EK Interview: Epilogue Show LA

Hugh Leeman, Dave Young and Eddie Colla are three fantastic street artists.  They are having a show in LA at the Hold Up Art Gallery called Epilogue.  “Epilogue” is a fully immersive art installation taking over the entirety of Hold Up Art Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.  The Bay Area’s most prolific vandals, David Young, Eddie Colla, and Hugh Leeman present a vision of our world, after it’s inevitable collapse. An existence stripped of mass media, conspicuous consumption and the trappings of a modern global society. A future reduced to the tasks of survival and memory. This ambitious installation will feature new works created from found objects and home made weapons. “Epilogue” opens Saturday, September 8th at 7p.m.
How did this collaboration get started? How did you all meet?

HL-We all met together for the first time when ourselves, Gaia, and Mars-1 went around and put some pieces up on the streets of SF a few years back.

DYV- I met Eddie and Hugh separately. Eddie, I met over at New Century in the Tenderloin while I was working the door one night. He was dating a dancer there named Mei Ling, who used to dance on Tuesdays. She had this funny trick where she could put a ping pong ball up her vag, then pop it out her ass (honestly, its incredible). Tuesdays were generally busy due to Mei Ling, I used to make a killing at the door. Hugh I met a live sex show at the Power Exchange, also in the Tenderloin. We were just shooting the shit for awhile, then he gave me his card. I recognized his art immediately, it was all over the neighborhood. I told him I was an artist too, we just hit it off from there. Until this question was asked, I never realized that I met both Hugh and Eddie under circumstances that both involved live sexual acts. I’m not sure what that says about the three of us.

EC- Both Hugh’s story and Dave’s are factual accounts except The girls’s name was Mai Liu, (fuckin white people) and it’s a table tennis ball not a “ping pong” ball.

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How did you get in touch with Hold Up Art Gallery?

EC- I had met Brian Lee from Hold Up when I was in the Marxist Glue Show a couple years ago. We’ve stayed in contact and I’ve always liked him and the space. When we wanted to do something in LA he’s the first guy I called.

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Tell us about the show, the installation, what is it about?

DYV- To me this show is about challenging myself. The original concept was Eddie’s idea, since my work was already based in the idea of the apocalypse and societies renewal, I suppose I was a good fit. Eddie and myself have collaborated before, so at first this show idea seemed to come natural. However, things quickly changed for me once I began the work. Most of techniques and media are entirely new to me. I’m using media that I have never touched before, simultaneously attempting to combine it with Eddie and Hugh’s visions. We are three different artists attempting to unify our world together for the first time. Is a lot harder then it seems. Outside of the challenges of new media, we are working with new concepts. We have spent hours upon hours brainstorming and trying to get a feel for what it may be like to exist in the world we are creating. Then create work that either reflects this world, or appears to come directly from it. In the end, it has been frustrating but extremely worthwhile. I think I’ve become a more versatile artist as a result.

Conceptually, I feel Hugh’s work reflects (on an apocalyptic level) the end result of our society in regards to issues of privacy, over saturation of advertising and the down sides of social media. While Eddie’s work takes on a more literal approach to the apocalypse. Hit work displays a broken world. It expresses collapse, desperation, and death. Much of his work is built upon found/ tattered objects retrieved from junkyards and the streets. Perhaps his vision most accurately depicts what life may be like as a result of a world wide catastrophe . As far as my work is concerned, I feel as though its a natural evolution of what I have been working on previously. Although, designed to fit in with Eddie and Hugh’s work. A simple way to explain what I am doing is to say that if Eddie’s work focuses on the end, my work focuses on the beginning. I believe my work is attempting to tell the story of what happens after the end. What are the steps humanity has taken to rebuild. What directions has our culture taken once the world before it has been decimated? I am curios about the idea of rebidding language, technology, art, culture and history beaded on the scattered elements of allots world.

EC- It’s about the end of things as we know them, but moreover it’s a lot of issues that exist in our lives already. The idea memory and priorities and connection. I think an apocalyptic event would only exacerbate this issues. There’s a sort of desperation in trying to preserve evidence or memories. If there is no memory of something, no account. It’s as if it never happened. 2000 years of history could vanish in a very short period, like we were never here and no of this ever happened.

HL- For me it is about the causation of catastrophic collapse. I saw it as an opportunity to take a wider look at the world and the way in which I was expressing my thoughts creatively. I felt as if my previous 5 years work looked intimately at a tree whereas now I feel as though Im looking at the forrest. Where the larger trees block the light of the smaller ones inhibiting their growth only to find that they grow so large themselves, they are no longer sustainable.

