Two dedicated fellows frequently roam the streets of Stockholm with posters and paste in their backpacks. Sometimes they walk around at nighttime, but mostly they perform what they call their work in broad daylight. Adam, also called Bacteria, uses a rare and minimalistic form of expression; the bacteria. He prints this simple form onto big papersheets and fixes them to housewalls, in pedestrian tunnels as well as on pillars and fences along construction sites, all over the city.
His friend, who goes by the alter ego Akay, tags along with his own marks; posters with distinct and vivid images of a modern world. One boasts: “We are the happy family” and shows three smiling faces in high contrast in a sort of 1950’s american suburb-lifestyle-feeling. Another displays an airplane in a WWII fashion and the slogan: “I want my planet back”. Another says: “Do not follow leaders”. Their art is becoming well-known in the swedish capital, and yet it is not legal, not even for sale.
How come you guys came up with the idea to poster the city with personal messages?
Akay: I was doing graffitti but was kind of tired of it in the early 90’s. I had noticed two guys in New York, Cost and Revs, who were doing this, going from graffitti to posters. They were a real inspiration. They started doing big paintings that weren’t that “slick”. And I liked the idea of getting stuff up in a city environment much faster and safer than regular graffitti.
Bacteria: I grew up in the center of Stockholm when the police already leaned heavy on graffitti-artists. I didn’t start with throw-ups on trains, instead I tried to adapt my art to fit the streets from the start. When I met Akay we discovered that we had a lot of similar ideas and we started doing posters together.
What’s the general idea of all this? Are you on a “mission”?
Akay: I produce my art because I don’t know anything else. I use messages or slogans but have no real put-together manifest, no real political view. I want the viewer to find some sort of message for himself. There’s no holy concept. For me it’s just the perfect way of getting some fresh air.
Bacteria: My thoughts are similar to Akay’s, but I use form only, no text. The message is in the eye of the beholder. I chose the bacteria because it is something unwanted, and un-controllable. I grows organically on everything, much like my art.
What kind of response do you get?
Bacteria: Stockholm is a small scene. What is plastered on the walls are also noticed by the general public. I get a lot of comments from people I know, and people I meet on the streets. Most like what we are doing.
Akay: And people send e-mails. “Street-art” has become a concept people are aware of. They often refer to Space Invader and Obey Giant, and I find people in general are positive to the street-art we’re into.
Have you ever considered “going commercial”? Working for an ad agency or a gallery?
Bacteria: Having our art in a gallery would be another forum altogether. We have to do something different then. Our art is entended for the streets. And a gallery puts a whole different pressure on us; an audience to answer to.
Akay: No. I just think working for an ad agency seems really boring.
Do you always work in pair?
Bacteria: We prefer working together but sometimes we go separate. I some situations its less eye-catching when we’re working alone. Akay: But of course it’s more fun to work together.
Do you think it’s possible to be “political” only by choosing certain aesthetics?
Akay: You might see some old russian propaganda-style aesthetics in my work, but I think that this is the kind of expression all kinds of governments and organisations used in the first half of the last century. The russians just did it best, that’s why they’re remembered. So there’s no real politics in just the way I express my art. But the actual act of plastering the art to the walls, is in a way political.
Why did you choose these aesthetics?
Akay: I didn’t really choose any special expression, it’s just easier to print this way. Nowadays I usually start with a photograph and then simplify it many times.
Bacteria: I chose the bacteria because it’s grateful to work with a form that can change a lot. In the beginning my stuff was more realistic, with membranes and everything. Now it’s much more stilistic and this shape lets me be both consequent and inconsequent at the same time.
Where do you draw the line between art and design?
Akay: the concept of art is really divided these days. I think it has a lot to do with what the artist or designer says he’s doing. I think design is generally used when somebody is trying to sell a product, while art stands for itself in a way. Bacteria: But of course an artist usually wants to sell his works too.
Any plans for the future?
Akay: I discussed that subject with my girlfriend last night and found out I don’t really have any long term plans. I go day by day. I have no specific goals, besides making a book together with Bacteria. It’s going to be a book where we put all our little ideas together somehow, we’re not really sure how yet.
Bacteria: I plan to continue to travel and do things abroad. So far we’re visited Copenhagen, Berlin, New York, Oslo, Paris and Tallinn and put our art on the streets. It’s a whole different story working in other cities. In Stockholm we’re built a reputation but when we put a poster up in New York we’re starting over fresh.
Akay: We will continue our other art-form too: “left-hand”. It’s easy: all you do is steal something in a store with your left hand and eat it up or bring it with you and do something good with it.
Bacteria: And we’re gonna continue working on our bicycles so we can get around really fast. We’re both got racers with one gear only. Very cool.
And finally, what kind of music do you enjoy?
Bacteria: I’m into jazz. Mostly pianojazz from the 60’s and 70’s. Like Herbie Hancock.
Akay: I love the Bangles. And NWA.
Akays homepage: www.akayism.com