Exclusive Interview: Blek le Rat on Homelessness

Juxtapoz // Monday, 04 Jan 2010
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Helen Soteriou: When and why did you decide to create your homeless images?
Blek le Rat: I wanted to work on the issue of homeless people for a long time, but my first image with a beggar was made in 2006.  The problem of homeless people is a global problem – everywhere in the world we find this big issue in every city. We count one hundred thousand homeless in France and I think it’s the same thing in every country.

This issue could be easily resolved if the people in power really wanted to do something about it. I don’t think it would cost a lot of money for our society to change this irrefutable fact. In making my images of the homeless and beggars, I would like to involve people and the media about this problem. It is my way to make a gesture of charity toward people who need it.
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Are they based on anyone or on images you have seen?
Some images, like the beggar, is the image of my son Alex. I used my own image for the man in the sleeping bag. I have one new image of an old man who is actually a beggar. I took the face of Victor Hugo to make this beggar. Victor Hugo is a French writer of the 19th Century who wrote a book about poverty called “Les Miserables” or "the miserable ones."

Where have you stenciled them and do you continue to use them today?
I have stenciled them in many different cities around the world - Paris, London, New York, Mexico City.

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What has been the response?

The British magazine "The Big Issue" contacted me and I made a donation of twenty paintings to the magazine. Those paintings were sold for £25,000 and the money went to the homeless people in 2006.

Did you ever expect them to be so influential?

Yes, I did.

Anything else you would like to say?
I think that street art has a huge impact on people and it would be interesting if artists work more on social issues.

More on Blek le Rat can be found online at http://bleklerat.free.fr

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