Wooster Collektive – Streetblog #1

von Moritz Stellmacher

Vor etwa zehn Jahren gingen zwei Dinge so richtig los: Street Art und das Internet. Wooster Collective verbindet beides, denn es ist der erste und wichtigste Street Art Blog der Welt. Seit 2001 kümmern sich Marc und Sara Schiller aus New York liebevoll um ihre Website, deren erklärtes Ziel es ist, kurzlebige Kunst aus der ganzen Welt zu zeigen und zu feiern. Damit haben sie Erfolg, Wooster Collective gilt in der Szene seit Jahren als Instanz. Wer hier erwähnt wird, hat es geschafft. PROUD traf die beiden Blogger während ihrer Berlinreise zu einem Interview im Hatch Stickermuseum.

You started Wooster Collective almost ten years ago in 2001. Where did you get the idea? Were you artists yourself?

Marc: Around 2001, we moved to Wooster Street in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. I was walking our dog Hudson, when I noticed all this street art. At the time, the area was exploding with street art; new stickers and posters and stencils went up every day. I had just been to Japan and bought a digital camera, which was new at the time, and so I started taking pictures of the pieces I saw while walking the dog. After a while, there were so many pictures that they started clogging up my hard drive, so I wanted to delete them.Sara intervened and suggested we post them online in order to preserve them while still saving space, and this is how Wooster Collective started.

Sara: Back in 2001, Flickr didn’t exist yet, so this was a fairly new thing to do. In 2003, we got our hands on some blogging software, and thus started one of the first blogs on the Internet. Around that time, we reviewed a show, and the curator sent our link to about 200 artists. That was the tipping point and from then on, Wooster Collective snowballed to what it is today.

You must get a lot of submissions. Have you ever felt a sense of being overwhelmed by the blog?

Marc: It’s not so much the blog, but all the e-mails we get. We struggle to respond to all of them. This is a very personal project, it’s just Sara and I and we do as much as we can.

In your personal taste, when do you consider a piece of street art to be good?

Marc: We don’t have any specific criteria. When something makes an impression on us, when it’s passionate or clever or humorous, that’s what we like.

Sara: In general we are fans of things that are site specific, of pieces that work only in the one place they are displayed in. We like pieces that include the architecture and the context of the surroundings, which corresponds to the earlier questions about legal vs. illegal art. For a piece to be site specific, it usually has to be illegal. Recently, we have become much more focused on public space. Especially in New York there’s a lot of bad advertising, a lot of illegal advertising billboards. As members of a community, as parents of a daughter, we focus on the balance of art and advertising in an area. That’s what we love about Berlin: There’s so much art here in such small areas, for example the huge BLU murals near “Club der Visionäre” in Kreuzberg.

A while ago, you have been invited to the White House. Can you tell us more about that experience?

Marc: When the Obama administration took office, they invited 30 national art organizations to talk about the importance of art for America. We were thrilled to be invited and it was a great session. Aside from Upper Playground, we were the only urban art focused party.

What was the result of the meeting?

Marc: That’s hard to say. In fact, the administration got quite some heat for that meeting. The opposition was upset that art was used in a political context, and by now, many of the people behind the organization of the event have resigned.

From a European standpoint, antigraffiti legislation in the United States seems particularly harsh. How do you view anti-graffiti legislation and if you were the lawmaker, what would you propose?

Marc: In the beginning, we were very skeptical of legal graffiti walls, as it was too expected for our taste. But over time, we developed an understanding for the legal side of things. I believe that to display its full power, street art or graffiti needs to be illegal. But then again, for artists to work, to make a living and to do bigger projects, they rely on cooperation with the law for permissions and such.

I believe the Papergirl project could serve as a prototype for street art to come: Flash mobs meeting urban art. Where do you see the development going? What’s the future of the scene in your eyes?

Sara: That’s the great thing about street art: Anyone can participate. The rules are the same for everyone. The exciting thing for me is the use of technology. The young people of today have a deep understanding of technology; they know how to use and what to make of new programs, techniques and materials. I think we will see more use of technology in Street Art.

Just like many subcultures before, street art has been subjected to commercialization. As someone who knows both sides, how do you feel about this?

Marc: We don’t want to judge artists decisions. Artists have to pay rent, too, and we get frustrated by the discussion about whether or not someone is selling out. When anything has power, people want to steal it. Obviously brands are always looking for fresh ideas, but there will always be young artist who are one step ahead.

Sara: We believe there are two forms of commercialization, one we resent and one we understand. One the one hand, you have artists who are willing to adapt their style to a brand, which is their decision and okay. On the other hand, you have brands who just steal the work or style of other people without consent, which is not okay. We believe artists evolve and grow, and decisions differ whether you are 18 or 28. In New York, there’s also a legal side to this discussion. When artists go to jail for a few days, are persecuted by police, have to pay fines and so on, they sometimes want to take a break from illegality while still doing art. I respect that.

What three websites do you browse regularly that you would recommend?

Marc: That’s tough, there are so many. I would say swiss-miss.com, notcot.com and ekosystem.org.


Interview Lukas Kampfmann

Grafik Moritz Stellmacher

Moritz Stellmacher

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