Kunstrasen, a German street artist, recently had his first solo show opening at artROOM Konstanz. His artworks are embodiments of critique on social problems and mass-consumption of mass-production. In the world where one does not exist with the other, some artists are really eager to point out the inadequacies of those practices. Street art may seem as a perfect mean of expression and problematization of these ideas, but we came to the point where the urge to make changes has made it to another level with the migration into the gallery space. Or is it all because of profit? Irony-based artworks by Kunstrasen, presented at artROOM Konstanza, use that ideological momentum and continue on with the questioning of mechanisms in art world. With popularization of graffiti, quite a huge number of street artists appeared on the scene, often just leaning on well established success of the big names from the scene.
We had the exclusive chance to talk with Kunstrasen and he explained us background of his ongoing exhibition Rough Times for Dreamers and discourse of his art practices. Without further delay, we invite you to scroll down for this insightful interview with Kunstrasen.
Widewalls: Can you explain to our readers what inspired you to go by the name Kunstrasen?
Kunstrasen: I like the double meaning or different meaning that can be applied to the word Kunstrasen within the German language. Basically it means artificial turf but seen in a different context, taken apart and seen separately, the words Kunst (=art) and rasen (=to speed) come up with a different meaning. The fact that you have to take the word apart first and see it separately to come to the intended meaning is an approach that is often taken upon the concepts of my pieces so it probably represents a bit what I’m doing. Generally, I think it is very important to look at things and issues in life differently and not only the way we were taught, so I’m trying to promote that with the name. Kunstrasen probably also represents a bit the art form I’m using within the intended context.
Widewalls: Being a street artist, what made you decide to have an exhibition in the gallery space?
K: I’m not that sure I should be considered as a proper street artist. I do paint walls occasionally, but I’m at a stage where I do have to do it illegally most of the time. I much prefer doing my stencils with some time and peace of mind. When I started out, I simply cut and sprayed my stencils at home mainly on cardboard, wood sometimes or other found object. When I liked them I dropped them on the streets somewhere, not sure if that can be considered as street art. The step from there to work on canvas was very small and once you work on canvas you might as well do an exhibition in a gallery space. I don’t have an issue showing my work in a setting like that, and to be honest no one else seems to have that anymore either. I actually enjoy working on canvas, it opens up some other possibilities for ideas, for example doing a bit of art around or about art which I like.
Widewalls: When starting to contemplate on a new street art project, are you thinking in terms of implementation that new artwork in the gallery space later?
K: No, definitely not. Once it is a street art project it’s only about the setting on the streets. Though I’m doing stencils that I only spray on canvas, some projects just work in that context. Just as others only work on the street.
Widewalls: The press-release for Rough Times for Dreamers started with Banksy’s statement. Do you think that statement could be re-appropriated by crossing also Banksy’s name?
K: In my opinion there would be no point to do that. It would take away the spontaneous humor that Banksy applied to the quote and that is what it is about in this case. To me personally spontaneity is a very important thing when it comes to humor or irony, joke telling out of one’s memory for entertainment reasons isn’t that funny and the quote would turn a bit into something like that when crossing out the name again. If some more crossing out would be needed I’d go for the bad and great in front of the artist. That to me is too much of a subjective matter and way too often in the art world it is down to dynamics to happen or not weather an artist is to be considered great or not in the end. To me artistic value within a body of work is not that measurable and as said a fair bit subjective. Also the border between imitating and stealing is for sure a bit blurry, but surely no one would need a quote Artists imitate, artists steal.
Widewalls: Do you think that dreamers are always having a rough time?
K: It’s hard to say as an individual with little exchange about it. From personal experience I’d say it can lead towards both good and rough times, depending on the intensity and how the dreaming is accepted and integrated by the surrounding of the individual being a dreamer as well as by the dreamer itself. Too much of it most likely leads to isolation of some sort, within or even in a sociable context, to little of it probably takes away a lot of the valuable experiences in life. A lot of good things can come out of dreaming if the space for it is given, but nowadays I increasingly experience that a lot of values are set on capacities that collide with dreaming. When it’s all about functioning, achieving, gaining credibility, conformity, money, career and all the other stuff that is more and more valued in a growingly capitalistic society, dreaming might be seen as some sort of disease by some which is holding the dreamer back from joining the madness. Dreamers tend to have values in life that differs a bit from those of the masses, I’d say. So dreamers are probably not looking at the brightest future at the moment, therefore Rough Times for Dreamers.
Widewalls: Rough Times for Dreamers will try to ask some new questions or to answer the existing ones?
K: Rough Times for Dreamers will try to give everyone the space and inspiration to make out of it what each individual will make out of it through their own personal perception, experience and personality. Maybe for some a few new questions will be asked, maybe for others some exciting ones answered.
Widewalls: How much did nature of street art changed since street artists are exhibiting in galleries on a daily basis and how are these changes being implemented in the world of street art?
K: Hard for me to answer this question…I only picked up what I’m doing now a couple of years ago. I remember seeing Banksy in a gallery while living in London. That was probably around 2002. It surely has gotten all much bigger since then with all the issues that come with something growing and becoming more popular. That often is seen as a problem, as something which will destroy street art in is initial nature. But has it gotten so different by getting bigger? I’m wondering then if I’m myself more part of the problem rather than part of the scene. So probably I’m not qualified to answer that question as much as the ice breaking heroes of the scene. I have to admit though that I utterly enjoy what I’m doing either way and I’m not ashamed to be no hero.
Widewalls: What is the future of street art in your opinion?
K: I expect street art to continue to grow in popularity, in the end it is to be considered a fairly new art form to still be discovered by many. It will probably continue to blend in with other art forms and aspects of society. Maybe reinvent itself from time to time. Then at some point something new will come up which will slowly push street art from the radar of many. Surely it will be something that will stay. In the end people have been putting messages or statements of visual or inspirational nature on walls throughout human history.
Widewalls: Is a mass production an enemy or an ally of the art?
K: I’d say ally of the artist, but enemy of the art itself.
Widewalls: The field may be Astroturf (Kunstrasen), but what sport are we playing?
K: That is a very cool sounding but in my eyes slightly silly question which I don’t quite know how to answer. That it is so cool sounding might answer the question a bit itself though. I might get into crocheting in the long run, never really have been one of the cool kids.
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