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By: Caroline Cummings

WK Interact is a French born artist who lives and works in New York City. He has shown extensively in galleries and his work can be seen on the streets of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. While he has received great public renown and worked with some of today's greatest street artists, he continues to place public pieces that are socially provoking and visually magnificent.

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Thirsty: You are originally from a small village in the South of France. You told me your surroundings and the many museums in your hometown prompted you to become an artist at an early age. How did you move from this institutional and classical background to working on the streets?

WK Interact: Coming from the South of France, 18 Years old, living in the surrounding of that context of different, quite famous museums, like Le Feu National and Picasso and also having the chance to see all these other artists, Calder. Giacometti, I mean there are so many different artists but I was not really inspired by this, but my town was surrounded by all of that, and I kinda started to be implicated to do stuff on the street without really knowing what was going on. I didn't really know that there was something going on in the street because I was living in this tiny little village. You don't really need to apply anything to the walls where I am from. There are these beautiful little streets with little houses and they are very old. The village is at least 600 years old and it is not nice (nor appropriate) to paste things to the exterior there.

I think I was actually trying to escape this beauty. This is one of the reasons which drove me to move to a city like New York City, a very futuristic, very urban, very different, the weather, the color, the architecture, the structure and the lay out.

When I was eighteen years old I decided to visit the States and the first time I came here I did a big tour of the US, and New York City impacted me incredibly.

I returned to my town six months later and I decided to restructure my style. The way I was drawing was very much suitable to my town but I think the impact of New York and this kind of energy influenced me to evolve.

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I started to work and picked the thing I really liked (about New York), which was all this motion, and I stretched an image of myself on a motorcycle and became fascinated with these graphics, applying them full size. I started on work in my town and as I realized before, it was very difficult to apply my images around and so I decided to come back to the States.

I was sure, 99 percent sure that for the type of work I was doing, that New York was to be a perfect match. That is the reason that I came back, I was 21 years old and I started to work on pieces for the street, planning which corner, which street, and finding the best locations connected with motion.

It was a serious project. It was like trying to escape from jail.. It was impossible to create anything. I did not speak English and it was entirely a challenge. I was changing and trying to see if I could escape my classical past, and trying to see if I could grab something from the street and tell a story. Coming to New York was a big challenge for me.

Did you immediately start to place work on the streets randomly or did you search out particular locations?

For me it was most important to create an image that affected the people who viewed the work. It was necessary to find a location that was going to give me the subject to do it (to tell this story). It took me months to finally find a location and it was the most difficult part, because I couldn't find the right location. I was new to the environment and was not looking at things from six feet but 360 degrees.

The stuff in the street had to be full size and scaled to a human. I wanted to really interact with the location and with the people passing by.

Where was this?

A lot were in SoHo, the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn. I wanted to create something very powerful and I then realized it had to be even bigger because this city is so large it had to be on a grander scale.

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You have mentioned to me many times that your work is connected to film and photography. Explain what you mean.

A lot of my work is based on film and photography. I am firstly a photographer and have been fascinated by taking photographs since I was young. I also love movies and storyboards.

Now that you have been in New York for 18 years have you found any other city that inspires you in this way?

No, because New York was one of the biggest, gritty cities full of garbage with incredible strength and incredibly strong buildings with something falling apart across the street. Unfortunately, now everything is being cleaned. I basically need to go to Brooklyn or some place even further from that (cleanliness).

What role do the objects you find on the street play in your work?

I do like found objects and giving them a new life, like that something being molded by the streets. If you go to the beach there are all these beautiful rocks that have incredible shapes because they have been changed by the water and the sand. An object that you find in the street - you can be blended within a piece growing like something organic still retaining its original energy. Buildings also poses those properties. It is important to emphasize that type of 'life', to not forget the vitality of an old pair of shoes, or cracked leather and a damaged sole, curved with certain corners so you can tell what the wearer was like.

The three dimensional motion in my work comes from real objects that I incorporate into my work. When I work on the streets, the buildings become the object, the faceted wall, parts of a door. My outside work is similar to the work that I do inside because of this. It took me a long time to slowly progress and achieve what I think to be interesting artwork.

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I like old or aging objects and perhaps this is because of my upbringing. For instance, new wood is dead, the energy is just not there. That is why I have a problem with this new type of artwork, with toys, they can be beautiful but, it is for kids, it has not yet 'lived', it does not touch me. An old piece of wood you find in the streets is fantastic because I can think about how many times it has been used.

Far behind the idea of my work is very plain very flat. I do have a philosophy that some people may not see or understand, they just see a plain, futuristic, graphic field, and the power of my image, but this is not the most important thing. What is important is where I am putting the image, why I picked one door and not the other and why I am choosing one object and not another. To some there may not be any connection considering the location, but maybe some can read it.

The street has some kind of freedom, an anarchistic way of expressing oneself, nothing or anything, you can be nobody and put something there, at the same time you touch a larger public. The beauty is that it is a gift you are putting there for free. Nobody is paying you and you may get caught, but in exchange you have a wide reaction from the people the way they interpret the work. I did not do this for that reason at first and it took me a long time to realize this. I eventually found out what I was putting on the street was touching a larger public, not just the people of New York, but from many different countries. That was very intriguing. That's my payment, this interaction from people who may not even like my work but I am interested in hearing what they have to say, what their reactions are.

It is so beautiful to touch someone that you may never be able to talk to, this person could be woman, tall man or child, and affect them with just a little bit a thought of your own. Without the fact that I had to be in a museum or one of these famous person and it makes me keep doing it, and just say well, after all, if I am getting well known now it is because of these people. I will never forget this. It is almost like giving to getting.


All opinions expressed by Caroline Cummings are solely her own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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