Dais being writer in ticino
What does it mean to do graffiti in Italian Switzerland? DAIS, leading exponent of the Lugano underground scene, explains it to us.
Interview by Gaia Regazzoni Jäggli.
Text taken from the book graffiTI (Salvioni Edizioni, 2012) and here published in its uncut version.
For you, what is graffiti?
DAIS: Let’s say that it is a way to disconnect from everyday reality and to stimulate creativity, which is often forgotten in the workaday life. The whole world of graffiti is characterized by a precise philosophy of life: the pursuit of self-improvement, being in the avant-garde with respect to the scene, and the diffusion of one’s personal style in as many places as possible, nationally and internationally. It’s pure discipline.
Where and how did you start out?
DAIS: I began, thanks to the influence of my older brother, on the outskirts of Lugano, and then gradually expanded throughout the Lugano area and beyond. At the same time, I was getting into the world of hip hop, taking my first dance steps as bboy, listening to lots and lots of musical groups, and joining the first crews.
What years are we talking about and what is your background?
DAIS: It was in 1996-97, in the peaceful setting of Lugano, so there weren’t street gangs or ghettos.
What does your tag mean?
DAIS: It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a combination of interesting letters that sound good and fit together well. I play with the letters of my name trying to assemble them in a way that is always innovative, and logic, if there is one, is unconscious. It is a question of aesthetics.
Your professional training?
DAIS: I have a degree from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).
What role did writing play in your studies?
DAIS: Maybe it helped me to believe more in myself, and to work in a precise and systematic way. You could make a comparison between the organization of an action (setting up the sketch, location research, risk analysis, and the execution of the drawing) with the preparation of an exam.
How long does it take to make a graffiti?
DAIS: It depends on the circumstances. A bombing can last a few minutes, or if the setting is quieter, you can go up to an hour or more.
What work tools do you use?
DAIS: Spray paint, roller, and markers.
What does it mean to paint with spray cans?
DAIS: You have to take various things into account. The kind of cap, whether it’s skinny, soft, or fat, is important, but that is not all. The mark is governed by the speed of execution, distance from the wall, pressure of the finger or of the can itself, and inclination of the cap. When you’re painting large surfaces illegally, you use almost exclusively fat cap, which can be controlled through distance, pressure, and the speed of the mark. Then, if you have time, you can always use softs or skinnies. Today there are some fat caps that can reach the diameter of a skinny if used with the right technique.
Have you ever belonged to a crew?
DAIS: The very first crews that I joined and that stimulated my technical and stylistic growth were SPS and then TPS. After a few years I joined NF (an historical Milanese crew founded in ’95 and primarily made up of breakers). With two other friends from Lugano, I founded MPC, but the collaboration ended, for various reasons. The last crew I joined was AC, which is still around, with NF: after more than ten years with the Milanese crew and three with the Luganese one, I think I’ll stay faithful to them.
What are your sources of inspiration?
DAIS: At the start, I was inspired by Wild Style, which was very much in vogue among German and Swiss-German writers. Today I follow the inspiration of the moment, combining the dynamic style with the 3D, because they are among those I like best. Sometimes, I take inspiration from the members of my crew, whom I consider very good, and every now and then I simply look at the colours and forms of nature.
Are there artists who have stimulated your experiments?
DAIS: I’ve always liked the pieces by the TWS crew from Basel, Dare, Sweat, Dreams, Smash, Daim, and the Genoese Blef from PDB.
Have you ever had problems with the law?
DAIS: Once I had to clean a wall in downtown Lugano. Luckily that was all.
Did you go back to making graffiti, or did that mark a new beginning?
DAIS: I kept on, and gradually cut back the actions after a few years.
Do you express yourself outside of the South of Switzerland, too?
DAIS: I’ve painted a few times in Zurich and in Milan, otherwise I have always stayed in Ticino.
What role does the photographic documentation of a piece play?
DAIS: The photo is very, very important, and leaves you a souvenir, even after they’ve cancelled a piece of yours.
For you, is it important to share your work with other writers?
DAIS: Very. To meet and share with your peers is a blast and it makes you want to keep on, always doing more and better.
On the basis of what logic do you choose the space to write on?
DAIS: If a place gives me a good feeling, then it is the right one. It is a combination of various factors: emotion, feasibility, usability, structure and material of the place to be painted.
What places do you prefer to paint?
DAIS: Overpasses or sound barriers on the highway, because I see them, and so do many other people. I’ve always told myself that if a foreigner passes through the Canton Ticino, they should see that there are people with talent here, too. Other places that inspire me are along the railway line, because they are quiet and you can give free rein to your creativity. Painting trains gives you an even greater emotion because you know that your graffiti is going to travel far.
Your thoughts about writing?
DAIS: It is exciting: to see again a coloured painting made in the night is wonderful.
And about Street Art?
DAIS: Nothing against it, actually I like it a lot, but I am deeply attached to the hip hop movement. I prefer the disciplines related to this culture and “classic graffiti”.
Do you consider your graffiti artistic expressions?
DAIS: For me, they are 100% artcore.
What does it mean?
DAIS: That they are artistic works, purely direct and expressive, it is art hardcore (artcore).
What is the difference between a graffito and a work of art?
DAIS: In my opinion, if a graffito is refined, studied and moreover it sends a message, than there is no difference.
©Gaia Regazzoni Jäggli / Salvioni Edizioni 2012.