prison – Artist featured on this page Lain (photo © Jaime Rojo) 4661m² Art In Prison – Never Crew / Mizzo (photo © 4661m²)