Urban Forms Interview


By Vincent Morgan |  Published on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Interview of Michal Biezynski from the Urban Forms Foundation who organized one of the best mural festival in Lodz, Poland.

Etam crew and Satone in Lodz

FatCap : What is the Urban Forms Foundation, its goals ?

Michal Biezynski : Our fundamental mission is to saturate cityscape with a creative, multi layered and modern art that would improve the current image of Lodz giving it a truly artistic and original value. The main tool to reach our aim is large format painting done directly on side elevations of buildings. The reason is that it changes an appearance of a given space permanently. Galeria Urban Forms is the main project of the foundation. It is a permanent street art exhibition in a public space in Lodz. As for now, it consists of 21 large format paintings, murals, created directly on the side wall elevations of buildings placed in the city center. They form an artistic trail open to everyone : citizens and tourists. As taking care of the high artistic value of the whole undertaking is fundamental, we invite artists who are world leaders in creating street art in public spaces.

In the upcoming years, Galeria Urban Forms will be enriched with other street art objects like sculpture, installation, street jewelery etc. We’d like large format paintings to become a flagship of the city and Lodz to be associated with modern and valuable art created in a public space.

FC : Can you explain us your work as the director of the Foundation Urban Forms ?

MB : At this stage, we’re very small foundation consisted basically on two people, so the surface of my work is pretty wide. When You’re organizing big festival, I guess that all those issues are more or less this same, I mean – finding funds for the project, media relations, proper promotion of the project, finding partners of the project, choosing artists... – briefly the coordination of everything related to the project. My duty is to make sure that every part of the UF machine is working properly and the way that I would like see it.

FC : How did you discover street art ?

MB : First of all, I have to underline, that I was and I’m am the big fan of graffiti – I’m mean the classic, typographical one. It came to Poland in the mid 90’s, I started to be interested in the whole hip-hop culture when I was 11-12 years old (1996-1997). After many years I started my studies at the University of Lodz and I choosed the faculty of history of art. The forms of the art of the street has started to evolve and people started to use the term ‘street art’, but my interest in art and especially art in the street is something natural which came with the interest in graffiti.

Wall by the street artist kenor in poland

FC : How did you choose the artists for this project ?

MB : Considering the fact that location of the gallery is the public space, we would like to make it attractive for each and every citizen of Lodz, not only for those directly connected to street art or with art in general. That is why we are focusing on emphasizing artistic aspects, leaving conceptual projects as they might become unclear for the recipients. Furthermore, we would like to present as extensive and diverse palette of artistic conceptions as possible through an appropriate choice of artists. I really like the fact that people are talking about those murals choosing different wall as his or her favorite. For example, I really like M-City piece, Inti is great, but Aryz is killing it’ or Os Gemeos are great (Live! : Os Gemeos and Aryz in Lodz), that’s obvious, but Sat One / Etam wall is brilliant. I assume that’s the way it supposed to work.

FC : Who's the owner of the streets ? It's a relevant question. Have you received complaints from people who do not want to see neither art nore classical advertising ?

MB : You know, we as a foundation which is organizing this project, we can’t compete in any sense with the big companies which are putting lots of the advertising garbage in the public space. They are earning a lot of money on this and it’s kinda impossible to convince the private owner of the building to put on the wall a ‘non profit’ high artistic class mural instead of couple of billbords. It’s obvious. We are trying to create some kind of alternative, an artistic opposition to the visual rubbish that you’re passing by every day.

FC : What's about the spots in Lodz and the authorization ? Can you explain us how did you proceed ? What was the reaction of the local authorities ?

MB : So maybe I’ll start from the last question – the first time when presented the whole idea of the project in front of the City Council was in November 2009. Since that day we had many meetings with the decisive people in the City Authorities – presidents, directors, coordinators – generally people in charge that could help us to get funds from the city. We thought that the Gallery project and it’s permament character is so positive for the aesthetic of the city and the image of the city outside, that financial help form the City Authorities supposed to be something obvious. It took us 2 years to get it, but meanwhile we started to organize the first pieces in the city. We were working with many institutions, organizations, festivals, private companies and sponsors to organize first 7 walls. As I said, after 2 years, we finally received funds from the city to organize big thing – 6 walls with artists from Europe. First edition of the festival took place in September 2011 and we invited such great artists like Aryz, Remed, Sat One, Kenor, M-City, Etam Crew and Sepe / Chazme. You know the rest of the story...

Coming back to the first part of your question, now, after all those walls, it’s not so hard to get the persmissions from proper people in the city who are responsible for city aesthetic. I was coming there many, many times and those guys knows that I’m coming with the projcets created by the best muralists on the planet. Maybe it’s not very humble to say this, but the names of the artist speaks for itself.

FC : It must have been complicated to organise supplies and scafholdings ? How many people worked on that ? Did the artists enjoyed the logistics ?

