You are here: Home > Travel News > T Magazine: Asked & Answered | Tilt

T Magazine: Asked & Answered | Tilt

One of the six hotel rooms Au Vieux Panier that doubles as an art installation, Panic Room was designed by French graffiti artist Tilt.Big AddictOne of the six hotel rooms in Au Vieux Panier that doubles as an art installation, ”Panic Room” was designed by the French graffiti artist Tilt.

The stately hôtel particulier Au Vieux Panier sits on one of the many labyrinthine cobblestone streets in the hillside district of Le Panier, Marseille’s oldest neighborhood and home to a thriving art scene. Formerly a Corsican grocer, this 17th-century building was converted into a boutique hotel in 2010 by the Franco-British entrepreneur Jessica Venediger with a unique focus. “Sleep in a work of art” is the experience promised there, and because the hotel doubles as an installation art gallery, it delivers exactly that.

To design each of the six rooms (which change from year to year), Venediger enlisted the talents of six audacious artists, each selected for their wildly different styles. Among the latest collection of art rooms opened last month is the visually stimulating “Panic Room” — a part graffiti, part stark-white installation designed by Tilt, the 39-year-old internationally acclaimed French graffiti artist and reformed bad boy from Toulouse. Given carte blanche by Venediger, Tilt sought to play with the notion of perspective and in doing so, question the role of graffiti today. The Moment caught up with Tilt on his return from Valencia to talk about inspiration and chaos.

Big AddictAbove, acclaimed graffiti artist Tilt inside “Panic Room.”

How did you find graffiti?

I discovered graffiti in the streets in the late ’80s, but I had no idea what it was. It was pretty new in Europe, but I immediately liked the big letters and shapes. 2pon and Declic were the pioneers in my city and when I met 2pon, he became my mentor. He’s the one that introduced me to the two books on graffiti in New York — “Spraycan Art” and “Subway Art” — and I knew it was going to become important in my life.

I was also really into skateboarding at the time. It’s mainstream today, but back then it was only something practiced in the street. This is similar to graffiti — both are about using the public domain to appropriate a place. When skateboarders talk about a spot, they talk about their spot — their bench, their curb and their stairs. Graffiti is exactly the same and, in many ways, they’re part of the same culture. I liked the idea of the city becoming mine.

You lived in New York for two years. What did you like most about living and working there?

I really went there to find a place and create a moment where I would be completely by myself. When you do graffiti the way I do it, you’re always surrounded by people. I got to the point where I wanted to be by myself for a while just to try to find my own style and develop something personal. I took a studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and really tried to find my own language. But I felt a lot of pressure. So I escaped that by traveling a lot to Asia, Europe and South America. Just to breathe a little bit. Even if I couldn’t enjoy New York City as I had wanted to, there was something inspirational and almost unreal about being there. I ended up buying a Vespa and exploring the city that way. I’d go from Brooklyn to the Bronx and spend five hours just watching people in the street and taking photos. I felt so much freedom.

New York can have that effect on people. Does it still inspire you?

Yeah, that experience still plays a big role in my work. When I was trying to think of what my personal language could be, I wanted my letters to remain the focal point. So many street artists feel like if they keep letters in their work, they won’t get into galleries because their stuff will look too much like graffiti! To me, that’s really shocking.

I think New York artists accept their origins better. What we used to do on trains in the ’80s — most of which has completely been erased — is what we’re doing on canvas today. For the sake of history, I think it’s really important to keep that style, to preserve where we came from.

So you think it’s the context and the environment that legitimizes graffiti for most people?

Definitely. A lot of the graffiti that people have a problem with is the stuff on trains, garbage cans and doors. The thing is, if you apply even the ugliest, most basic graffiti to a different situation or environment — like a gallery or hotel — people’s perspective changes drastically.

Every graffiti artist has an identifiable symbol or style — what would you say is your trademark? Did you use it in the “Panic Room?”

My bubble letters. They’re the rounded letters I use to form images in most of my work and what I use to do illegal graffiti in the streets. I used to do the classic New York graffiti, which is called Wild Style, but it is way more detailed and focused. I would do big productions like that by day with my friends, but at night I kept doing illegal graffiti with bubble letters and I enjoyed it so much more. I liked the curves of the letters and even the way my body would move when I’d do it. It was fun. Slowly people started to recognize and appreciate me for it.

There are some bubble letters in “Panic Room” but primarily on the floor or on the ceiling. Most of the room was covered by tags and drips — especially the dirty kind you’d see on garbage cans or doors.

What are your materials of choice?

I work with a little bit of everything — acrylics, markers, spray paint, stain glass paint — but I prefer to work with spray paint.

How did you first meet Jessica Venediger of Au Vieux Panier?

She is my former roommate’s ex-girlfriend, and we got to know each other before she moved to Marseille six years ago.

When Jessica approached you about designing a room, did you immediately jump on board?

