Fabio Weik is a contemporary writer and artist. Active exponent of the TDK crew, a historic Graffiti crew, and founder of the Interplay crew. He has taken part in important urban projects, both in Italy and abroad, working closely with local authorities and international foundations interested in Urban Art and regeneration projects.
Weik was born in Milan, in 1984. He grew up in the Comasina district where he used to live and where he understood the dynamics of the so-called suburbs.
«The reality of the Suburbs leads you to boredom. Boredom forces you to keep yourself busy in every possible way and, as a rule, there are two roads on the edge of a metropolis: drugs or finding a passion. I found the Graffiti».
So, the skyline of the Metropolis and the perimeter of Milan were crucial for your artistic development.
Fabio Weik: «They were crucial indeed. I approached the Hip Hop culture which is closely linked to the urban reality. I moved to Bollate, my friends and I were all writers, we lived near the railway. We were particularly interested in who had done (painted, Editor’s note) this or that train. It was 1997. I have always had a passion for drawing and in 2006 thanks to ‘Street Art, Sweet Art’, at the Pavilion of Contemporary Art in Milan, paople started to pay special attention to the phenomenon. There, some enthusiasts and gallery owners began to show an interest in me too, and they started calling me. This is how my journey began».
Was it at that moment that you realized that you could really have professional ambitions in this field?
Fabio Weik: «I have never loved the idea of Graffiti Writing being exhibited in museums. For me that one is a dimension that should remain in the streets. I thought it was the chance to conceive a new language. I didn’t want to distort my more underground path, which I still carry on today. I realized that I needed to use my own language; that it could express and represent the historical moment in which I live».
So, Fabio Weik is two sides of the same coin. On the one hand your underground identity is still alive in the streets and in your lettering studio; on the other hand your desire to communicate to a different audience led you to approach more institutional environments, experimenting with contemporary visual art Media.
Correct me if I’m wrong.
Fabio Weik: «That’s absolutely true. I’m not a street artist, I do Graffiti. I am a Writer, I’m into lettering. Of course, I know how to draw, but Writing is one of those artistic expressions that best represent the Hip Hop culture. It is a way of expressing yourself totally based on your ego-trip, if we want to define it in a simplistic way, and the continuous pursuit of stylistic perfection. You have to evolve the way you write your name; trying to write it in an increasingly beautiful, harder, cooler way. It is a self-centered dimension. I’ve never thought that someone would think: ‘How beautiful it is!’ while passing by one of my graffiti. (laughter, editor’s note) I’ve never even cared about it.
On the other hand, the works of art that are exhibited in museums or galleries reflect our historic context. Current events. Contemporary society and the mass media. I investigate how they relate. I use popular symbols and icons. I paint, make videos, and site-specific installations. Of course everything comes from my own opinions and point of view, but I always do it considering the social context. There is concern, criticism. You can even find a bit of unconscious inner distress. I think the artist has a big responsibility. The artist is a witness of his own time».
You have a urban and street cultural background, so you tell about society in museums. You don’t just observe, you live your time actively and you communicate it to visitors through a more institutional language. Is this one the intersection between your two dimensions?
Fabio Weik: «The experimental techniques and the use of unconventional materials such as acids, glass, dust, plaster and common objects help to displace the viewer by triggering a process of identification and reflection. You attract your own enthusiasts this way. You must tell what lies behind your work to those who want to listen to you, this is crucial. I create my language and I also create my aficionados: people who want to hear my message.
The artist must represent the reality in which he lives, without frills. We artists are witnesses. I have fully experienced the media change. I have seen all the evolution that has led us to this indigestion of information that led things not to be interesting as such but because they are fashionable. How many things pass us by and then disappear into thin air? I try to analyze the relationship between information and society».
By sheer coincidence, we are experiencing a rather complicated period, even from this point of view.
Fabio Weik: «Exactly, right now information is very confusing and unclear, and this leads to social and cultural confusion. Today, everyone has their own idea about the pandemic. There is chaos. I’ll talk about it in the future. I’m actually working on something, but I don’t like to deal with a topic while it’s still in vogue. I would feel like an opportunist».
You are deeply attached to Hermeneutics. To the philosophical conception that leads to the interpretation not only of the texts but also of the entire human existence. It’s not surprising that you are dedicating your production to this discipline starting from ‘Hermeneutics Chapter I‘. You handed me this question on a plate. (laughter, Editor’s note)
«Yes, thank you! (laughter, Editor’s note) I like to analyze things cold-bloodedly. I usually wait for the issue to cool down. Then, after reflecting on the matter, I reopen the Pandora’s box and find new inputs, to give way to new reflections».
But with this new chapter dedicated to ‘Balla‘ you slip on a slippery slope. It is easy to say the wrong thing when it comes to issues like immigration and all the problems related to it. It’s true that the matter is no longer on the front pages, but it’s still difficult to deal with it without falling into vulgar criticism, often of a political nature, especially in Italy.
