Our French compatriots over at guillotine had the chance to speak with one of the graffiti world’s most notable and down-to-earth personalities in Futura 2000 on one of his recent stops in Paris. The interview touches on an in-depth level with some comprehensive insight from the artist who’s relevance has spanned a few different generation of street artists. A selection of our favorite answers can be seen below.
You started writing your name as a graffiti writer out of a strong desire to communicate. What’s driving you 40 years later?
I still want to communicate, I really do, yeah! It’s just that today it’s not happening that way. Today it’s happening online. What I’m trying to do with my Flickr, my own site, which is just, you know, nothing special, is share my personal experience, which I think is just as interesting as my work, maybe more actually. I mean today it’s easier to communicate that we once did with a marker and spray paint; it’s not limited to writing on the wall. Everyone’s doing it in a different way. Some people communicate through their sense of fashion, some people are writing, some people take photos. I’m trying to make a creative medium. For the moment, I find myself really into this whole photographic period.
You’ve seen a massive evolution of the graffiti art form since your start in the 70’s. What’s you opinion of the scene nowadays?
There are few things happening in the streets right now. One of them is this real sort of “push it”, new people coming on into the street, doing works in the street and this is what I would call real street art, somebody like BLU, there’s one sort of muralistic style. And then, there’s also C215, it has become a central community with many different characters. There’s been this sort of traditional graffiti community and it’s becoming like in “Back in the Days” at the beginning, with taggers… So you have two worlds now. We had like the Very Good and the Very Bad. I’m less in touch with street art as I once was. But the one I can see, the energy of all of this city is being transformed by those artists, and there’s more street art now than there ever was, even when it was only graffiti writers, it wasn’t artists thinking “Hey, maybe I can do something new using the public space!” So yeah, I’m in support of the beautiful muralists and the kind of vandals using scratching.
You said you were putting commercial collaborations on the background for a bit. Is that something you really want to do when you know how successful a collaboration with yourself can be?
I know! What I meant by that was I’m not going to work with like every fucking company… Like everybody in New York that I know… (Glltn: “Wants to work with you?”)… Yeah exactly! So I think I went through that year of like, “OK…” And it’s not like I’m married to Nike but you know, I have my relationship with them, and I’m always going to have something happening with them, whether it’s the Lance Armstrong project now that I’m part of so maybe we’re going to have things coming, or future shoes… Hopefully next year I’m going to come back to Le Tour de France and be part of that again. So yeah, what happened is that I got to saturated out there with too many different things and I mean, yeah, I guess everyone feels like “Oh we do a project with Futura, it will be OK!”. Usually those things were always kind of limited anyway so it’s just like it’s too easy you know. But in the end, I don’t really benefit from that thing, you know what I mean? I’m more like hooking up somebody. So it’s like ok, stop, stop.
Your brand Futura Laboratories is extremely successful in Japan and is considerably growing internationally. What part do you play in the brand? Do you make all the designs?
I submit all of the Futura content, whatever it’s like: my work, a lot of graphic ideas that I’m generating. We also have designers, we have artists working for the company. Everything is approved by me. But for the most part, as far as specifically, like: “we’re going to make a belt, we’re going to make a bag , etc.” No, I allow the company to make those decisions based on whatever the popularity of an item is, what’s so special to them. But one thing about FL I’m really happy about, and I love my guys there, they work really hard for the brand, is doing great collaborations. We’ve done some with Clarks, with Descente, in the past we had a program with North Face, so we’ve done some cool collaborations. Some being sold exclusively for Japan or whatever… So I’m doing the brand out of Japan but I’m not trying to make it a really international brand because then it’s going to become too big for me to kind of control, and we’re doing well so… We’re a small company, we’re in Fukuoka, you know, we’re not in Tokyo. So the development of the company, well for 4 years now…hmmm 5 years, it’s going very well, you know, gradual, very gradual.
You are a Flickr heavy user and you share your pictures on a daily basis. Has this new medium strengthen your relation with your fans?
It’s weird I mean… It’s funny because it’s the only place… I’m not on social networks: I’m not on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, I can’t do all of that but through the last 10 years, I’ve been putting photos on the web, whether it’s on Recon, 5th Dimension, you know, whatever my mystery of online presence: “Oh Futura is there!”, “Oh he’s putting photos here!” You know, I always liked that whole idea. And so Flickr is the most amazing in that… I mean I will always answer comments, so I’m a little bit surprised that… you know I think when you get people they watch, it’s more like voyeurism than participation but I honestly want them to participate because for the moment this is where you can get me, this is where you can actually get me, you know. And if you really say something about a photo I will comment back and if you say something interesting then we could start a dialogue. It’s not like, I don’t have some people doing this shit for me, it’s ME! I’m sitting there, I’m the one! You know, everyday I’m uploading! Come to me! Flickr is interesting because, you know when I first joined I was trying to be in groups. I see how the program works, the application, but I want to change it, I don’t want it to be the way it is. I want to remake it , like my kind of version. And the thing is that groups, when you’re joining these groups, you get bullshit comments. Say something really, don’t say “Great capture!”. There are always clichés like “Great photo!”, “Awesome light!”, blablabla. It’s like, no dude, tell me a story! Engage me so that we can have the feeling that… So I want it to become more like that, like this is the secret place where if you know about me and you think you know about me… you can almost pretend to really know me by having this thing with me. So I think it’s intimidating, mostly I understand. My son is telling me “Dad, you’re giving them way too much! They can’t deal with the content.” It’s probably true but we’ll see… I like the medium. I’m trying to make my son to design something that looks like Flickr, but it’s not Flickr and it’s not Flickriver either. We want to make a Black Flickr! So there’s one kid we know, he can do it, this guy is amazing, a programmer, so we’re kind of working on that. We want to do our own version! And maybe even make it like our own social network; we want to create our own social network! We’ll see, it’s kind of in development right now, but that would be fun, yeah!