Lotek \ Talks

How did you come up with your name?
The name is taken from the short story Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson, there was also a film made from that story starring Keanu Reaves and Ice-T. In the futuristic world of Gibson’s work, parliamentary democracy has been replaced by corporate power but there are some free towns and spaces. In one such place a gang of hackers and subversives call themselves the Lo Teks. The thing is that they are actually very high tech and are fighting against corporate power. I like the play of words and the power of misdirection and myth.

Where are you from and how did you come in Greece? Do you live in Athens? Random selection or do you enjoy the urban culture?
I enjoy the playfulness that anonymity brings, it means that I can pretend to be whoever. Therefore I do not reveal my nationality or gender or anything else that could identify me or categorise me. I think nationality is anyways something which is becoming more and more complex, or maybe more complex again. Nationalism is actually a very modern construct and I am vehemently anti-nationalistic. I spend a lot of time in Athens and I like the chaos of the city, but I travel a lot and don’t have a fixed home. I ended up in Greece because it is where the road took me.

Have you studied something about the visual arts and how did you start painting walls in outdoor spaces?
I have studied some visual art but not all that much. I also have some experience in graphic design, illustration and documentary film so I have some broad visual creative experience. I started writing political slogans on walls and we bought the spray paints from a graffiti shop so I often thought about trying to paint and do stencils, but it took me a really long time. Some of my friends were doing it which also made it easy. I always had a problem with how art lives in galleries and museums and ends up being consumed by a pretty self-centered art community or commodified into products for rich people’s walls. I think that when we put things on walls or in public spaces it immediately becomes much more interesting. I think that art as a product is not so interesting, but rather processes and context give it meaning.

What are your influences, what’s the first artwork you remember to draw your attention and at what age?
I remember paintings from at home when I was young, rural landscapes from different places of the world, but not by famous artists. When I was a teenager I discovered dadaism and surrealism which had a big affect on me, mostly because of the thinking around the artworks. I liked the ideas of tapping into the subconscious and messing around with what art is. But comic books also had a big influence on me, like X-Men and Love & Rockets. And also pop art and the imagery around groups like the situationists and original hippies. I also like political propaganda which is strong but humorous.

What are your favorite materials and which application do you prefer? I’ve seen your pieces with a marker, stencil …
I mostly use stencils, the stuff you’ve seen where I use a marker is usually just drunk stuff that happens late at night. I design the stencils mostly on the computer, but often I use some paint as well and sometimes I trace images over a light-box. Then I print out the designs and spray-glue them onto x-rays that I get from a veterinarian. I then cut the designs through the paper and the x-rays and I get a stencil which I can use many times. If I make pieces on canvas or other materials I usually make a background of some kind first.

I find that your pieces are highly political in a humorous mood. Is it  your need to comment on everyday and the time that far from easy it is?
The images are often humorous because for me the whole process of this art form is playful. They are also often political because I enjoy creating tiny thought interruptions in public space. I like to make people think and smile, but somethings are also just for fun. I think that politics should be connected to joy and I think that sabotaging norms and traditional values and capitalist logic is a process of emancipation. But I don’t put too much political value in the work, it’s just pictures on walls. People connect somethings I do with the crisis, but actually my commentary has nothing to do with the crisis specifically. Capitalism is a constant crisis and I don’t like it if I’m rich or poor at the moment. Fascism exists if there is a crisis or not, as do homophobia, sexism, ecological destruction and so forth.

You have managed to have a certain identity in very little time. How important is it for a street artist to become recognizable for his job, specific and unique?
Yes, I have had some accidental success which is great because I don’t really know what I am doing. I don’t make any money from what I do so I guess that it doesn’t matter if i am successful or not, but there is a certain amount of narcissism involved in this art form, and I can’t deny that I like having a tiny bit of fame.

We live in a country that everything is extravagant. There are areas in the center which are extremely painted too. Should there be limitations to the street artist or freedom is the most important in the street art scene?
To street artists, I think that the freedom that the streets of Athens offer are great. I’m not someone who is in power so I don’t decide what the limitations are, but I do have a certain amount of respect towards people’s property. Athens is a massive mess of filth, posters, advertisements and chaos. I think that when my little images are looking out at people from the jungle of that mess, it somehow makes sense. The context where street art happens is very important though and puts a lot of meaning on the artform. In sterile cities where there is nothing on the walls, the art form has a much more defiant meaning and in cities where street art is used in the processes of gentrification it immediately looses any anti-authoritarian flavour as it is coopted. There’s a really interesting article exploring these kinds of differences in different cities here

Collaborations that have made you happy? Which Greek artist do you admire?
My street art buddy is Mapet, who has been doing stuff much longer than me and he’s a great friend and inspiration. I met him when I had just started cutting stencils a few years ago and he really encouraged me and took me out and taught me things and introduced me to people. I have’t worked together with anyone on pieces but I participated with a few other people in an exhibition in Vox in Exarchia a few years ago and that group became www.politicalstencil.com which I think is a nice initiative. I did also do an exhibition together with Mapet at Skord Art around the same time. I like Cacao Rocks, This is Opium and WD a lot also, they have great creativity and good attitudes. Also, I am a big fan of the freaky drawings and paintings of Persef.

In 10 years time from now?
I’d like to develop my art a bit further and explore some different styles but we’ll see how that goes. It takes a lot of time to cut stencils and I have other things to do also. I’d like to work more on international exchange between artists, so that people can make some money and inspire each other as well. The times seem very uncertain with the re-emergence of fascism, promised ecological collapse and constant economic and political crisis so maybe none of us know where we’ll be in 10 years.

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When I was a teenager I discovered dadaism and surrealism which had a big affect on me, mostly because of the thinking around the artworks

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Athens is a massive mess of filth, posters, advertisements and chaos. I think that when my little images are looking out at people from the jungle of that mess, it somehow makes sense

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Via: Greek Street Art – Talks