By means of Balla you managed to deal with an extremely delicate issue without falling into void rhetoric. You have observed it from a nomadic point of view, even drawing inspiration from Greek and Latin mythology.
Fabio Weik: «’Balla’ is the sequel to ‘Hermeneutics’, the first series. It is a more concrete step. The ‘Ermeneutica I’ exhibition did not feature any image of migrants. Yet, during this journey that began more than a year ago, while reading and studying Mithological extracts that I found in various libraries around the world, I realized that the reality that was depicted in those texts was our own. The Ancient Greeks used to be familiar with the macabre, terrible solutions we hear about today; even in ancient times, migrants used to be a source of business and victims of abuse, often carried out by the gods themselves.
We are almost experiencing a Modernistic Mythology. Slavery, rapes, corruption (even of gods), migrants’ world is linked to many different social issues. The man has always lived in a nomadic dimension, in fact there are many literary figures of this kind. Just think about Charon who ferries souls. So, I thought this was the right key to express my opinion on the refugees social problem without falling into mere compassion.
History repeats itself. The nomadic dimension is a distinctive feature of mankind and, within this mechanism, various social dynamics find fertile ground.
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I have collected the material, the most hidden and precious illustrations i found among the ancient books scattered around the world; I reworked them in vector graphics and printed them on the thermal blankets; which are nothing more than the first gift that is given to migrants arriving on European shores. If someone sees some pietism in these works, they can just go and read my story to understand that that is not and will never be my goal. Art is not for everyone. Thankfully, anyone has made political remarks. Have I made myself clear?».
I would say yes. (Laughter, Editor’s Note) It’s very interesting. At this point you meet Balla, in flesh and blood, who then becomes your alter-ego in the new Hermeneutics series.
Fabio Weik: «I met Balla and I wanted to tell his story. He has been in Italy for five years now, and he is perfectly integrated into our society. He is a very sociable young man; a citizen of the world. He arrived in Italy after an incredible journey. A tragic adventure but with a happy ending. The dawn, which for us is just a photo worth posting on Instagram, for a migrant represents the reality coming back after the dark of night, and another day lost in the middle of the sea. This is why I wanted to imprint Balla’s image on the thermal blankets and insert his story in Hermeneutics. It is a modern mythological tale.
Balla himself, reading passages from Greek mythology, asked me if certain things had really happened; because there are mythological episodes he experienced in first person, centuries later.
I really like the contrast between ancient and modern. The concept of visual oxymoron and temporal oxymoron. I have voiced Mythology through a digital, modern language; therefore, Balla is the present meeting ancient mythology.
The main theme is the concept of nomadism itself, moving from one place to another, which today can also be experienced through digitization. You can travel while standing still, and this is even more evident in this period.
The ‘Balla’ installation will transmit all these concepts even in museums and galleries, but it needed to be presented in an urban context first. A place that had a past, that had actually hosted migrants. This place was Ride Milano, which I would like to thank for the opportunity. The container is essential to tell a story. The techno music that accompanies the installation is by Boss Doms, sometimes I work with him as Artistic Director on his projects, while he composes the music for some of my installations. It is a very stimulating partnership. Images, on the other hand, are by Francesco Brembati».
His very name thus becomes the provocative title of the exhibition: ‘Balla‘ (dance).
Fabio Weik: «The concept of ‘Balla’ (dance), in this case, is a critique of Events with no content. We decided to bring art, the content, to places that used to host parties but that now are empty due to the situation. ‘Balla’ means dancing, techno music immediately disconnects the mind from the political concept of migration. The loud music and the 145 thermal blankets (equal to the number of passengers on the dinghy, Editor’s note) which, in the dark, reflect the light, creating a Club atmosphere, also recall the dawn I mentioned earlier, but only for those who know».
An ironic dimension and a location that brings you back to your own original dimension: the street, the city, the graffiti world.
Fabio Weik: «Everything I do in life, everything I love, comes from Graffiti. My artistic research comes from that world and it always goes back there. I love traveling both for work and for pleasure: I always travel. However, I hardly ever travel without a purpose. And this comes from the Graffiti culture too. Whenever I travel around the world, the first people I hear, meet and host me are Writer friends. It is a large community, a large family spread around the world.
A few years ago, I used to travel the world painting with my Crew, today we still do that, but I usually travel for other reasons. They are always a safe haven for me. There is a truly brotherly sense of union, strengthened by my military training which taught me the sense of belonging and great discipline, which is essential for my work. I’m not exactly the prototype of a bohemian artist, quite the contrary. I organize my work meticulously.
The concept of travel is very dear to you.
Fabio Weik: «Of course it is. I have traveled a lot and I travel continuously, as I said before. I worked in the aviation industry and I have the Commercial Pilot License. I stayed in Dubai for 6 years because I had to carry out a project in collaboration with an Art Gallery. I lived there for six months a year and, when it was getting too hot, I returned to Italy. Today the Gallery goes on its own way, but without me. I have buyers all over the world and this is just one of the many reasons why I’m often abroad.