When she first moved to Marseille, Jessica was already talking about the boutique hotel idea and how she wanted to bring in artists she admired to design a few rooms. A couple years later I saw that she had actually started the project and I was really impressed. One day she e-mailed me to be part of Season 2, but I was in New York and not really interested in projects like this. Like I said, I was trying to find my own voice at that time. Then when I got back to Toulouse she asked me again to participate in Season 3. I looked at what she’d done with the previous collections but it was mostly decorative — collages, nice wallpaper, playing with light, etc. I told her that if I was going to do it, I wanted it to be more of an installation — to make it a real experience to spend a night in the room. I thought my idea was going to be too intense, but she was really into it.

You’ve transformed a bare, unemotional space into a striking dichotomy. What inspired the half-graffiti/half-white design and what does it symbolize for you?

There are two things. In October 2010 when I came back from New York, I had this big, three-level show at the Celal Galerie. On the ground level, there was a round room and I wanted to recreate the crappy, cheap hotel rooms I used as backdrops for the girls I photographed for my Bubble Girls project: I installed it all — the room, the lights, the ceiling, etc. Then I destroyed everything — the mirror, the bathroom, the curtains, everything. I put a girl on the bed, on the white sheets and sprayed her. When she left the bed, you saw her white silhouette kind of like a crime scene. Then I put her against the white wall, photographed her and photographed the room so it formed a kind of puzzle. I thought it was interesting to have something pure in the middle of something destroyed.

The Making of Tilt’s “Panic Room.”

So when Jessica asked me to do the room, I wanted to destroy it like I did for the gallery, but I thought that might be too much. Having a white section in the middle of this kind of chaos is interesting to me. When my team and I went to visit the space before painting, I really didn’t know whether it would look cool or cheap but once the furniture was in place and we saw the contrast, it seemed to work. My girlfriend was actually the one to recommend keeping some white space.

The chaos represents the graffiti people really don’t like. The kind you find in abandoned factories or places where homeless people live. This “no man’s land” exists in every city I’ve visited. What interested me about applying this kind of hard-core graffiti to the room was being able to put people in a situation where they’d never find themselves otherwise, an uncomfortable environment. The white was the balance to help people sleep and help them see the chaos as a positive. It’s unbelievable how this kind of excessive graffiti is exactly what a lot of people hate but because it’s in a hotel room they find it intriguing. I guess I managed to show that graffiti is all about perspective.

You’ve used the word “destroy” a number of times. What does that mean to you?

In graffiti terminology, “destroy” means full of tags, graffiti pieces. Some people even use the word “dead ” to describe a train, a truck or a wall full of tags and graffiti.

You have traveled extensively around the world both for work and pleasure — how did these experiences play into your design for Au Vieux Panier?

A: I used to travel to Manila a lot; I love it there. Like every city, you have the nice neighborhoods with expensive shops and big buildings, but it’s not the real Manila. The real Manila is where people write on walls, where it is dirty. For me, there’s beauty in those dirty walls, in the curtains made from plastic bags, and that’s a kind of chaos, for me. In my work today, if I look at my canvases, I try to reproduce those dirty walls. I try to destroy my letters, have less controlled lines. It was the same thing for the Panic Room. I don’t like clean stuff — I prefer the streets of Manila, downtown L.A., the dirty streets of Singapore … it reflects my nature. I want to translate that in my work.

What challenges did you encounter while designing the room?

A: Because it was January and snowing, one of the problems was not being able to air out the room. We used a lot of spray paint so the fumes were intense. Even if you use masks, the smell gets really uncomfortable. We would paint furiously for 30 minutes, take a break and open the windows, paint again for a bit, then take another break. It would have been more fun in the summer.

We also wanted to have some element of organization within the chaos. Like, we didn’t want to have all the touches of black in the same part of the room or for the color to be concentrated in one section either. It’s not easy because if you paint instinctively, there really isn’t any organization.

I was most concerned with the floor, though. On the walls, there were lots of drips (produced when you spray slowly and the paint runs), which help to connect the colors. But when it came time to do the floor, it wouldn’t be possible. We had to fake it. What we created is more like a splatter, but it works!

How long did it take to complete, start to finish?

One week — we thought it would only take three days!

How many cans of paint did you go through?

I’d say about 50, and a ton of markers.

You worked with a few fellow artists for this endeavor. Do you often work as a team?

It depends. Now, I love to work in a team and at my studio, there are four of us. There’s Grizz from Big Addict who did the video and pictures for “Panic Room,” but he’s also a graffiti artist so he helps me a lot. I want my work to look real but that can’t be produced with only one style. That’s also why I invited my best friend Tober to be part of the project. He isn’t a professional graffiti artist, but he’s got great old-school tags. And then there was Don Cho, a hip-hop singer from Marseille who used to do tags with us in Toulouse who helped out. I try to work with people whose style fit with mine. That’s the most important thing.

Au Vieux Panier, 13 Rue du Panier 13002 Marseille, France. “Panic Room” is about $180 per night. Go to auvieuxpanier.com.


Similar news:
    None Found

Tags: ,

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.