Incoming: Northern Soul
TEXT Tyra Bangs
Growing up in California, Tijuana was the place where people sold Chiclets and machetes painted with Lorena Bobbitt’s name on every corner. It was where 18-year-old college kids went to get legally wasted on tequila shots and buy pharmaceuticals. It was also the frontier, the border along which tensions between First World and Third World were constantly playing out. Tijuana is still all these things, but it’s also so much more, as electronic music/art collective Nortec Collective have continuously shown the world since forming in 1999. Nortec’s latest venture is a hefty book called Paso Del Nortec (This is Tijuana) (softcover; Oceano de Mexico, $36.75). Inside the lime-green cover lies an introduction to everything you need to know about Tijuana and Nortec Collective, including introductions to all their artists (like Fussible, Bostich and Panoptica), tons of photos and graphic design from crew members like Torolab and Acamonchi, a history of electronic music in Northern Mexico and a glossary of terms and quotes that tie the whole thing together. It’s an exhausting fairground ride of visuals and text (in both English and Spanish), one that insures Nortec’s legacy will outlast even the borders that inform their music.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Acamonchi/ Gabriel Serpa
En diciembre del año pasado estuve en Veracruz junto con Gabriel Serpa, fuimos a la inaguraciÃ³n del Bar V (bar de mis amigos Marco y Josue), llegamos el dÃa anterior, mientras ACAMONCHI pintaba un mural, Gabe aprovecho para hacerle una entrevista, asi que aquÃ les va:
Last December Gabriel Serpa and i went to Veracruz to the opening of the V Bar (my friends Marco and Josue are the owners), we got there the day before the opening and ACAMONCHI was painting a mura, Gabe take advantage of the ocassion and made him and interview, here it is:
You might have heard of Acamonchi or you might have not. Either way you should hear what he has to say. He has been down with Nortec Collective since back in the day, making flyers, websites, art and whatever else keeps him busy. Acamonchi launched his website in 1995, bringing one of the first alternative websites to Latin American. Having started a family in San Diego Acamonchi has put downs some roots, nevertheless, he is still hard at work and play. I had the opptunity to speak with him while he did wall piece in Veracruz, Mexico.
So you have been making stencils since the 80's?
I wanted to make a lighting bolt to put on a bike. I use to see my uncle working with stencils just to sell products, and it got in the back of my head to try to do something myself to make it cool. I'm made the lighting bolt, like the surf company. And I painted it on a bike. Ao that got me on it. Later on my brother and some friends made a quater-pipe to skate in. And I made a skull stencil that was 1984, 1985. In 85 we made a Metalica stencils, so we made some stencil shirts, because we did not have money to buy Metal shirts. I was a Metalhead before I became a Punk Rocker. I learned that metal was about buying shit and punk was about doing shit. So, I realized by making my own shirts I got more respect, because it was more unique. So that is how I got into painting on skateboard ramps, jackets and just about anything. And that pretty much paved my road to graphic design.
And it seems that it also paved your way to fine arts with the stencils?
In a way, but that's not the only thing I do. I like cutting into surfaces. I'm into carving and printing. And because its also very Mexican. There is a crazy tradition for carving and printing. But I want to give it a different flavor, something postmodern. So I give it a different approach something that is more according to how we are living right now, but still have that old school feel. I think people we know, like Evan Hecox for Chocolate Skateboards do it.
So you are originally from...
I was born in Ensanada, Mexico. I've been in the states since 1997.
What does Acamonchi mean?
Its translation is a kids game. Its like piggyback riding. It's slang.
Why did you adopt that name?
Because I was working on a zine and I needed a name. I thought Acamonchi was appropriate because its a word everyone uses from my town. And its funny how it works because I never thought it was going to be so intricate. It has a different name in ever culture and city in Mexico. So far I have a list of like 60 something meanings.
Lets talk about the revolutions that aren't televised...