America is the cradle of the art I love; we can say that the trip to the United States was my ‘Erasmus’ (laugh, Editor’s note) and I go back there often. I am very attached to the Middle East, there I find peace. There are many mystical places where I can find peace. Furthermore, in the East you can find a much more intimate relationship between humans than in the West. Moreover, living in Dubai I found out that many things told by the media were actually made up. For example, the first people I met there were Writers like me.
For me, travel also means getting out of the comfort zone, looking for another dimension to deal with. Getting involved. It is finding a place that offers stimuli, even if it were the street behind the house. Traveling is essential. It is part of human nature. We are all nomads, even digital today.
Traveling develops creativity. Personal experience. It gives us inputs that we all have to feed on, not just artists like me».
This is very interesting; I am very curious about the Writers in Dubai. Furthermore, why did you decide to open an Art Gallery right there? How is people’s relationship with art in Dubai?
Fabio Weik: «Writer’s presence in Dubai seems absurd, it’s true, but they exist. We are talking about legal writing; everything has to be legal there because you can’t mess around with illegality. I met a London writer who introduced me to other writers, mainly Filipinos and local kids. Obviously, there are the locals, who are very rich, and a more underground group that comes from the Filipino community, which is very developed in Dubai. This practice is growing a lot, when I was there it was still embryonic. The peculiarity is that in Dubai Graffiti locals are mainly female. Art is a purely female thing in the Middle East and, therefore, there are many more girls than boys in the field. When they first met me they asked me why a man like me was interested art.
For them the artistic vision is mainly female and there were very few male artists a few years ago.
I didn’t choose Dubai for money; I sell better in London or Brussels. Dubai, at the time, did not have a particular artistic sensitivity, but I was intrigued by the fact that there were many different religions living in harmony within the same territory. So, I chose it more for personal interest, also because it is difficult to make them spend their money. (Laughter, Editor’s Note) They have big houses and the bigger the house, the more paintings are needed.
This is because art has always been considered as a decoration, there aren’t many art collectors. However, in Abu Dabi, which is very close to Dubai, there is one of the most important Contemporary Art centers in the world. Moreover, Dubai also has a Contemporary Art district, where you can find some of the most important and internationally famous galleries. Let’s say that I chose it because it was still a pristine territory from certain points of view and that dimension intrigued me».
Modernity and antiquity, this oxymoron is always present in your life. We can even find the concept of travel as getting out of one’s comfort zone again. You are a nomadic researcher.
Fabio Weik: «There is also the contrast between military discipline and the freedom of art. Another oxymoron you can find in me. It also allowed me to break down the prejudice against those who attend military school and the idea of the artist as dissolute. I approach art and my ideas with the same precision with which I would schedule a flight. For me it’s essential to build a credibility, a story.
I’ve built it and I’m still building it, believing in what I do every day. To do this you need discipline, work, continuous study. You need to be real, credible, otherwise you won’t go anywhere. The mechanisms of the event devoid of content are being undermined; this pandemic has erased the empty people and left those who really have something to say. We should get angry and go on this way. We should support people who really do something, those who are not afraid of taking on new challenges».
How can you define your relationship with the digital world? You implement it in your work but it is also part of everyday life…
Fabio Weik: «Well, let’s stress the ancient/modern dichotomy, today I engrave with the graphic pen as masters used to do with the chisel. Digitization allows me to work from anywhere in the world. Social media are tools to study society, to understand what is going and what is wrong with it, and obviously to find new ideas. I totally keep this out of my private life. I use social media for work. My background is very concrete and for me it is essential to have solid foundation and a real life. For this reason, the aspect that scares me the most about how things are going on is how easily people come to believe that they are able of doing something.
Let me explain: you can’t consider yourself an Engineer after watching three videos on YouTube, that’s it. Today this is becoming a kind of trend. At the same time, this is one of the most interesting aspects about digital nomadism. If I were a smart-working engineer, for example, I would use my free time to enrich myself; I would take part in cooking classes or whatever interests me, leaving my comfort zone. This is why we are all potential digital nomads. It is a dimension based on curiosity, those who are lazy remain lazy, but those who want to travel always find a way to do it. Just think about the lockdown without digital devices».
Without Internet and our devices, there might not have been a lockdown. Because we wouldn’t have had real-time information.
Fabio Weik: «It may be. Let’s get back to my social investigations. We have access to infinite information and sources and, at the same time, our devices have access to us. I’m not talking about privacy, of course, but about information. It can influence our emotional side and affect our life in both a positive and a negative way. Without the Internet there wouldn’t have been smart-work or remote teaching; but we would have managed this situation in an easier way from an emotional point of view. This aspect scares me. We are all digital nomads, but you need to know how to handle digitalization very well in order not to lose the compass of your life».