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Why ‘Epilogue’? Do you think that collapse is inevitable? Why is that?

DYV- The world Epilogue literally means the story after. That means that there is more to tell after what I see as the end. I don’t think I believe in an absolute end to anything. Cultures thrive, cultures fall, reinvent themselves, merge with other cultures get recycled, readopted. Life goes on. Everything we know is the result of something that came before us. I don’t actually think there will be an inevitable absolute collapse of society as we know it, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future. I suppose reflecting the apocalypse through art and conversation is a way for people to express the issues of our society on a wholly different plane. A fabricated universe can often be the most truthful expression of the our ‘real’ world and all the issues encompassing it.

EC- Everything ends. It has to it’s how nature perpetuates itself.

HL-Epilogue has been a hopeful look to new future. Its assumed there has been a collapse and this is the story after the collapse of society as we once knew it. For the first time in my life many of my portraits are of females, this is my eye towards a hopeful future. It alludes to a shift in power and the potential of a rebirth.

If there are three people like you out there who are out there and conscious, shouldnt there be hundreds, thousands, or millions more? Do you think you doenough, on a daily basis, to work towards the aversion of such a catastrophic collapse or will you embrace it?

DYV- I don’t actually see myself as the most ‘conscience’ person on world events at all. I’d say if anything I’m far closer to apathetic then most ‘informed’ people. It’s not that I don’t care, I just can’t keep up. The world is far too complex, ever changing place to have any specific views on most issues. People, much like issues and circumstances are complicated, contradictory and volatile. There are so many factors involved in any given issue, as well as the make up of any individual person. That makes it incredibly hard to have any concrete stance on anything for me personally. I think I only takes sides when push comes to shove. As far as hundreds or more people like us, sure there is. We’re artists, we make things that reflect our world. People will view it, relate to it, see themselves in it, etc. The proof is in the pudding.

As far as doing enough to avert a catastrophic collapse, or simply embracing it, I have no idea. I consume, I drink, smoke, fuck, work and make art. I am as much a part of all the problems of our species as any one else alive. I have no idea what I could do to prevent any sort of collapse. If a collapse happens, I have no idea if I would embrace it or not. I’d be fearful, aggressive, angry, complain a lot, then after all that I’d hopefully adapt. I am only as good as the people I’m surrounded by. We’ll see how the world handles it, then I’ll make my choices from there.

EC-I don’t know that certain things can be averted. Viruses jump species sometimes, natural diasters happen and then there is fear. Fear is deadly and it can spread across a continent in a 22 minute broadcast.

HL-I just wanna be able to turn a profit off of a collapse by looking to those who profit from war and catastrophe.

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What is your opinion of the Occupy Wallstreet Movement? Where do you think they succeeded and where did they fail and how did you learn from it as a socially motivated individual?

DYV- I personally took no stance on the whole thing, but camped out anyway in downtown SF on and off. I got so much ass as a result. I suppose I went down there out of curiosity originally. Then I continued going down there for the action.

EC- No comment

HL- A goldmine of willing models. They were beautiful to me in that sense. I had one guy come over and pose nude in my bathtub to recreate the “Death of Marat”, I love that painting. I replaced the hand written letter with an iphone.

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Tell us about the media you have chosen, carbon soot emissions, how are you using them in terms of your art?

HL- I quit painting. My oils sit around untouched now and in there place Im “painting” with carbon soot emissions. Concept has always been really important and central to my work. This body of work is allowing me to create what I see as being portraits of the 21st century in message and medium. The carbon emissions are what we are all a part of creating through our unavoidable and insatiable consumption. This is a case of self defeating purpose, as we continue to create and grow economies and society we are conversely the snake devouring its own tail.

EC- I am pretty much building all of my pieces out of stuff that was salvaged from east Oakland. It’s mostly found materials, I am using images as well but the idea of using substrates of abandoned materials I think ads some history to the images that tell a separate story of the things these objects were before and what they’ve become.

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You have ‘stolen’ many of the photos from Facebook to illustrate the ease of access to personal information, but do you think having someone’s information is the same as knowing them? Do you think the image people put on Facebook is accurately representative of who they truly are?

