Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday ProFile: PQ Family

Contrary to what you might think, toilet paper has many uses (beside the unmentionable). When your nose runs, you can use it as a tissue. Need a quick Halloween costume? A few rolls of TP transform ordinary people into mummies or zombies. In high school, we used to toilet paper the lawn of my cross-country coach’s house. (Since then, the girls have opted for more environmentally friendly vandalism alternatives).
Members of the Marseille-based PQ Family cast toilet paper in a whole new role (yeah, I did it). One day, one of the “family members” came up with the toilet paper tag. With a little practice, the crew took their ultra-soft idea out of the WC and into the streets. Over the past five years, they’ve bombed Marseille, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Brussels, Barcelona, and other European cities.

“In the beginning, we were going to stick posters like we tagged: at night with the fear of ‘danger’,” family member Julien recalls. “But with time, we learned that the display is really different from the vandalism spray.” Tagging in their hometown sometimes led to trouble. He remembers, “One evening, we were going to paste in Marseille. While we were on a roof being completely hysterical, two people from the neighborhood popped out of a window and threatened us with a gun! Nothing happened, but we were very scared. From that day on, we were more wary of people in the street and we stopped sticking at night.” While the cops sometimes scold them, PQ Family often stick in peace.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of their style; that little roll of TP packs a big punch. “Toilet paper is made to wipe shit,” Julien laughs. “It is associated with a particularly private and taboo, yet everyone uses it. Spreading his picture in public spaces creates a gap and makes it funny. We repeat the same logo to anchor it in people’s heads. It’s the same strategy as advertising, except that we have nothing to sell. We want to reflect on the use of public spaces because cities are fun galleries!”

When they’re not bombing the streets, you might find them rapping or beatboxing. “We have a great respect for people who are active in the street,” Julien explains, “And we are all influenced by hip hop culture.” Some members work in the school system, with computers, or in construction. Recently, they initiated a project that promotes the arts in disadvantaged schools. “We’re recruiting artists to decorate a building in a poor district,” he says. “We really want to invest in this new structure and to collaborate with emerging graffiti artists that people don’t know yet.”

No matter what community they find themselves in, PQ Family commits itself to making cities beautiful. “People must speak and be heard,” Julien insists. “You cannot just leave it in the hands of private entrepreneurs or advertisers. In the future, if street art becomes increasingly recognized by the media and the general public, so much the better!

Merci, Julien! For more info on PQ, check out their MySpace page.

One more thing before I’m out. I got an e-mail from Billy the Artist and he’s incredibly excited about his latest project. We’ll hear from him about his Swatch collaboration next week. Bon week-end!


  1. Merci, Sknij! Je suis heureuse que vous l'aimez.