Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday ProFiles: The Mire Project

Today’s society places extreme emphasis on early success. Child prodigies and savants attract media attention but fade into the background as the pack catches up. Kinder soccer and junior gymnastics classes train tots before they’ve mastered walking. Get rich by 20! Earn a Ph.D by 24! Retire by 30! Barreling towards the future at warp speed, today’s super babies jump out of the womb and battle their way the top.

But there’s something to be said for late bloomers. In today’s breakneck world, taking your time is a forgotten skill. Olivier of the Mire project doesn’t have many memories of childhood artistic inklings. Growing up in a household that appreciated art, he was exposed at an early age but took a while to create his own. He recalls, “My creative side came a bit late. I remember the first poster I painted. I was very pleased with the result. I made it a habit to work with lots of bright colors and to play with these colors in an exciting way.”

Little tile aliens inspired Olivier to try his hand at street art. “The approach of Space Invaders motivated me to try urban art,” he recalls. “I, too, started doing mosaic collages representing rods, but I soon realized that the tile didn’t suit my approach; it was too awkward. I love S.I.’s work as a systematic and massive flooding.”  Fascinated by the stand-by patterns on television, Oliver created The Mire Project.

The project is based on the pervasive presence of media in daily life. “My work deals with the television,” Olivier explains, “and the phenomenon of dependence on screens. We are increasingly surrounded by screens: at home, at work, in public spaces. We’ve developed an insatiable need for screens. The stand-by pattern was broadcast in the late hours of the night (in France anyway) when programs over. We often come to the end of the programs, perhaps with the unconscious desire to want more.”

“Today, our wishes are fulfilled (for better or for worse). Television continuously broadcasts programs on hundreds of channels. I belong to a generation that saw the world of images emerge and explode. Today, we are bombarded with images for our distraction, our information, but also to maintain tranquility.” Combining posters, stickers, and Technicolor televisions, the stand-by pattern never looked so good.

This novel take on a classic symbol led Olivier to view his city’s streets in new ways. He recalls, “I was particularly productive during a period of unemployment following redundancy and before finding a new job. I remember climbing up an old refrigerator in the street to paste a poster. It was at night, the city was asleep, and as I watched the street from the top of the refrigerator, I realized that the street did not have the same appearance at this height. Being off the ground was an experience I remember vividly.” 
Like any fledgling artist, Olivier was nervous in the beginning. “Starting out as an artist, particularly without artistic training, requires a certain courage,” he insists. “You have to prove that you’re legitimate. Street art has an advantage because everyone is invited to express himself or herself.” Due to his medium, Olivier has yet to run into trouble. “I’ve had several encounters with the police while I’m out pasting, but I’ve never had problems. The police were very understanding. Wheatpasting isn’t perceived as degradation. In Paris, posters are fairly common. I don’t believe that police are as understanding of graffiti as they are of murals.” Today, Olivier lives in Paris’s 17th arrondissement and has been bombing its streets for the as three years. He explains, “I work mainly in Paris because I live here and I love this city. It has beautiful walls and street art is very present.” Because of his day job (Olivier remains mum about his alter ego), he posts sporadically when he has a spare minute. While he may not always have the time, the motivation is always there. He adds, “What drives me is the street, the ephemeral nature of the works, the creative overflow and anti-conformist art of the urban, the absence of rules. I also think that this art has an urban warrior side and a poetic side; I like both sides.”
Speaking fondly of the freedom and passion behind street art, Olivier hopes that the field will continue to morph and grow in the future. “I hope it will keep its anarchic side spontaneous and overflowing,” he wishes. “The police have always tried to counter urban art, but it always managed to adapt: going up on rooftops, using stencils, and putting graffiti on display. I hope street artists will continue to find loopholes and that street art will be where we didn’t think to look.” 

All images courtesy of The Mire Project. Check out more shots at

Thanks so much, Olivier! I do hope I translated well. Sorry about all the confusing questions; I do my best with French. Hope warm weather and good times come your way this weekend and I'll catch you all next Monday! Have a good one.

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