I was sitting on a bench, publishing a photo on Instagram of a 1UP piece, taken that afternoon in Kreuzberg (Berlin), when I looked up and suddenly saw them, just in front of me: a big crew with many members, some of them with bikes, all of them happy, friendly and smiling, also at me. After ten minutes many people had to go back home and I remained with four of them, the founding members (but at that moment I did’t know that). It was 7pm, one hour before sunset, in the first day of my 2-weeks trip in Berlin and Athens: I was still trying to familiarize with the idea that I finally was in Berlin, go figure how hard was for me to realize that I’ve just met my favourite graffiti crew: I couldn’t be much happier than that. We went to a park for a long interview: two hours of chatting about many different topics. To be honest that was my first “professional” interview: I use to chat a lot with artists, rarely think of questions before meeting.
But it was a great opportunity for me and I didn’t want to waste time or risk to forget something: so I was sitting on the grass with a beer in a hand and my block notes in the other, with four pages of questions written down.
What most impressed me at first was their interest in exchanging opinions: as soon as we’ve sit down they’ve asked me to explain Urban Lives, my travels, my point of view about many matters. I’ve explained that I already knew them since years, loved and watched all their videos, and I’ve always liked graffiti writing in general but it was just some months that I’ve started to investigate this world, and meet some writers from different countries. I’ve told them that the street art that I like the most in Italy is mainly the underground art, the one of (ex) writers, who’ve spent many years in the street, fighting against society, still keeping the writers’ attitude.
I’ve also tried to summerize the situation in Italy: the “real street art” still exists in many cities but muralism and urban artists are becoming more and more a trendy stuff and many new artists, who are not really connected to the life in street, sometimes cover old graffiti pieces, paint in graffiti hall of fames and don’t know or respect the movement; the same with common people who takes their part, considering their art better then “vandalism and tags” of the graffiti worlds. In some cities, like Rome, it caused a sort of battle between writers and “street artist”: I consider it a bit funny or at least normal since it’s something that belongs to the street philosophy.
After finishing my expainations and a short introduction to Urban Lives, as blog and project, I’ve started to ask my questions:
You maybe start with a marker tag and dont even think about where you are, but you might have a special objective to paint which takes nights and days to check out. But we often like to walk around the city and paint whatever comes crosses our way.
How many people is in your crew?
Many people ask this question which is hard to answer for us. We don’t want to tell any Numbers! Who is a member and who is not? People which actively painted 1UP before kind of retired and a few people joined us. Some friends regularly help us with different things.
How was your travel in rome during the Christmas holidays in 2015? Guess it was fun and easy to paint in Rome
Our Rome trip was great! Some of us went there by car taking over 800 cans, rollers, fire extinguishers and what ever… Our car was completely stuffed, cans everywhere, even under the seats and in the glove department between us. In southern Germany we got into a snowstorm and it took us 36 hours to get that. So the way there was already quite an adventure.
We enjoined painting in Rome and it was fairly easy. People don’t care about graffiti and the police isn’t that motivated to chase you. We painted lots of trains and street pieces. And even the subway wasn’t that hard to paint. Thanks to our Rome friends with which we did some really nice missions on the metro.
(Funny thing: when I’ve said that some articles wrote about their vandal bombing and that they destroyed Rome I said I was angry… they all said, COOL!)
What do you think about street art?
Street art kind of is also a form of graffiti or is closely related to it as well. There is cool street art and street art which doesn’t earn any respect. But you have the same in graffiti. Often street art is used to pacify spaces, to gain control over a wall which was painted before illegally. If street art is used to do that it shouldn’t be respected. We are friends with different street artist and do collaborations together as we do with other writers.
How the crew started and born?
Some of the founding members of 1UP are sitting in front of you. Before we started 1UP we got up with our seperate names but we realized soon that to really known it is much more effective to write one name. That is why we started “One United Power“. Now this means more to us then just painting a name to get famous. We all are friends and share more than just the graffiti part! It is kind of a philosophy. There is a kind of solidarity among us, we support each other if we can and we do actions collectively!
I love the fact that you use one name, no individuality, just “family” crew. Did you take inspiration from Khc or The or other crews from 90’s?
We knew Khc and other crews from the magazins but they weren’t our role model. We founded the crew and then it became what it is now over time. And it still is evolving and we discuss what we want to be and which directions the crew should take. What is important for us is that we all know each other well and keep it very tight. We are a big group of friends!
Does some of your members also use personal tags?
Some of us tag single names but this shouldn’t be connected to the crew name too much!
What do you think about galleries and graffiti? (NDR I explained them that in the last year we’ve had Bridges of Graffiti and “1984” exhibition in Italy
We think it’s ok to make people understand and appreciate graffiti writing. We had the last solo exhibition in Berlin for our 10 years anniversary at Urban Spree. It was mainly photos and video installations. Many people came to the opening and we had a cool party! We organized some gimmicks like older friends of us walking around in stolen BVG security uniforms filming people. Some visitors actually believed that they were real!
What do you think about new technologies for graffiti writers?
Graffiti changed with the developement oft the last years. We try to document our actions professionally and our videos are seen by a broad audience. We are present in social media with our instagram account and post a photo every 2-3 days. We have a lot of unpublished video material and we plan to release that in the future. We just don’t have the time to view and edit all the material we have!
Do you know and meet sometimes the Berlin Kidz? Cause I’ve heard some rumors, like the fact that they were in your crew but kicked out because they were the craziest members.
Aahaha, no. They are good friends which never were in our crew. We regularly go out together what will also be visible in the opcoming Berlin Kidz movie. They are really good guys, but indeed, they are the craziest!
I was so impressed by their kindness, openness and helpful. What I’ve always found so special in their videos and of their crew is the positive attitude, something that is not so common, a beautiful peculiarity: even in risky, extreme and outstanding city and train bombing they always look like a family, never aggressive, always happy and collaborative. Spending some time with them totally confirmed my opinion and now I think very highly of them. Great to know them, and hope to meet them again… also in Italy! (you’re welcome guys!)