The country’s vibrant graffiti scene – from action-on-steel and throw-ups to street reaches and legal wall productions – has just gotten a new champion in the shape of Vizion, a 170-pages strong annual magazine whose first edition was released two weeks ago at Brussels’ bombing mecca, Montana Shop. We speak with the yearly publication editor and publisher Adrien Lobet about his aims and ambitions.
What were your initial intentions with the book? At its core, what did you want it to represent?
The basic idea of the magazine is to make a best of the year about graffiti and street art in Belgium, show that we have great talent in this small country. It also makes it possible to have an archive of what has happened, what has been erased, or to show things that people have simply never seen, such as pieces hidden in abandonned places or in towns where they’ve never been for example.
How would you describe the country’s graffiti scene today, and how do you hope the book pays tribute to it?
The scene is very huge, Belgium being fairly central there is a lot of passage of foreign writers, something which is especially true for trains. So the scene is very difficult to describe, as it is vast and nurtured from all over Europe. In this book, I was keen to highlight different styles and disciplines. It’s not possible to show everything though, so I’d only see it as the tip of the iceberg.
Through a series of different chapters, the book takes in every facet of the scene – from legal walls and tracksides to trains and tags. Why was it important for you to take this holistic approach?
Graffiti is a whole for me. It exists under many different forms and that is what makes it strong. Sometimes a signature made in five seconds is more interesting than a graffiti made in five hours… I also like to think that a person who does not know how to tag, does not know how to make a good graffiti. The tag allows the understanding of the letter, the chromes allowing to work the letters and to create a style, the throw-ups allows to have the speed … Even if many people prefer the beautiful characters rather than a tag using a fire extinguisher, it is important to show it too.
How did you choose who’d make the cut, and why?
This number was a test, I had no idea how many photos I was going to receive or do, let alone how many pages I would have. No idea how many contributors would lend themselves to the game. In the end, I received 8000 photos from all over Belgium. So I focused on the pictures taken mainly in 2016, removed all the photos too old or in too small resolution, to be able to start a good selection. From there, I separated the magazine into several chapters and sections and from there I tried to have a fairly wide selection, to show a lot of interesting people with different styles. As for the focus, I wanted to work with people who do not paint together, who do not necessarily know each other, with very different approaches to each other. I met a lot of people during the year, some with whom the project was made, others with whom I had to give up.
What relevance to you believe the book, a printed object, retains in today’s digitally-focused world?
The fact of having an object printed on this subject is very rare in Belgium, and the fact of being able to take it in hand is interesting. This project started like that, by finding old graffiti magazines, I thought it was time to make an object for our libraries, rather than let everything disappear in the remote pages of the internet. On the net there is too much information, too many photos, so we often miss the interesting pictures. Having a printed book allows a better conservation in time.
Other than Defo, some of the country’s legendary and most prolific writers might take issue with the fact that the book makes no mention of the past, focusing squarely on the past year’s activity. What would you say to them?
That this is simply not the purpose of the book, and that if they want to make a book about the years 1990-2000, or something else, I would gladly help them, I would like to see that.
Who were the people instrumental in ensuring the book saw the light of day?
The photographers mainly. They are a dozen in this magazine that provided me with all photographs, all very different – from street art to graffiti on trains – but are all united by the same passion for graffiti photography. There are also the artists who participated in the Focus, and there are a few non-profits like Urbana and Costik which also helped me … and of course the Montana Shop Brussels who provided me with invaluable support.
Working on the book, what were your inspirations?
The old magazines that came out of my archives inspired me a lot, sometimes showing me where I should go but often rather where I do not want to go.
Working on the book, any anecdotes you’d like to share?
Several people did not want to participate in the project, telling me “it will never go out” or “I keep my photos because your thing is going to be shit”. This is a classic in Belgium, I have often heard of magazines, books etc. but can end up coming out. Now that the first issue is out … I get photos from them, seeing that in fact … yes it went out … and it’s not that bad.
What section of the book are you particularly proud of, and why?
The part on handstyles. Because it is what speaks to me most – raw, flowing and with no touching up. This is where you distinguish those that have a good hand from those that don’t. For the rest, I’m glad to have put a little humor inside and to be able to share some photos whose content is not understandable at first glance and that many people have never seen.
What can we expect in the second edition?
I hope to be able to make a more interesting edition yet, with photos much more diversified in terms of provenance and better quality yet. And why not an even bigger circulation run.