Within the framework of the program of the Biennale of Street Art "Artmossfera" in Moscow there was a screening of "Girl Power" - the first documentary film dedicated to graffiti artists. Its author, Czech artist Sany, dedicated seven years of her life to the project and ended up filming an exciting and very personal film about the graffiti scene in different countries. The heroines of the documentary are fearless women, “bombing” trains and walls, constantly risking getting caught and winning respect in the male world of graffiti.
Since 2009, Sany has visited Moscow, Cape Town, Sydney, Madrid, Berlin, Barcelona, Toulouse and New York - the mecca of street art - met with the most famous graffiti artists and girl groups, painted and ran away from the police with them. During these seven years, a lot of things happened to Sany herself: she left a well-paid job in the office, had to solve financial problems when all the rented equipment was stolen from her film crew, broke up with her boyfriend, hid the footage away in case of a search, almost despaired. but still she was able to bring her plan to life and showed the film in 60 countries. She still has not told her parents about her occupation in graffiti. We spoke with Sany about her film, her double life, the power of women, and the graffiti get-together.
you've finally finished your movie. What are your plans for the future?
Honestly, none at all. I feel like I just got out of jail. Nobody presses on me anymore, and I can do what I really like. Now I'm 30, I want to hang out, meet friends - they all made a career, many have already had children. I don’t have it, but, on the other hand, I traveled all over the world in search of myself and found something that I really want to do.
you conceived "Girl Power" in 2009. Do you think this call is relevant in 2016?
The film really came out later than I wanted, and a few years ago it would have had a very different effect. But there are sayings that will always be relevant. Today girls have much more opportunities, they can really do what they like. But when I started thinking about this project - and this was in 2006 - there was no Facebook, there were no other social networks, and in order to become any noticeable in the world of graffiti, you had to draw a lot and cool or publish in thematic magazines. Today you can do it anywhere and upload photos of your work to Instagram - everyone will know that you exist.
When I started doing graffiti in Prague, I was the only female writer in the city. I really wanted to meet graffiti artists from other countries and find out how they live. When I started making the film, that was my main motivation - I wanted to show how things are in different places. It took me five years to find and persuade girls to star in my film. And today you can google "female graffiti", and it will give you a thousand links. This is wonderful: you see that you are not alone, and you can easily connect with other writers.
Personally, gender is completely unimportant to me. But because of the stereotypes of other people, women in graffiti find themselves in a special and not the most advantageous position, which is why I wanted to make a documentary about them. There are very few girls in our business, but they support each other - not like most guys.
Have you tried to explore the graffiti scene of Muslim countries?
As you have seen, my film does not end with a bullet - they say, this is all there is to say about women in graffiti. The graffiti scene in Arab countries is very young, it started about four years ago, after the 2011 Arab Spring.During these events, telephone communication did not work, people did not have the Internet, so they passed messages to each other using inscriptions: they painted anti-government slogans and tags on the walls, by which it was possible to find out the place of the secret meeting. Since then, graffiti has been one of the few means of free expression in Arab countries. The only way to be heard is to write your message on a wall in a public space for everyone to see.
Most recently, I saw an amazing video about graffiti artists in Raqqa opposing the Islamic State (). Now more and more writers appear in Muslim countries, but so far a full-fledged scene has not formed there, as in Western countries. I think the situation with graffiti in Arab countries is reminiscent of New York in the early 1970s. I didn’t go there to shoot, but I inserted at the end of the film photographs of girls from Arab countries who had recently started doing graffiti and contacted me after learning that I was doing “Girl Power”.
About 600 people came to the premiere of the film in Berlin - about 30-40 of them were refugees from Syria and other Arab countries. It amazed me, and I am very glad that they became interested in graffiti and came to see my film.
The credits indicate "Czech Television". Did a state-owned company support the production of the film?
The production of the film cost about 160,000 euros, and almost all of this amount was paid by myself and my friends. That's why it took so long to shoot. It was very difficult to find a sponsor, so we decided to shoot a film first, and then look for support - this was the only way to convince the film company that the topic of graffiti could be interesting. I showed the materials to people on television and they were delighted. There are few films produced in the Czech Republic that could be of interest to a wide audience around the world - no one has ever done such documentaries before. Czech TV helped us with the final processing - color correction, sound - and thanks to good post-production we can show Girl Power at festivals.
How do you manage to lead two parallel lives? The film tells you that you left a prestigious office job
Yes, I quit the job that many people dream about), but now I am doing what I really love. I am a freelancer, doing cultural projects and teaching street art to children. We make sketches, paint on the walls, but this is more likely not graffiti, but ordinary painting - we use paints not in sprays, but in ordinary cans.
