Lost in Montpellier
Earlier this year, Asylm, Eyeone, Mear, and
Yem flew overseas to Montpellier, France as participants in the
Battle of the Year France 2007 festival. Yem AM7 organized things
on the L.A. front for this trip, in coordination with Association Attitude
in France. The following is a somewhat memory-lapsed account by Eyeone.
May 19, 2007
The Metro was nearing the last stop, Mosson, in the Algerian side of
town. Out the window I had been catching sight of different names sprayed
on every surface possible, from rooftops on historic buildings to the walls of
tunnels leading under the city of Montpellier in France. It seemed like only
moments had passed since I boarded a plane at LAX. I was now nearing the
end of the line and the end of a journey that took me almost halfway around
May 9, 2007
Upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, I met up with Asylm,
Mear, and Yem. We were ready to board a plane that would take us to
Europe as participants on the visual end of things in the Battle of the Year
France festival. Invited by Association Attitude, organizers of a
multitude of international events, we were charged with exporting a little bit of
L.A. visual culture.
May 10, 2007
We began to set up our exhibition, aptly titled “Languedocalifornia,” at
the Galerie Dominique Bagouet, a highly official hall in the center of
town. The name of the show was a play on words, a way of making a
regional connection between France and Cali. We barely had a chance to
feel the jetlag when the nails began to hit the walls. In a flurry of installation
madness, the exhibit was hung.
May 11, 2007
A multitude of art fans, graffiti writers, parents with their kids, plenty of
breezies (have to mention them for the 50mm’ers), and city officials all
convened at the opening reception, enjoying and analyzing the art
work. DJ Agent A, also from California, provided the audio, while
Mear painted live to an astonished crowd.
Mear presented a series of paintings full of political commentary,
illuminated visions, and incredible detail.Asylm created an assembly of
paintings that incorporated many of his instantly recognizable icons -the
Native American figures of saints, depictions of hummingbirds, symbolic of
the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. I exhibited an installation of hand-made prints
consisting of images captured on the streets of Los Angeles. Through these
prints, I aimed to show some of the things writers see, feel, and experience
while traveling the city. Yem, one of L.A.’s graffiti pioneers and founder of
AM7, displayed huge versions of his trademark imagery. It was dope to see
these giant posters, of the kind usually seen affixed to surfaces around the
city, in a gallery environment.
One of the things that impressed me that night was the blurring of
divisions among the public that attended. It wasn’t strictly a graffiti exhibition,
a hip-hop event, an official function, or just an occasion to hang out; it was all
of those things and more. The city of Montpellier works with organizations
such as Association Attitude to provide arts for their city and all itsinhabitants.
It was apparent that the arts are an important element in this city, and
presumably the entire country. Although there was much recent political
upheaval (as we witnessed first-hand with cops and citizens seriously
throwing down in the middle of the town center), government entities are still
down to provide support for and foment artistic endeavors
May 12 until May 17,2007(I think...)
No sooner was I done musing on these things that it was time to start
painting a wall that was provided especially for the “writers from L.A.” Day
one began with the building of scaffolds and the buffing of the wall. A good 25
feet high, the preparation of the wall took a while.
Working on the wall took on a cool dynamic, as we were painting at one
of Montpellier's metro train stops. We were constantly mingling with
commuters, athletes (we were painting the outside of a stadium called “Stade
Phillipide” known for its -I kid you not- table tennis bouts), kids going to and
coming from school, and so on. The blur of the train passing by reminded me
of my childhood fascination with “Beat Street”.
Another fresh thing about the location of the wall was meeting a bunch
of local writers, as we were very close to a few painting spots. A general
feeling I got was that the writers in Montpellier really love bombing. Although
they were stoked to have a giant production going up in their city by some
out-of-towners, more than a few expressed that in their scene, bombing was
were it was at for them.