HL- It’s certainly not the same as knowing them, in fact all the portraits for this show are of people I don’t know. They are entirely anonymous to me, and thats the idea. Im taking something personal from a stranger and using it in a way as I see fit. Ideally this action speaks as a metaphor to they way social media, ourselves, and the corporate environment currently interact.

EC- I’ve done a lot of photography for this project much of my work for this show has been shot specifically for this.
How do fire stencils work? Where did you learn the technique and what about it attractive? What does the medium represent to you in the scope of ‘Epilogue’?
HL- Eddie burnt his hand, I put out the flames and the can of some flammable liquid that was in the process of burning his hand.

What are the guns representative of and what does the painting of them and the colors used on them represent?

DYV- I’m a huge science fiction movie fan. Most Sci-fi movies generally involve the military on some level. I suppose that was my initial attraction to the rifles. I also wanted the challenge of bringing my world out of two dimensional imagery. I felt that the rifles were the most obvious first step in doing this considering the militaristic nature of my work. The color choice of most of the weapons is white and blue. I wanted to give them more ‘peaceful’ colors to imply that the carriers of these weapons are not necessarily hostile, but rather peace keepers of some sort. The painted symbols represent elements of their languages, which often reflect a version of English that has been altered to fit a new society.

HL- Dave fuckin loves Charlton Heston.

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What is the tree you are building made out of? How is it coming together, do you have a specific plan for it?

EC- The tree again is made of things salvaged from east oakland. The tree is kind of a metaphor for emulating nature when nature rescinds. It’s a desperate attempt to fill a void in ways we simply can’t. It’s the last gasp of failure.

HL- I loved taking something that in its most pure sense represents clean air, nature, and a better life for society, the tree, and making it out of everything humans are creating that is in some way related to trees and forests destruction. There seemed to be a beautiful irony present as we built it.

As street artists, how do you feel when you see a piece of your work has been vandalized by some shitty tagger? Do you have a different emotional response when you see that your work has been power sprayed off a wall completely?

HL- I go out of my way not to cover tags, throws, or anything hand made. I try to be respectful to everything and it seems for the most part that the same has been extended to me on the street. Being out at night alone working is fun and any more than that I really don’t think much about it. Smile and move forward one day you’re gonna die.

DYV- I guess I have different reactions to this. Most days I generally could care less about someone tagging on my street pieces. Other days, when I’m more curious, I start to wonder why my piece was specifically chosen to be tagged over. I wonder if the tagger was attempting to send me a message. Was tagging over my piece a way of them telling my they don’t like me or my work? Or were they communicating a form of respect? Perhaps, my work was tagged completely at random? Who knows?

EC- It’s just art. I’ll make more. Once it’s on the wall it’s not mine anymore.

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Why is it, do you think, that street art is so consistently social, political and contrarian? There are many forms and medias of art, but street art seems to go above and beyond in its dedication to a message that addresses the current political and social situation, why is that?

HL – Its the essence of the first amendment. Your are speaking very publicly and often your are doing so in a legal gray area. This legal gray area creates a tension in the mind of the person who is consistently out putting up work. That tension creates a weight and if you are going to move with that weight and carry it than you will do so with something you really believe in and care about.

EC- Because it’s public and it aims to address the public. It makes sense that it would be more focused on urgent current affairs. It’s a really fast way to spread a message so I think it gets utilized that way more often.

Street art is not what you see in most galleries, or in art museums of fancy collections, it’s not nearly as curated. Do you think there is something about that sense, that street art is not meant for people to collect, it’s for THE people to see, that makes it intrinsically different from other art forms? Do you think that is somewhat related to the type of content that is so prevalent in street art?

HL-I think people collect art made by street artist, but when you move a piece off of a wall and out of the public domain into a controlled or curated environment its no longer street art by definition. It is meant for people to see outside. A lot of us come inside wanting to expand creatively not to mention buying pieces often funds painting walls or taking trips to do so.

DYV- I’ve been asked variations of this question several times over the years, and I honestly think history will far better answer this question then I can. In the end, I like getting up, I like curating my own gallery shows meticulously, and I absolutely love getting paid for when I can. Thats all.

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Why is the show ‘Epilogue’ important to you? What does it mean to you and what do you hope viewers to take away from it?

HL-Its a chance to look at how things are interconnected. I love the butterfly effect and like to think that we are all in some way responsible for the rise and fall in markets and society as a whole. In this hopefully we can feel some sort of tension between responsibility and power.

art blog - Epilogue - Empty Kingdom

art blog - Epilogue - Empty Kingdom

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Photos by Shaun Roberts.