If you happen upon one of the many artworks of Cacao Rocks in the streets of Athens, their colorful and unique style will most certainly leave an impression on you. In fact, the Corfu-born artist picked up the spray can for the first time at the tender age of 12. He talked to me about the Athens street art scene and how he became part of it, his artistic inspiration, and thoughts on the current political situation. Find out more on his blog and check his flickr for new works.
When did you first get involved in graffiti/street art and what was your initial motivation? How did your understanding of doing street art evolve over the years and how did you arrive at the particular style you use these days?
I started to do graffiti when I was 12 years old, the initial motivation was to have fun with my friends and to impress a girl. Since then my motivations are the same more or less. Now I also see street art as an altruistic act rather than vandalism. It is the least I can do to change the world around me, in a good way. I have arrived to the particular style I use these days by visiting a lot of museums with ancient Greek art, by watching a lot of French animation and science fiction movies, listening to a lot of jazz and hip-hop and spending a lot of money on paint and a lot of time just day dreaming. I have melted a lot of shoes just doing rounds in the city to find the perfect spot to paint, slept a lot of nights out in the streets and got a lot of paint in my lungs.
Would you describe your work as political?
All graffiti and street art is a political action and an effort for communication. Some artists try to do propaganda with their work and I’m not one of them, I just try to change our environment and the city landscape. I try to do it without the permission of the authorities and of course by breaking some rules. My work is more like telling a story without trying to change the ideas of the spectators if this is possible. I just want to make them feel other things than just waking by a grey wall in the city.
Is street art your only political outlet or do you also participate in other social movements/types of activism?
Of course I try to participate in all the social movements and types of activism here in Athens. In 2008, when Alexis Grigoropoulos was killed by a police officer I was in paris for Erasmus. It was the only time I remember myself crying. I was so disappointed by the situation in Greece and I was so angry that I was far away and I couldn’t do something about it. Me and some friends decided to go and protest in front of the Greek embassy the next day but the police was already there. Two days later I was in Athens, my girlfriend was in the hospital, she was beaten by cops during a protest. I still remember this and I feel angry. Now the situation here is horrible, neo-nazis, drugs, unemployment, homeless people. Maybe the youth who rioted back in 2008 were right. Now it’s difficult to do a change, but is never too late.
How would you describe your involvement in the Athens street art scene? Do you collaborate with other artists?
The Athens scene is one of the most upcoming in Europe, I think the only thing missing is the imagination. We are very lucky to make street art and graffiti without being chased by police but we are afraid to do new kinds of stuff. We have our own little policeman and thoughts controller in our minds and we have to kill him. I grew up in the island of Corfu there was no graffiti there when I started to paint on walls with some friends who I used to skateboard with. I was 12 years old. Then I came to Athens for studies and I didn’t do graffiti here for 2 or 3 years. I was afraid of the city, I didn’t have enough money for spray cans and I didn’t liked the graffiti as it was back then (only wild styles, 3d and bubbles). After an Interail trip I did around Europe in 2007 and encouraged by the work of other Greek street artist like B., Zap, Bizare, Woozy , Prolecultur, Iquado, Quits, Dreyk the Pirate and hope I decided to do art in the streets without using spray paint. I started with duct tape, markers and other materials. Now I’m more into spray paint again and I’m trying to experiment with collages, video and performance. I’m really lucky to have met all the artist I was admiring and even work with some of them. Street art is a great element in my life, if I had quit now I could be a junkie or a good teacher but it surly changed the way I live and the way I see things.
Do you feel the Athenian street art scene has changed in the past years?
Yes, the last years the athenian street art experienced a big explosion. The internet helps the artists to show their work and see the work of other artist worldwide, this is a good thing and bad at the same time. I think the last years we have lost our imagination and our spontaneity which is essential for creativity. But there are really good artist right now like Blaqk and Ath, they have crazy potentials.
When you conceptualize a piece, do you think of the place you want to put it up beforehand or do you find it spontaneously?
I first see the place and then I think of the piece! The architecture and the environment inspire me a lot and most times I work freestyle without sketchbooks and stuff. Sometimes I change ideas while I’m painting.
Do you get reactions when working in the streets?
Some people like it and some people don’t. Some people get me something to eat while I’m working and some people call the police. Everything is possible when you are painting out in the streets.
Is there a specific part of Athens that you prefer to work in?
I prefer to work in the center of Athens were more people can see what i do.
This interview was conducted via email in July 2013.
Questions by Julia Tulke.