INTERVIEWS

Doski (Russian skater) magazine 10/08

1. How did you come about using photography in your street and gallery art? Why did you paint over it and what is the technique? Are you enjoying photography as it is?

I've always told myself that if it was possible that the real object or experience would express what I wanted to say, then I'd do it. Failing that I always believed that if a photo would work-if pure photography would satisfy my needs, I'd gladly use a photo. I've come close but it hasn't happened. I guess I'm really a painter at heart. I need to add something handmade and human, to tweak the image, to add expression and depth or my stuff doesn't come to life. It's true most of my images are photography dependent but I don't consider myself a photographer. Photography's just another tool for me.

2. What was the reaction of people when the art was so precise almost like optical illusion?

Well, usually I'm not around to witness it. But the other day I was putting up one of the vent pieces on an Ugly New Luxury Buildings in my neighborhood. The superintendent of the building came out to see what I was up to. We talked for quite a while, the whole time I was waiting for him to freak out when he saw how I'd defaced his clean brand new wall. But even though he was looking right at the piece he didn't even notice the creature staring back at him from behind the vent. To him it was static, invisible, just more of the ambient imagery of the street.

3. How did art critics react to that?

Crickets.

4. What other art techniques you are using? What is your favorite materials and media to work with?

I use whatever's necessary. Oil, acrylic, markers, crayons, ball point pen, fairy dust…I really like the airbrush. I suspect it of having magic powers.

5. I understand it is a minor part of all the art in the streets that you were doing but I have to ask you about skate series. What urged you to do those? Were you inspired by any artists involved in skate graphics?

No. I'm inspired by the skaters themselves. The series was called “Skateboarders are Graffiti”, because to me, skaters are living graffiti: rebellious, curvilinear, dissonant, unrepentedly in your face… Every significant art movement has it's music, dance and visual components. Skaters seem like graffiti's dance form to me. Love them. I plan to use them again.

6. What kind of feedback you get from what you are doing?

It's been very satisfying. No obscure garret suffering for this artist. With the internet, it's an almost daily bounceback. It can be a bit overwhelming at times but I can't complain.

7. What do you think is the mission of street art?

I'm not a spokesperson for street art. But I like it because it's not for sale, no one can own it, it can exist independently of the compromises of consumer capitalism. The idea of an art form not being dependent on the market place is a truly revolutionary concept these days. It's free, so it sets you free. That said, when people find out I do street art, almost universally the reaction is something like, “wow, that's cool-but how do you make money?”

8. You have a book coming out. Tell us about it and what's going to be in it?

It's called Dan Witz In Plain View 30 Years of Artworks Illegal and Otherwise, published by Gingko Press. Hopefully it'll be out in the spring in time for some enlightened art patron types to invite me to Moscow to deface your city.

9. What is your attitude towards commercial projects? Are there any that you enjoy doing?

No. I don't do that.

10. What is the balance between doing art for yourself and making money? All my art I do for myself. Not that I'm some noble ascetic or something, I like money, but everytime I've thought something should sell I've been wrong. To be honest, the whole topic is a mind-fuck to me so I don't bother anymore. Somehow I manage to make enough street art to satisfy me and enough money selling paintings and prints to keep me going. For the most part it works out. The truth is I'll never be satisfied and I've gotten used to that.

11. What are your plans for the future. Do you have any ambitious projects you would like to accomplish?

Totally. Everything's going to get bigger and bigger in ever higher scarier resolutions. And in far flung places. I don't like to get into it too much, especially late at night (like now) because I get too worked up and then I can't fall asleep.

From streetscapes to portraiture, Dan Witz brings a gritty realism to all of his works. Within this framework, he seeks to push the envelope, experimenting with various digital and photographic aids. “I employ new technologies and blend the with old master techniques,” Witz tells TORO columnist Louise Bak in a wide-ranging interview about his work. And of his method he asks: “Isn't this what we're supposed to be doing – pushing on to new forms?”