MB : That’s one of the most important things for me as a organizer – to make everything on time, that noone have to wait, that everybody has everything what it needs, that the artists are 100 % comfortable and could focus only on their art without thinking about the things that we should worry about. We’re consulting with the painters everything before they came to Lodz. I’m always talking with every artists is everything ok, does he want to change or improve anything. I heard many, many stories about fatal organization of couple of festivals in the world and I really hate this kind of attitude towards artists. My aim is to organize everything properly. The artits that we’re inviting are doing their best, so we as a organizers have to do our best for them. It’s ultra important !

FC : You had several sponsors, companies like Ikea, Riwal, Don't Panic. How this sponsoring works ? What are their interest for street art ?

MB : Riwal, as a company which is renting lifts is our partner for a long time. It was their idea to help us, so I’m very grateful that they made such a decision. Ikea gave us a small support this year, but nothing relevant. Don’t Panic is not a sponsor – is our media partner. You ask about their interest – I guess that you supposed ask them, I could only estimate their PR benefits or something like that, but I can’t answer that question.

Shida's street art in poland

FC : What was the reaction of the citizens ?

MB : Speaking about the reaction, you have to know something about Lodz – unfortunately, but the image of the city in the eyes of their citizens is not so good. People who are living in this city are thinking that Lodz is generally dirty, grey, distructed and neglected. This kind of project brings something new for the city aesthetic, new artistic quality which is trying to change the everyday image of the city. We’re the only artistic project co-financed by the city which leaves it’s permanent mark in the public space in Lodz. Taking into account the summary of the comments in the Internet, all the opinions in the media and direct conversations with the citizens, I think that people in Lodz really like it. There are many nice stories about the citizens support in creating each wall.

FC : The city of Lodz have been famous in the art world and tourism world thanks to this project. What are the feedbacks ?

MB : That’s what I said at the very beginning - it’s our aim – to fill up, to saturate the public space in Lodz with really good art. And I would like to underline the word "good" ! We would like to create one of the main touristic attraction. Last year I was guiding around those walls people from Canada, USA, Italy and Slovakia. They came to Lodz only for one / two days to see those walls in reality. After the festival, we’ve organized two bus trips around the UF Gallery murals, and the busess were totally full. Since this year we want to organize such trips regularly. As a city, we don’t have any sea, we don’t have any lake, you won’t experience any mountains in Lodz, so the only reasonable direction to promote the city, in my opinion, is the culture and art. We’re trying to do our best for the city and I guess the city knows that.

FC : Any stories about the Urban Forms Festival and the artists ?

MB : Many of them. I guess that one of them made me really emotional. First day of Os Gemeos wall preparation, I was with the Twins and Aryz at the wall and one guy asked me, if I know other addresses of the walls, that are going to be painted. He was kinda 65-years old, the old cyclist with old-skool peaked cap with Colango logo. I said that I know because I’m organizing the whole thing. He looked at me with big smile and said that he is the big fan since the beginning and he’s cruising around the walls on his bike. In a moment he took out small, twisted piece of paper, where he had written all the previous addresses. He said that this initiative is ultra cool for the city, finally he can see something moving the public space of Lodz. He was sincere and it made me really emotional. I faced a living confirmation of our efforts. We’re trying to do our best for the city and its citizens and I realized that this kind of art in not only for young people, but also older part of the society can appreciate this. When we were organizing the bus trips, the most interested part of the participants were elderly ladies, asking me about lots of things related to the murals, artists, techniques and so on. I could also say lots of stories related to process of creating of every wall and the attitude of the people who are living in the area.

FC : What's coming up in the next few months ?

MB : This year we want to organize the festival, not only the Gallery with murals. During last three years we wanted to focus the whole attention on the word ‘gallery’ and emphasize that this is the big, artistically and conceptually carefully considered project, not only the festival. Walls are of course the most important part of it, this is it’s groundwork, but we would like to implement other fields of art in the street. We have many ideas, but I don’t like to talk only about the conception without the confirmation of its realization. I encourage to stay in touch with our fan page on facebook.

FC : How is your relation with the street art scene now ?

MB : It’s an honor for me to organize work for all those artists who came to Lodz. As I said, the names of the artists speaks for itself. What can I say – for example organizing the mural for Os Gemeos is a dream for me, the experience of life. I’m really grateful that I could bring them to Lodz. It’s a dream that I know all those guys who are the best street artists nowadays.

FC : How would you define street art ?

MB : If you can answer the question "what is art to you", I propose to add "in the public space" at the end of the definition and you’ll get the definition of street art. The thing that I hate is that nowadays lots of people are trying to do something in the public space and many of them are successful only because they did something in the city. The artistic value is ultra low, but the media will treat random intervention in the same terms as a large piece of someone really good. Unfortunately the media, in most of the cases are treating it as a nice, colorful "clown" in the public space, not as a good piece of art on the wall.  

FC : Any artist you want to work with ?

MB : Man, I was working with Os Gemeos, that’s like a dream for me.

M-City giant stencil in Lodz, Poland.

Etam crew in the streets of lodz

Etam crew in Lodz, poland for the urban forms festival

FC :  Any word of wisdom ?

MB : Nope, sorry ;)

FC : Thank you Michal !

MB : Thank You very much ! Stay tuned !  

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