If you find yourself in Amsterdam by the end of December, make sure you visit the famous area under the red lights. There will be much to see, of course: sex shops, strip clubs and some rodent pin-up girls framed and hung across the narrow streets. In a unique art exhibition, artist Luiz Risi created The Red Mice District, a project featuring sensual mice and seductive rats drawn and installed at various strategic location in and around the famous Red Light District of Amsterdam; a journey which culminates in an exhibition at Vroom & Varossieau, open through December 31st, 2016. Behind this curious street art intervention lies the idea that many cities are infested with mice: we know they’re there, yet they seem invisible. Luiz Risi played with this idea, giving the rodents some more attention within a city he always thought of as ”the Disneyland for adults.”
We talked to Luiz Risi about his alternate world, the inspiration behind it and its next location! Have a read below.
Widewalls: How did The Red Mice District come to be? Was it a commissioned project?
Luiz Risi: The Red Mice District started with a commissioned work for the Cafe Belgique pub in Amsterdam back in the day. It first appeared in this big drawing The City of Lost Mice, which shows a miniature version of De Wallen filled up with famous mouse characters. It became clear to me that people really liked the female mice. I was looking for a concept that I could create a collection of street art pictures out of.
Widewalls: Did you choose the location of artworks randomly? Or is there a conceptual path one should follow?
LR: Yes; for me is more about where it fits, it's a very crowded area. What I try to do is to cover the area and the surroundings of the Red Light District map that I created for the project. I wanted to bring this touristic element in the work that you can go and visit the actual district.
Widewalls: What was the response to the artworks outdoors? We hear they get stolen a lot.
LR: I wouldn’t say stolen, because it’s street art... it’s just there; it’s very temporary, like any other piece on the wall. If someone takes the effort and the tools to take them away, I will take that as a compliment… I just wanted to have the chance to meet these people one day, while wearing knucklebusters.
Widewalls: What drew you towards pin-up culture in particular?
LR: I always liked weird comic books and ‘naughty’ artists like Robert Crumb, Namio Harukawa, George Petty, Milo Manara and others. I used to collect the ‘Heavy Metal’ Magazine when I was a kid, it was a classic in the 90's.
Widewalls: How appealing is it to the society of today, in your opinion?
LR: I’m not sure how appealing it is, but I believe it's definitely a very polemic subject. I guess the existence of the Red Light District is already a big deal, there are not many places like this around the world and I think that's what attracts me to do something over there.
Widewalls: Your illustrative art is all about Popular culture references. What is it that makes it such an inexhaustible source of inspiration for you?
LR: I like to build my own stories inside other stories. For me, it is like doing a caricature of things that I love. It's fun to mess with these references and create my own version of them. I have a dark sense of humor and I think that helps me come up with shit like that.
Widewalls: What can you tell us about the collaborations with The London Police, Joe Holbrook, Wayne Horse and others? What kind of projects did you work on?
LR: I did a mural with The London Police a long time ago; two years later, we found out that was featured on the cover of a book called "Cute Graffiti'; I still don't know if this is good or bad. We have been friends for many years and it was natural to have the boys participating on The Red Mice District project. When I was living in Amsterdam, I used to share the studio with them. They are a big inspiration for me and they were massive times! During that period, they were doing a series of songs called The Dog Singers; I really liked it, so I asked Chaz if he could help me create some music for the Red Mice District film. It was a lot of fun to do and I love the way my friend Niels from the Audentity sound studio mixed everything we did in one song. My other friends collaborated in many different ways on the project, I got a lot of help.
Widewalls: Can we expect other Red Mice Districts in some other cities? Where should we head to next?
LR: Yes; since I moved to France, I have been working on the next chapter of the project; it's a French version of it called: Le Quartier Rouge De Mini Souries. :)
Featured images: Luiz Risi - Geldersekade, Red Mice District Amsterdam; Luiz Risi - Bethaniënstraat, Red Light District, Amsterdam; Left Luiz Risi - Moulin Rouge Mouse, 2016 Right Luiz Risi - Tricot Rayé Mouse, 2016; Left Luiz Risi - Miss Ratazanna Rat, 2016 Right Luiz Risi - Punk Rat, 2016; Left Luiz Risi - Forger Mouse, 2015 Right Luiz Risi - Devil Mouse, 2016; Left Luiz Risi - Melissa Rat Right Luiz Risi - French Maid Mouse. All images and videos courtesy the artist and Vroom & Varossieau.