Bold, brash and unashamedly pulpy, Broken Fingaz Crew is the first street art collective to come out of Israel. Unga and Tant from Broken Fingaz share an exclusive Wonderland look at their new work – open to the public at London’s Old Truman Brewery space from tomorrow and hosted by influential promoters NO WAY – and chat about angry Israelis, psychedelia, and freak storms…
First off, how did you guys get started?
Unga: Back in 2001 – we started when we were in high school. Before then, there wasn’t much graffiti in Israel.
Tant: Everything in Israel happens ten years later.
So what’s the scene like now?
U: It’s all happened in the last two, three years – it’s getting bigger. If you go to Tel Aviv, it’s all over the place. The entire city has tags, throw-ups and street art.
T: But where we stay in Haifa there’s nothing there, really. Old people live there. There’s nothing outside so you have nothing to do. So we just spend all our time in the studio.
Have Israelis become a bit more welcoming to street art since you started out?
U: It depends. We used to live in a poor neighbourhood and people appreciated it. When we painted outside, people would walk by and be positive about it because these areas are so neglected. But if you go to the wealthier neighbourhoods, people don’t like it so much. Angry neighbours try to chase you. Once someone threw a bucket of paint on me.
It sounds like Haifa still isn’t that up to speed on graffiti, then…
U: There’s no scene or industry in Haifa. If you want to see international artists or musicians you have to go to Tel Aviv. But we can’t stay there for more than three days, we’d want to go back to Haifa. We want Haifa people.
T: Tel Aviv makes you angry – like all the time!
U: It’s hot, people are stressed, cars honk at you – Haifa’s much more chilled. Everything’s slower. If Israel’s stuck ten years ago, Haifa’s in the eighties.
What kind of inspirations do you have?
T: American comics from the 80s, anything from Marvel or DC.
U: Robert Crumb, love him. A lot of our stuff is based on rock posters or psychedelia – anything that’s colourful or poppy.
You’re regularly called Israel’s first graffiti crew – do you feel like you’re representing your homeland?
U: We never think of Israel as our audience. We don’t label ourselves, not even as street artists or as Israelis. It’s people outside who try to label you. We just do our stuff.
Even though this is your first European show, you’ve travelled a lot for your shows. Do you have any crazy stories?
T: We did some projects in Beijing and then we went travelling in the villages – we said we were going to the top of the mountains. We walked eight hours, straight up. Then we arrived and saw a crazy, big black cloud.
U: It started storming so all four of us got inside our two-man tent and didn’t leave until the next night. In the morning, we woke up and realised we didn’t have any food or water. We thought we were stuck.
T: So we just started walking, sliding down the side of the mountain while it was still raining.
U: For a moment we thought someone would have to rescue us and it would be one of those stories about stupid travellers, but it turned out okay.
Crazy Eye Hotel, an exhibition by Broken Fingaz Crew and sponsored by BI-ARTS Grant and Cass Art, is open to the public from 6.30pm tomorrow at Shop 13, Old Truman Brewery, London E1 6QR. It runs until 29th April.
Words: Zing Tsjeng