I don't really believe in revolution first of all. I think the right word to use is evolution. Just because, revolution is about change. (but) you don't really change shit, shit changes you. So you tend to evolve with your flow . People get mad at me because I don't like Che Guevera, he is just a character. If he was alive he would be just another fucking dictator.
He is just a good stencil?
He's an iconic character. You can profit from it. Everybody does. Its just the same thing I think people romanticize about it too much. Which is bad, because you need to have a grasp on reality. And you can dream about a better world but you gotta be realistic.
How do you feel about the terms used around graffiti?
Lets just put examples out there like Mexican art. Mexican art is the kings of kitsch. ...I think kitsch is awesome. And kitsch is what we are. And you don't have to force kitsch to come naturally in you. lack of money, education, good taste. I think Mexico is extremely kitschy and very genuine. I think its really there. You become kitschy just by being there (Mexico)
So you embrace kitsch by being a local?
Yeah. When I'm there I feel like everybody else. When your in the metro train your just another person riding it and your kitchy....as far as art is concerned and how it interacts with graffiti. First of all the kind of graffiti I do I am very inspired with what other people do. However, I don't necessarily agree with graffiti politics, gangster behavior, the code of honor of graffiti, that you have to represent and stay high with your crew. You have to go to the hard spot, become a gangster ,or rob paints from the store. Its just become vandalism. if your against the system fine. But I just don't want to be arrested for a felony. I just don't feel the need, for example why do I use graffiti? For me its for artistic purposes, but i do make money off of that. So if i get paid to do a painting i am not going to risk things to steal paint. Because the client is paying for that. So first of all I don't feel the need to steal. If you got the skills to steal don't steal from me, fuck, there is a lot of corporations to steal from. ....so that is a graffiti aspect, to steal your paint. I â€˜m not good at stealing, and I like to choose where i am buying because buying is a political choose. You have the option not to support Wallmart, so why the fuck are you going to buy there? Because your supporting exploitation?
What do you think about the evolution of graffiti. There are so many trust fund kids. like these scenes out of art schools?
Well graffiti is not just about a spray can in your hand. It is a lifestyle. I also think its a technique, you have to have the skills to use a spray can. Its a tool. Some people just get satisfaction form putting their name all over the place. And they have a day job. They make money pay their bills and at night they go out and vandalize.
You think it is awesome to vandalize.
In a way. In public and private. I am not interested in defaced schools or churches. I have a code of ethics for street art. Like I will not vandalize stop signs. Because that is about everybody's safety. As far as bridges, ditches, bitches. You can just paint on them. Nothing is going on underneath the bridge. Like I really agree with hijacking billboards. Just paint on them to change the message around and make fun of them....like Guerrilla Girls really puts issues on the table and I'm down for that. And they use art as a tool to get the message across.
What comes first graffiti or art.
Its a little bit of both. I'm not entirely a graffiti artist. Inspired by what's going on in the graffiti movement and culturel. I see myself as an artist. Graffiti is just one of the art movements that I am affiliated too. I don't want to just stay their...I want o keep on expanding and growing and learning. I don't like to stay in one thing. .....
Are you self-educated.
I did go to graphic design school for one year. But for the most part it is what i learned with other people, computer nerds and graffiti freaks. A lot of the places I use to go to learn things. Asking people if I can help to learn. And a lot of my friends run print shops...
Your working on a book?
Yeah the same publishing house that put out a Nortec Collective book. Editorial Trilce publishing.
And your part of the Nortec Collective which is in Tijuana?
Its mostly musicians, architects, designers, djs, video producers, and a bunch of other losers.
How did you get involved with them?
Because I'm a loser. Just because I was involved in the Tjuana art thing for a while. They were friends and they use to play a lot of industrial music before. and i use to make flyers for the gigs. It was hard because industrial was never a hit until Nine Inch Nails come into the picture. It was never well received it ws undergournd that was early ninties...So Pepe (of Fussible, Latinsizer use to have a video game store in Mexico and it was on my way to the market and I use to spend time with him and that is how it started.