Walking through the city, I have to agree with them. There were plenty
of spots hit hard. A few crews immediately stood out. One was the SPN
crew. They told of a legendary member of their crew who had been
busted and placed under house arrest. If he was caught again, he had been
warned, he would serve a year in jail for graffiti. (Sounds harsh but they were
more shocked to hear about L.A.’s latest wave of graffiti-related sentencing:
5 years, 8 years, and now I hear 11 years?!?)
This writer from SPN, despite his previous arrest, was out bombing
rooftops one night when he was spotted. Rather than face a year in jail, he
tried to get away from the cops. He was found dead the next morning, the
cause of death was not known. Some think he fell off a roof, others smell foul
play at the hands of the police. Nevertheless, this crew was up everywhere
and maintained their presence.
I met a writer named SILK from a crew called 351. They also
had mad spots everywhere (one in fact, a right next to our production). I took
one of the train lines from end to end, and 351 had smashed the line pretty
hard. I was really feeling the big, blocky silver letters that seem to dominate
the scene in Montpellier.
Another crew that deserves attention is the C4 crew. It was nearly
impossible to not encounter their rooftop spots throughout the city. C4
is known throughout all of France for being incredibly up.
One writer told me that a few years back, the city was notorious across
France for being bombed hardcore, especially at street level. As elections
were fast approaching, government authorities decided to clean up the
city. But of course, graffiti cannot be eliminated, and rooftop spots became
the goal, as these tend to run longer. SILK points out, “There are probably
more surveillance cameras in the city than there are graffiti writers. We’re
undergoing all sorts of repression from the government that definitely trying
to eradicate graffiti, but all in vain.”
A name that also stood out was that of SALAMECH. Apparently, this
kid was a relative newcomer, but was hitting the city hard. One of his pieces
greeted us as we took the train to our hotel the moment we arrived.
SMOL stood out as well, with fresh throw-ups and straight letters all
over the place. RATAL from SPN had some big spots. One of the
coolest names I came across was a crew named FANCLUB.
I was drawn to the local handstyles as well. Particularly, a writer named
TONG had some nice tags running. The dreaded street art
‘phenomenon’ was also visible, through wheat-pastes, stickers, etc., Mr.
MN rocking some interesting stuff in particular (in spray-paint, stickers,
May 16, 2007
As part of our participation in the festival, each of us did some live
painting at various events. Yem and I did canvases at a DJ/Freestyle
session outside the gallery. With DJ MAD HABITS on the turntables,
I painted a piece of my friend TEMPT's name and YEM rocked his
name. This event also served as a sort of second opening to the exhibit,
attracting more people to come through and check out our work.
May 17, 2007
Asylm painted live during a Beat Box competition, and from all accounts, he
blew away the crowd with a painting featuring one of his hummingbirds.
May 18, 2007
Mear shared the stage with MIX MASTER MIKE, who was genuinely
thrilled to be deejaying next to him, and made the crowd know it. All in
attendance at the filled-to-capacity club were pumped to see this fusion of art
What followed after that is a blur. At some point we finished our wall. I
began to take the train and walk everywhere, taking flicks of graffiti.
May 19, 2007
As a fine ending to the activities of our trip, we all met up at the final event of
the festival, a concert with DE LA SOUL. The concert, in front of
18,000 people, was the biggest I had ever seen De La Soul at. They had
circles of B-Girls and B-Boys going full force, the crowd singing every word,
in short, it was mad hip-hop, son!
It was an honor to paint a wall that the city of Montpellier intends to keep
running for years. Painting with Asylm, Mear, and Yem was definitely an
experience I will never forget.Thomas, Nadia, and all at Association Attitude
showed us much love and are some of the most amazing people I have ever
The local writers KALA and FLEM gave me an overview of
graffiti in their town and rocked some fresh sketches in my black book. Silk
351 also shared some history and knowledge of what’s going in Montpellier.
DJ Mad Habits kept it real on the hip-hop end of things. AM7 Europe -
EWAY, PHERS, and NICK- definitely are holding it down.
That’s it, peep the gallery for more Montpellier graffiti. Yours truly,
EYEONE | SEEKING HEAVEN