Well known in the streets of Toronto, and abroad, Fauxreel is a heavy hitter in terms of street artistry; bringing social change to urban centers while taking jabs at corporations and their surroundings. His latest project with NYC based Specter, â€˜A City Renewal Projectâ€™ took on a bit of a different angle. Abandoned and dilapidated store fronts were photographed and their print outs were altered with hilarious names, e.g. Mr. Loonie Dollar store became Mr. Loogie, or the Lucky Driving School became Lucky Iâ€™m not Driving School. Read on to see whatâ€™s else is going down in Fauxreelâ€™s mind.
â€œI donâ€™t know if the ad agencies quite understand what is going on, but their stuff is outdoors too, and theyâ€™re always looking for new ways to advertiseâ€¦ If youâ€™re not outdoors working on this stuff all day, then you probably don’t know how to execute it.â€
Format: What first drew you to the streets?
Fauxreel: Iâ€™ve always been really into graffiti. A lot of my friends are prominent writers having grown up with guys like Kwest and Recka.Â In 2001, I made a trip over to London to check things out and i found that there their street art was really different in terms of what was happening at home in Toronto. Â It really inspired me to take my own talents, and utilize them to put stuff up outdoors. I was also just getting really in to photography at the time, so I started making these 20 x 20″ prints in the dark room. From there, I started making them in to big stickers and started putting my photos up on city streets.
Format: How did you feel the work in London was different from what you saw at home in Toronto?
Fauxreel: It was vastly different because they had all these different mediums. Wheat pasting, stickering, and postering was really big. We had stickering too but it was very graffiti based while over there, people were putting up logos, or characters. The placement of the work really interacted with its surroundings. That was also the time of Banksy.Â I had a great time scouring the streets looking for all his work. He was using a lot of comedy, which was really fresh at the time. People here still werenâ€™t doing that so it all felt brand new.
Format: New York is often cited as the origins of graffiti but where are the origins of wheat pasting?
Fauxreel: Iâ€™m not the best expert to talk on that subject, but I would say that Paris had a lot to do with it. From the very early 1900â€™s with guys artists like Toulouse Lautrec. But to make it more contemporary, you could cite guys like Revs and Kaws, they brought it back to New York. WK also had a big impact on how he incorporated painting and pasting together. And then there were guys like Blek Le Rat who was doing stencils which he found were easier to paste up if he did them on paper.
Format: Do you find that you look to others work for inspiration?
Fauxreel: Absolutely. It doesnâ€™t have to be people who work outdoors. Iâ€™m inspired by musicians, filmmakers, and writers. Itâ€™s mainly about their ideas and how original they are. Iâ€™m always inspired by someone who can take something really simple and execute it very sharply in a way that makes you think about your surroundings and social issues. Iâ€™m also very influenced by art that has strong ideas behind it, it needs to have a certain aesthetic. If itâ€™s lacking that, it comes across as a bit shallow to me.
Format: So tell me about the city renewal project.
Fauxreel: That came about because I had an opportunity to use this warehouse that was being demolished to turn in to turn in to condos. My friend who had a lease on the space was having issues with her landlord so she was just like, ‘go crazy, do what you want with it’. Since condos were going to be built there, I felt that it was important that the project had some relation to transformation. Urban condo development often alters the neighborhoods they are put up in. It was a bit of a reactionary piece, but we werenâ€™t trying to be very heavy-handed with it. There are many layers to it. Itâ€™s not just â€˜condo developments are bad.â€™ We understand that people need places to live and if that there is space in the city that isnâ€™t being used, they have the right to do that with it.
However, weâ€™d like to see some of these spaces revitalized and integrated in to the existing communities, rather than being eyesores, or having nothing to do with the architecture or surrounding neighborhood. Unfortunately, our city (Toronto) doesnâ€™t have a design committee, so developers go wild and miss the point of what makes neighborhoods thrive. They push out the small mom and pop shops, the artists and local character.Â Rather than being political and heavy handed, we wanted to make fascinating work with humor involved. And who knows, maybe after seeing one of the spaces you might think â€˜that reminds me of this store that was by my house when I was a kid and they turned it into a Starbucks!â€™
Format: Your older work on billboards and light boxes are in a different vein, a bit more brand targeted. How was that received by the corporations you used to make your social commentary?
Fauxreel: There actually wasnâ€™t much backlash with those. The only thing that really raised eyebrows was the one with the Shell logo, but it wasnâ€™t directed just at them, I did it because it was timely and gas prices had all of a sudden shot up everywhere. It would have been really easy to just put stuff on billboards like â€˜Shell Sucksâ€™. I try not to be base about it. When I put it up, I need to have some kind of irony or social commentary.
I also do it in a smart way and try not to slander anyone.Â I think that the corporations tend not to mind. In fact, when I did the one where I took out the ads for Audio Books and added George Bush saying â€˜Donâ€™t read enoughâ€™, â€˜Isnâ€™t Kanye an A-Rab name?â€™ or â€˜Kanye, heâ€™s my nigger’,Â the president of audio books thought that it was his ad agency that had pulled a reveal. He thought it was great! He was even quoted at saying that.
I look at it a bit like Iâ€™m Robin Hood, a lot of these billboards are illegal even. If the corporations wanted to go after me, then it really wouldnâ€™t make them look good, so I think they tolerate what I do, their ads get talked about even more once I hit them.
Format: So a lot of your stuff is done in broad daylight. Have you ever been busted?
Fauxreel: Nope! Never been busted. Knock on wood though.
Format: Damn, props to that. Do people ever ask you what your doing?
Fauxreel: Yeah, people often come up to me, but I always carry my self in a professional manner, and look the part.Â However, here have been very few occasions when people said â€˜donâ€™t do that, take it downâ€™, so I did.Â I try to be sensitive to the community and to their surroundings. Most of my projects are about people really, so when people see other people, it has a sense of comfort.
Format: Ad agencies are poaching a lot of street artists these days. Do you feel that there is some kind of synergy between the two camps?
Fauxreel: I donâ€™t know if the agencies quite understand what is going on, but their stuff is outdoors too, and theyâ€™re always looking for new ways to advertise. Thatâ€™s why I was approached to work on the Vespa campaign. I told them from the get go that I had to have complete control and that they really had to see things my way. If youâ€™re not outdoors working on this stuff on street corners all day, then you probably wonâ€™t have the best idea on how to execute it. Itâ€™s so hit or miss. Some people working on these campaigns really get it, but the majority donâ€™t.
Format: Yeah, a lot of people were fooled.
Fauxreel: Yeah that was the whole purpose. It was supposed to explore the gray areas between advertising and graffiti.Â It was a hilarious social experiment because a lot of people got really pissed off once they found out that Vespa was involved.
Format: You use a lot of interesting portraits in your work. Can you tell me about one of them?
Fauxreel: The girl with the mohawk is Lauren Heel. I met her when I went to Buffalo to shoot Duane Peters, who was an old school skateboarder with a band called the US Bombs. She was there outside the venue. I thought she was really interesting looking and I approached her. She was cool with it and they turned out to be some of the best photos Iâ€™ve ever taken.
Format: Is your work up in other cities?
Fauxreel: Yeah, Iâ€™ve got a lot of work up in Vancouver, New York, London, and Montreal. Iâ€™m making some plans to travel later in the year as well.
Format: Is there anything coming up in the future for you?
Fauxreel: Weâ€™re doing a book to commemorate the City Renewal Project, and thatâ€™s coming out on November 22. Weâ€™re having a closing party at the space at 39 Lisgar St in Toronto to launch that, so everyone is welcome to come on down.
More Info: http://www.fauxreel.ca