Mausolée, French Graffiti Temple
I made a translated summary of French graffiti artist Sowat’s interview for canalstreet about the graffiti Mausoleum project. I already posted their teaser but will do it again, as I think its one of the most important graffiti projects in France :
Sowat talks about his ambiguous feelings after leaving the abandoned supermarket that later became the Mausolee (Mausoleum). He says that on one hand it was an amazing, huge spot in Paris. It was difficult to access. And at the same time it had been squatted, first floor by drug addicts, second by Roma famillies. Sowat thinks that those inhabitants had been evicted as part of the French anti-immigration politics conducted during the Sarkozy presidency in 2010. They left in a hurry leaving behind their belongings…food, coffee in a cup, baby bottles, etc. Sowat and Lek arrived at this spot after and they just felt awkward as if they were taking advantage of a human drama that took place there. Once they started to paint in this place they invited other artists, all fully confidential. And at the same time they were discovering those things left by squatters…letters never sent, pictures…After a year of painting, filming, they organized a show during which they showed their film, the photo book they made and also all the things they found in the Mausolee. At the begining they were calling it “the place” but as they were discovering its former history it was not an abandonded supermarket anymore but a temple and they felt like archaeologues inside. So they started to make ritual paintings, to work in total dark as our ancestors used to do in the caves. It bacame a temple of graffiti culture. They felt like they were writting a love letter to their culture. As if they were creating an abstract Sistine chapel, violent and dirty, a true image of the world they live in, on the sidelines of the system. They think graffiti is an art that has more in common with classic culture that people think. That’s why at the end they chose the word Mausolee (a funerary monument…) It just described what they were experiencing there.
And they feel graffiti needs a mausoleum, a mausoleum dedicated to their underground culture that is disappearing in the era of street art and pop aesthetics.
This culture is disappearing because no one has studied it seriously. No one has tried to preserve anything from the first generation; their trains, their walls, everything was destroyed, cleaned. It is the police that has all the archives, blackbooks. It is the police that has studied graffiti and not university students. And with the raise of street art, people who know nothing about graffiti just don’t understand why they don’t do like Banksy or Mr Brainwash: images that everyone would understand. With this project they just wanted to show that graffiti can speak to everybody. They started from the very small, an abandoned supermarket and wanted to touch the infinite big, to communicate their love of this passion.
Last time they went there they saw three guys putting their belongings in one of the rooms painted by Sambre and Lek, a cathedral kind of painting, full of colors…And they felt that if those guys chose to sleep by this mural, it almost justified why they did this project.
original text in French : http://canalstreet.canalplus.fr/arts/news/le-mausolee-de-lek-et-sowat