Mots-clefs

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Who are you? Can you introduce yourself in a few lines?
Some people say I do street poetry, mixing street art and poetry. Some people say I’m evolving visual poetry. What I’m really trying to do, something which I do care about, is to bring poetry closer to people, right on the streets. Renewing communication and places where poetry can be seen, talking about freedom, justice, civil ethics and respect towards nature, dreaming of hope and values.
My name is Opiemme, I’m from the north west of Italy, and my work is deeply rooted in poetry and words. I create images to be read and words to be looked at shapes made of words that remind me of big tag clouds.
  

At what point did you see your first graffiti and stencils?


In the second half of the 90s, most of my friends were very keen train bombers.
I’ve been a couple of time to yards, never touched a can.
They tried getting me to follow in their footsteps, but I was really deep into writing… poetry.
Events like Street Attitudes in 2001 and Picturin Festival in 2010, both in Turin,
brought me closer to graffiti and street art.
In 2010 I did my first stencil in my studio, and before filling the streets with crappy words, I decided to do some practice.
In 2011 thanks to Urbe and Bunker (Via Foggia / Torino) I did my first, pretty big, wall painting.
I decided to do some practice before coming out with stuff that was crap.


What did you do before doing stencil?

My experience started in around 1998, writing poems. Suddenly I tried to mix words with other types of visual arts.
Renewing its communicative forms was my first aim, even though I wasn’t aware of this at the time.
Basically I tried to bring poetry closer to people so that they could read it randomly while walking down the street, or discover a poem in a place where it wasn’t supposed to be.
Sticker and poster art were two solutions I used until 2003 when I came up with a new idea: hanging little pieces of rolled-up paper, that people could take. It works really well in grabbing people’s attention.

 
So much so, that I made 30000 Poetry Scrolls (Rotolini di poesia) for the White Night 2007 in Rome, and for many other festivals.
I think I have made more than 200.000 Poetry Scrolls in total, especially for festivals.
I have also done poetic installations and performances with other artists especially for Book and Literature Festivals. The streets were about to change the way I worked.


Have you done any other notable street art? 
In the spring of 2007 in Madrid I made the “Traffic Kills” installation on statues, where the statues were masks in protest against traffic and global warming. In 2007, during Artissima Fair, I covered a bus stop in paper. “Fuxia Bus Stop”, texts and poems by famous writers who had lived and passed through Turin, creating a fluorescent bus top. Around 2007 I started to modify road signs in several European cities. This action was entitled « We live a limited freedom limited by liberties ». A NO sign can become No Dreaming, No Hoping, No revolting. In 2008 it was time for “A Polite display of power” performance, where people protested against traffic and stopped it just by walking backwards and forwards across a busy road. In 2010/11 I staged a performance entitled “Barbarism Kills”. But it wasn’t just about dog shit, it was about Italian individualism as a whole, going from dog excrement to politics.


What do you think about graffiti?
I don’t feel like I’m a graffiti writer and I don’t do graffiti.
Thanks to graffiti, which is the root of everything, definitely more so than the Mexican murals.
Thanks to illegal graffiti and to what a lot of people call vandalism. This story, the street art movement started as a revolt, it opposed the adv. domination.
It was not created to sell t-shirts after spreading a logo on the streets!!!


In the summer of 2013 you made a project called “A journey through painting and poetry”. Can you tell us more about it?
From May to the end of September I travelled across Italy, creating a symbolical route of street poetry made up of poetic wall paintings, writing poetry and letter-forms around the country.
10 stages including Torino, Bologna, Rieti, Pizzo Calabro, Faggiano (Taranto), Ariano Irpino, Menfi, Genova, Tirano (Sondrio), and finally Rome.
More than 5000 kilometres, from the deep south of Menfi in Sicily close to Tunisia, to the far North of Sondrio close to Switzerland.
15 murals, from 30 to 180 square meters and a 7 km “River of words” painted on the pavements of Turin.
Poems and texts are by Edgar A. Poe, Giovanni Pascoli. St. Francis (San Francesco D’Assisi), Louise Armstrong, Franco Arminio, Giacomo Leopardi, Arrigo Boito, System of a Down).
Everything was great, people, food, walls, beaches and the project ended up first on Brooklyn street art with loads of likes on fb, and then on The Huffington Post.

Sticky Poems – some photos of stickers with poems
Poetry Scrolls

« Sticker and poster art were two solutions I used until 2003 when I came up with a new idea: hanging little pieces of rolled-up paper, that people could take. It works really well in grabbing people’s attention. So much so, that I made 30000 Poetry Scrolls (Rotolini di poesia)… « 
« Traffic Kills » statues installation in Madrid
« Fuxia Bus Stop » : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLdvTrg36TQ
« A Polite display of power » performance : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ULrGgRO4NM
« Barbarism Kills » :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzYcLbZxxvg
« We live a limited freedom » :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fMakvtRNAo
Le site : opiemme.com
Facebook : facebook.com/opiemme

Interview : Tarek
Photographies : Opiemme