Tell us a little about your artistic backgrounds and how you go into street art?
In fact, we have always worked on art projects together. We made music for many years and Leo & Pipo was a kind of declination of what we made in music. We used to sample very primitive pieces from the 1920s and early electronic from the 1940s and 1950s, which we combined with modern sounds. It was already a reflection on collage. We use the same approach for our street art project. Our idea is to place old photographs on a modern background and observe if the combination can create a new meaning.
Where and when did you put up your first street piece?
It was in May 2008 in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. Honestly, our first piece was not a big success.
Tell us a little about your pieces. What’s the story behind the people you paste up?
Our work is an attempt to express the collective memory. We mainly paste family photography – and the emotion we all feel about our ancestors is quite universal. We generally don’t know who these people are, because we only paste anonymous characters. We try to find old photographs around us – our own family, our friends and also flea markets – but also on the internet, to meet our needs in terms of quantity. To know who these people are doesn’t really interest us. For us, they are just symbolic. So we choose them primarily for their charisma. This is a very subjective and sensitive choice.
How do you pick your locations and what do you think is the importance of context to your street art?
We are always keeping an eye out for new locations, because we want our characters to be in line with their environment as much as possible. Our goal is that our characters melt ‘naturally’ with the neighbourhood we choose. Today, we have a significant catalogue of photographs so we can be more precise, but sometimes – mainly when we go in the suburbs, because we do not go every day – chance is important. Our main rule is to avoid walls already occupied by other street-artists.
How do you feel when one of your pieces is ripped down very soon after going up. How do you feel when one of your pieces is added to by another street artist?
We are aware that the street work is inherently ephemeral. Some figures only stay a few days, while others can stay for several years. Of course, it’s always annoying to see our work damaged, but we are not fetishists and when a figure is pasted, it belongs to the street. We prefer to think of our next figure rather than our last one. Concerning the involvement of other artists around our pieces, it’s always a real pleasure for us. We decided to intervene in the streets because we found Paris very traditional and very boring, so when someone feels stimulated by one of our figures and decides to express himself, we are delighted.
Tell us about some of the reactions that people have had to your work on the street.
Responses are always very positive, while at the same time, we have never faced the owner of a building. Maybe it’s because our work has no direct message. It’s more an aesthetic action. To respond completely, we are not looking for this kind of contact with the audience. We are convinced that our action works well when we are discreet. We think it’s more magical for the people who discover one of our pieces.
What is it that you like about putting up work in Paris?
First, we are originally from the Parisian suburbs where the atmosphere between people is completely different than in Paris. The social relations are very strong in the suburbs and when we moved into the ‘big city’, we felt completely anonymous. Our first reaction was very sensitive before being theorised. We finally decided to paste these characters to appropriate the city, to build our own benchmarks, to recreate an imaginary famil. In this sense, our work is intrinsically linked to the city of Paris. On the other hand, we are fortunate to work in Paris as it is a city whose walls are steeped in history. We try to respect the ‘mood’ of the city, that’s why we chose black and white photography – to echo a time when Paris was still like a big village.
Where in else in the world apart from Paris would you like to put up pieces?
We already pasted some of our characters in around 12 countries. Our favourite city is Berlin. We have already pasted some displays in this city, but it’s quite difficult because Berlin is already completely saturated.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced putting up a piece on the streets?
The biggest challenges are always related to climbing. Our most difficult elevation was in the 13th arrondissement, near prison de la Santé.
What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
We have just completed a campaign of false election posters, and we are going to decorate a beautiful Parisian hotel. Today, our main goal is to expand our activities. We produced two short movies this year, GhostPaper and Echoes. We launched our second mixtape, of rare French music from the early ‘80’s. We are also preparing an EP with a great MC from NY called Turtle Handz, Fukushima Mon Amour.
Leo & Pipo’s Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leoandpipo/
Leo & Pipo’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leo-Pipo/143959518993919