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PEOPLEText: Andreas Pihlstrom, Nanok Bie

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.

“The beauty lies in the act”. Swedish street-artists Akay and Bacteria caught in action.

How come you guys came up with the idea to poster the city with personal messages?

Akay: I was doing graffiti 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 graffiti 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 graffiti.

Bacteria: I grew up in the center of Stockholm when the police already leaned heavy on graffiti 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.

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Yuka Kasai