The only way to get real, "pure graffiti" is to go against the system. But before, I just worked for the system: I received a lot of money for a not very good deed and was not honest with myself. I took it out on my colleagues, made them make more phone calls, bring more money to the company. These are business costs - you have to put pressure, yell at colleagues, although, for example, you know that mothers who have children work for you. And you say to yourself, “Am I doing well? No, but this is my job. " In my opinion, this is wrong, so I decided to leave it all behind.
How did your parents react when their daughter is a graffiti artist?
They still don't know. At some point, I wanted to tell them everything, and their reaction had to be part of the film. But when I finally decided to open up to my mother, the moment was not the best - my grandfather was seriously ill. I said, "Mom, I want to tell you something that will most likely make you angry," and she said, "No, please don't say." So it remained a secret.
My parents are teachers at the university. If others find out about my graffiti classes, people will think, “Their daughter is breaking the law! How can they teach my children if they have not been able to raise their daughter normally? " In any case, I am sure that they will not like my occupation, and I can easily understand this - all parents want the best for their children, not debts, fines and problems with the law.
What do you think is the fundamental difference between the graffiti scene in the Czech Republic and, say, Germany, where many magazines about street art are published, people buy them, go to exhibitions?
Just because Germany is a wealthy country, people have the money to publish and buy magazines. If you are a German student, you receive a scholarship of 600 euros - no wonder young people have funds for expensive hobbies. In Germany, the minimum wage is 1500 euros, in the Czech Republic - 300, and in fact it takes less than an hour to travel from one country to another by car. That's the whole difference.
What impression did Moscow make on you in 2011 and what is it now?
In 2011, it was awesome here, I think, like in Chicago in the 1990s. I liked the mood with which the local writers were painting - it was something very clean and strong. During these five years, the city has changed a lot - for the majority, of course, in a good way. Moscow has become much cleaner than before, and I myself came in a completely different capacity - as a participant in the Biennale program. Many artists who started out with graffiti have become famous and sell their work in galleries. There is nothing wrong with that, they just repeat the path of their Western colleagues.
We have recently opened the MCC. there is a desire to bomb several trains there?
I don't like new trains, I like painting on old subway cars more!
Why do you love illegal graffiti?
The illegal side of graffiti is associated with the most exciting, special moments - for example, if you want to paint a subway train, you need to plan everything in advance, find out the operating hours of the security, develop a plan. It's like playing cat and mouse, because time plays a huge role: when you paint where you can't, you only have a few minutes to create a finished piece. Behind every illegal graffiti there is an interesting story, including one about overcoming yourself: you were afraid, but still found a way to get into this closed place. When you paint walls legally, on someone's order, you perceive it as art - you think more about beauty, colors, buy a lot of paint. And illegal graffiti is a sport where you can be both a loser and a winner.
Graffiti is not only drawing, but also a lifestyle. It is important not only how you draw, but also why you do it, why you choose such a life. Why do you keep doing this even when you've lost your job and made a lot of problems. It's passion, addiction - that's what graffiti is to me.
Which character in your film inspires you the most?
Martha Cooper - definitely! She is perhaps the most inspiring person I have met. She is very wise, interested in everything in the world, she has so much energy! When Martha was engaged in graffiti in the 1980s, it was an uninteresting New York subculture, and her work became known only 15 years later. But she doesn't give a damn if she is popular or not - Martha always did what she considered important. I would like to be like her - she is now over 70, and she is interested in everything and enjoys new things as a teenager.
What advice would you give to girls who want to do graffiti?
Ha, don't do it! True, I will not advise anyone to do graffiti - this is far from for everyone. As far as painting and other legal art is concerned, you are welcome, be sure to try it if you like. Graffiti, on the other hand, should not be approached lightly, as it seriously changes life.
It is important for women to try new things and do something for themselves. Girls are often taught that they need to work for someone, help others, and depend on the opinions of others. I think that in Russia everything is now about the same as in the Czech Republic: a few years ago, girls were not emancipated, and today more and more people share the ideas of feminism. Women don't give a damn about the opinions of others, they just take it and do it. In my opinion, everything is simple: everyone should do what he really likes. If you don’t want to be a mother, don’t, otherwise you’ll just be a bad mother.So it is with everything else.
When I changed jobs and started doing what I love, my whole life changed: I’m not so nervous, my relationships with people became calmer and deeper, I made amazing new friends. I was lucky to be born in the Czech Republic, but, unfortunately, today many girls do not have the opportunity to choose their future. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women still have a lot to fight for.
Photos: Girl Power Movie, Girl Power Movie / Facebook