Exclusive Interview with We Are SupervisionJuxtapoz // Thursday, 13 Aug 2009
Exclusive Interview with We Are Supervision
By Jamie Kim
We Are Supervision. The name makes me think of a group of superheroes with loaded spray paint and steely cans for weapons. Who’s involved and how did you guys become an “artist collective” under the umbrella name of We Are Supervision?
Who – KC and I run the ship, but it has always been a revolving door of wayward friends, admired peers and creative criminals.
Why – Strength in numbers.
Name – When we were trying to put a name on things, we had an insanely long list that no one could decide on. In 2003-2004, I was doing a bunch of guerilla installations (installing fake security cameras in the shape of peace or anarchy signs, uninstalling real ones, installing surveillance cameras made out of cheese, putting together see-through plexi cameras, cutting plenty of holes in fences, etc) that were a response to the growing amount of excessive paranoia, surveillance, homeland security, etc. All the pieces were created under the title “Supervision Series.” So somehow the “Supervision” play on words ended up wining, and the “We Are” was due to available URLs and the collaborative agenda.
Pose recently described Supervision as a “legal hustle.” As more people become aware of your individual names and (legal) projects, has it been harder to use outdoor canvases and simultaneously stay safe from the law?
KC: “Legal Hustle” comes more from a background point of view – both of us having a personal background of a bit of struggle. For many years we had to hustle just to make it in the day to day. Growing up in a place like Chicago, it’s just part of the process. When you don’t have money behind you or many options, you end up hustling. To different people that means different things. One man’s hustle could be slinging dope, another could be strong-arming, getting over on stores, just making something from nothing, or what have you. That is our personal background, so to us, we almost feel like this is just as much of a hustle. I think our mentality is to stay on the grind, always aware, always searching for an opening no matter how small, just to get our foot in the door and then make the most out of it from there. Staying hungry…
Pose: It’s a different game these days for sure. What I do on a day to day or night to night is much different than it’s been for most of my life, but I’m following what I believe in, doing my thing and having a ball. Honestly it’s all the age old grand experiment to see if you can be successful and free doing what you love for the rest of your life. And unfortunately what my peers and I love doing is the easiest way to stay in constant legal drama, and fail.
As my guy Skrew MSK so eloquently put it… I’m in somewhat of a “transitional phase.”
Is it challenging to collaborate when everyone has a different angle or idea about a project?
KC: When it comes to collaboration it is a pretty healthy process. I think we know each other well enough that we are completely open to each others’ ideas. Our egos are put to the side. We may go into a project, and I think I have the perfect idea, and then when we get together to talk about it I hear Pose’s idea and it’s better than mine or vice versa. I like how our process works out like that actually. We are able to look at what’s best for that specific project as opposed to a personal agenda and constantly learn from each other and those around us.
Pose: Challenges or uncomfortable spots can be the most fruitful because they are fertile ground for growth and learning/understanding someone else and their artistic perspective. If you’re open, it’s the quickest and best way to expand yourself. Some people can be ego maniacs or dicks but for the most part, if you signed up to be an artist and follow that path, you’re cool in my book and I’m sure I can learn something from working with you.
Do clients know exactly what they want you guys to produce? Or is there generally a lot of artistic freedom?
Pose: Normally “clients” equal a check, which equals artistic freedom after the job’s been completed. Unfortunately, most clients normally don’t shoot for true artistic freedom; we are just a vehicle that helps them achieve their agenda.
Coolest client you’ve had to date:
Pose: Coolest clients are the smaller ones, hands down. Honestly, just friends or crew mates with companies have been the best ‘cause it’s always “art first” to an extent. The companies that actually have the money to do really amazing things always do the exact opposite; the ones with smaller billfolds tend to be way cooler because they are closer to home. Basically fam clients are always the coolest.
As an artist collective, what is the creative process like for Supervision? How does it change how you guys approach your art and/or projects as a collective group?
Pose: Thankfully it’s very organic. If someone gets an idea, or drives to work on a specific project, we stand behind them and try to do what we can to help see that individual’s vision come to fruition. If we are approached to do something, whomever it suits best (or comes up with the best idea) takes the lead and everyone else helps facilitate in the same fashion. Even when we are collaborating with, say, our friends in New York on a project, it’s always really easy. We all come from similar, longstanding graff/street backgrounds, so we speak the same language and it’s very easy to be democratic.
KC: Our creative process pretty much consists of a whole lot of cigarettes, coffee and beer. And vodka.
If Supervision could recruit one artist living today, who would it be and why?
Pose: Just one…ouch. Definitely have to get back to you; the list is far too long to fire off without a serious pow-wow first.
On a side note, we are truly blessed to have the insanely talented friends/crew mates we have, and although we already love painting and collaborating with them, I wouldn’t mind being able to have any single one on a SV full-time salary!
The new graffiti-inspired T-shirts designed by Pose and KC are dynamite. What’s next? Any exciting projects we should start a countdown for?
KC: Thankfully, we’ve always had a number of projects on the burner. A few shows are coming up, one in September at the Hurley Space. More apparel with bands like Upper Playground, LRG, TLFI, and some more limited SV shirts. Outside of that we always continue doing our personal projects.
Pose: KC’s got some really sick photo journalist projects in the works. I have a solo show coming up at Canvas LA this winter, big things in Australia this fall. And we definitely have tons of collaborative projects in the works that will be dropping soon.
What would you guys like to be remembered for?
Pose: For working hard to create good progressive artwork that might inspire someone to just bug out, be themselves and do their damn thing.
And collectively, for creating a venue that did not exist for someone like myself, i.e. a place or thing that allows graff writers with a serious artistic agenda, who want to continue to follow their own path (with minimal compromise) while being able to pay their bills, lawyers and live doing what they love.
KC: A lot more than silly cartoon characters. For me personally, I have a much larger personal reward working in photojournalism than design and art. I’d much rather take a photo of an issue that makes it into the right person’s hands, creates awareness, or better yet, leads to change. I’d take that any day over selling a painting or creating a T-shirt for some kid to wear. I’d rather have a photo or photos remembered than myself or my name personally.