Wednesday, July 11
Tristan Manco interview
1) What excites you about events like the Difusor Festival in Barcelona?

I think what's to be applauded with this festival is how they have made links with the local community which is hosting the event.
Instead of operating in a bubble - there is a dialogue taking place.

2)For many years, Barcelona has had a strong tradition of public urban art; however the city council is now enforcing a zero tolerance against it. What impact do you think this will have on the whole public art movement?

I have been visiting Barcelona once a year for quite a while now so I can feel the difference in the last couple of years. Zero tolerance has meant less graffiti and graffiti tourism particularly in the historic centre. Whereas a few years ago Barcelona attracted artists from across the Europe and the World who came for holidays and left their mark on the graffiti scene (with or without local artists. I think the local scene is strong artistically and politically but today they do less work in the centre of the city or make work in other cities. Another consequence of zero tolerance is that the graffiti in the centre tends be more vandalistic - quick tags as opposed to murals.

If you talk about "public art" in a more traditional sense - for example commissioned murals and sculptures. Its possible that this pervading conservatism and zero tolerance could lead to less public murals being commissioned. As was discussed in the Difusor talks - cities are becoming grey, homogenous and more commercial spaces where economics are placed first. It would be a shame if Barcelona a city famous for its its Miro sculptures and Gaudi buildings turned into a grey shopping mall.

3) Could events like Difusor make the city rethink its zero tolerance approach to public art?

Difusor's main base was at a local community centre with open access - people at grass roots level could experience everything for themselves. The idea was to take away the stigma and mystique surrounding street art - to openly display and promote its creativity.

Events like this provide a focus - bringing people together. While they are great fun for the artists they are a good public relations exercise and an open dialogue. It was nice to witness local people remarking on the new murals which they could see from their windows and to hear them congratulating the artists on their work. If the work is being appreciated by the local community then at least you have made a positive statement to make about graffiti art and artists.

4) In the talk you gave at the festival, you spoke about the strange relation between public art and galleries; do you think street art, graffiti art and all kind of public art should remain in the public space? do they have a place in a gallery?

By definition street art and graffiti only exists in public space. The gallery space imposes parameters which are not found in free space therefore altering the context of the work. Price tags are applied to works in commercial galleries, while cultural institutions present art in an formal vacuum. In monetary and cultural terms this changes the work. This is not to say that work created by graffiti artists should not be shown in galleries, just to point out the obvious differences. There have been some successes in presenting new art forms particularly in shows like Street Market and Beautiful Losers which were curated and presented in original ways. Personally I have been to some terrific gallery shows by Graffiti artists such as Blu, Os Gemeos and Barry McGee. The art contained is not "graffiti art" but what's been learnt on the streets has informed the work presented: Os Gemeos's intricate installations, Barry McGee's innovative use of space and materials and Blu's drawings all have an street influence - alongside many other personal influences.

5) You've seen the walls where the artists have been painting during the Difusor festival, has any particular piece or artist caught your attention? Generally, what did you think of the standard of the work you've seen?

Difusor owes some of its history to Stencil Project which was held in Paris in 2004. It was great to see some of the same artists in Barcelona too. It would be unfair to pick out some artists over others but there were some great artists that I didn't know before. I would advise anyone interested to explore the Difusor flickr pool to find their own new favourites.

6) Where would you like to see the next stencil art event take place?

I heard a rumour Poland - which would be great.

7) How would you like to see public art evolve in the future?

It would be interesting to know what survives in the future. We keep discovering tombs and frescos from the past, I wonder if anything will be left of spraycan culture in thousands of years time.

stencils and petanqua: Difusor exposes street art to the local community... on that occasion though, they couldn't have cared less! Silencio and Fremantle, on the other hand, were fascinated by the petanqua.