Icy & Sot

icy & sot

When Art seeps through the fence

create in the street

When did you begin to work in the street? Why and when did your stencils become more committed?

Growing up, we spent more time in the street skating than at home playing video games. Everything began with skateboarding: we used to make stickers, stencils around the city, and through Internet we find information about international street-artists. It was around 2005, 2006. We used to know that in one or two days our paintings would be gone, that our work would be censored, even if it wasn’t political. We worked harder, painting over the erased ones, talking about censorship, children labour, and political issues. Stencils permitted us to be faster, it was the only way to create in the streets.

As we didn’t study Arts, it was natural for us to begin in the street. Moreover, in a society where you don’t have lots of freedom, it permits to work with excitement and maybe even more safely.

The Fence Between Us - 2018
According to you why the street Is a specific place for creation? Does it change anything to the message?

We wanted people to see our work. In these busy places, walking people can see your pieces and think about it. When you paint in the street, it becomes public, and addressed to any kind of people. At the opposite, in a gallery the public used to be familiar with arts. For all kinds of arts you have a way to break the rules, and that’s what we want to do. We wanted create things that talk about issues of our time rather than decorative arts.

The New American Flag - 2018

contextualize

With time, you began to do more conceptual pieces, while keeping this link with public space.

It’s a combination of things. We were doings stencils for a long time and we were kind of tired of it. We think that each idea as a specific medium: sometimes a mural is the best solution, some other time a picture can be more powerful than a painting if you choose the right place to do it. We started using fences to talk about refugees and immigration and using material was more powerful than drawing it. It’s something that you can feel.

The medium has changed but you still find similarity, like simplicity for the people to get the message straight away. With fences, we take something that is considered as a barrier. It seems fragile because you can see the other side, but it evokes an invisible veil.

Tenacity of Hope - 2019
Untitled - 2018
Backgrounds have an important place in your recent work.

When you begin to do temporary installations, background becomes a central part of your work. In different, reflections about backgrounds are key: the surrounding oceans or forests make more sense when you talk about climate change, rather than if you do the same thing in a city. Environment here makes your work stronger.

photography in conceptual art

Most of the people will know about the work thanks to the photography. So how do you consider photography itself?

We always take a picture at the right time of the day. When we have completed a piece, the photography taken at the right moment permit us to consider our work done. We love photography and we love taking good pictures of our work ourselves. Another reason is that lots of artists don’t take pictures of their pieces, for example in Europe and in the States, because they know that there are plenty of photographers who love to do it, and they’ll later find a good one. In Iran there was nothing like that so documenting our work was so important for us. Since the beginning, documenting our work is an important part of the process.

Human Reflection on Nature - 2017
When you take a picture, it removes a part of the contextual aspect of your work.

Maybe, but photography is a necessity. When you are in front of the installation, any time of the day it looks differently. Fencing, stencils: at the end everything is temporary. Some other time, the work itself consists in pictures: we install something at a place it doesn’t belong. Here it’s more a photography series than an installation.

a commited work

One of your work is Radioactive Pollution Kills, which denounces the hidden aspect of nuclear wastes.

For Yellow Cake, we were invited in Arizona for this project. People lived there for years, next to the Navajo nation, and we do lots of research, and we wanted to make work about these people, native americans, whose grandfathers had cancer, parents working mines had cancer. During WWII, there was uranium mining there, they let these mines unprotected. Navajo people live there and the water get contaminated. Because these places are unprotected, people live next by and get cancers because of the gamma radiations, and they don’t even put signs. When we make this project, we realized that nobody had any idea about this issue. So our work became a journalistic one because we wanted people to know about it, and spread the message.

The sad thing is that back in the time, when people used to work there, nobody told them that they could be exposed to cancer. That was a very special project for us because we worked with native americans kids, we stayed with grandparents in the mountain. These people are so amazing.

Contaminated Land - 2016
Our House Is On Fire - 2020
The videos of immigrants in Lesbos are incredible. Lost Voices and Stuck in Time talk perfectly about life stop and people without a voice.  

We planned this project thinking that everybody loves flowers, and that creating a garden was something different than just rising money. People there didn’t know how they’ll have to wait, months or more. Talking to them, they were saying us that nobody listens to them over the years, that they didn’t get any answers. We could be a kind of mega-voice for these people without a voice.

Regarding the clock, it was really symbolic because everything is so slow there. There is nothing to do, except waiting. We went in all the shops to find one, and at last we entered a shop with this simple clock on the wall. We told the owners we wanted to buy it, and even if they were surprised, we brought the clock back to the camp. Sometimes it’s important to go somewhere to realize what the reality of the situation is. Lots of people worked on the garden, even if some of them thought it would eventually be gone one day, then they could run off the necessary things. But at least they had fresh vegetables for the summer, cucumbers and peppers.

In the serie Working Class Hero, you also highlight the life of workers around the world.

We always want to talk about human being, whatever his condition. Through the strikes, some of them, invisible most of the time, remind us that they’re a big part of our society, a big part of our life. Talking about these struggles, we present their hard work, the fact they don’t get much, the fact that some of them need several jobs to have a normal life.

When we first moved to the States, we discovered this freedom to be able to talk about things, and if it’s something that can be considered as super normal for a lot of people, it wasn’t for us back to our home country and it’s something we want to defend.

Working Class Hero - 2019

Pictures:  Icy & Sot

You can find Icy & Sot on Facebook, Instagram and their website.

A huge thanks to Franck Duval.

Interview recorded in january 2020.

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