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Motorpoint Arena ice skating

Interview: Questionmarc

6 June 09

“Smashing a window or kicking down a fence is vandalism. Raising a smile through an imaginative use of public space is creativity.”

Keeping their true identity under wraps is a priority for Questionmarc. Ever since he/she first came to public attention last Christmas by pasting up ‘urinate here’ signs all around the city centre, they have been wanted for questioning by Notts police. So before you ask… no, we don’t know who it is. However, unlike the feds, we managed to fire some questions to them over via email…

Are you originally from Notts, then?
I was born here, yes.

Your work deals with a lot of issues and negative messages relating to Nottingham. Would we be right to assume this is born out of a love for the city in the first place?
Absolutely. Nottingham is my home, it's a great place and I love it here. I want visitors to the city to share my opinion, but there are a lot of strange restrictions that prevent this from happening. For example, I went to the Castle grounds a few weekends back and had to pay to get in. My council tax goes to the upkeep of the place and I'm not even allowed to see it!

So what made you want to do street art?
I do it because I believe art in all its forms should be freely available for all to enjoy. Most art is restricted to galleries or museums and many of these cost money to get into. This immediately deprives a huge number of people the chance to enjoy the work inside. Street art is a way of knocking down those walls for people that wouldn't normally have the chance to experience it first hand.

How close have you been to getting caught while doing a piece?
I've had a few close shaves, but all in all I have been pretty lucky. It never fails to amaze me how most people don't even bat an eyelid when you’re sticking a six foot high painting to a wall.

Would you agree that most of your pieces are fish-in-a-barrel targets - parking fees are bad, Jade Goody being deified, etc?
I don't know of a single person that doesn't get irritated by parking tickets, therefore the concept was likely to get the appreciation of the majority. But I think most of my other work is less so - even the Mother Goody piece was a far more taboo subject at the time.

Are there any pieces around in Nottingham that haven’t been discovered yet?
Not at the time of answering these questions, unfortunately.

What's the difference between you and someone like Smokey, the local tagger who got sent down recently?
I have never really been into the whole tagging thing. That's not to say I don't appreciate it. There's a guy called Tox in London who has managed to get his name in some unbelievably impossible places, which I find pretty impressive.

Does the relatively recent development of graffiti towards street logos, stickering and stencils signify that it is becoming more premeditated, subtle, artistic and design-led?
I think a lot is already very design-orientated and I personally love the thought and subtleties that lie within them. I believe it is this that makes them successful. After all, anyone can throw paint up onto a wall.

What do you think to legal graffiti sites? Do you use them?
I think the walls by themselves are nothing. It's the fantastic community projects that surround them in which their success lies. They are great for nurturing talent and helping to point kids in the right direction in life. I have never used one - which probably now makes me sound like a hypocrite - but when it comes to street art, the location is often as important as the piece itself.

What one piece would you love to do, if you had the money, opportunity and diplomatic immunity?
I'd like to modify the clock in Big Ben to go backwards like in Benjamin Button. I've always been fascinated by the idea of time control, even if only as a metaphor. It would have to be done illegally, although if I had enough money I could probably get granted permission to do it. But where's the fun in that?

What would you say to people who complain that you’re a vandal costing the taxpayer money?
Smashing a window or kicking down a fence is vandalism. Raising a smile or a good point through an imaginative use of public space is creativity. Besides, most of my work is simply put up with paste, so leaves no lasting damage. There have of course been a few incidents where the council have scrubbed off my spray paint which in turn has been at a cost to the tax payer. But why isn't this money being used to remove all graffiti? Those Smokey tags we mentioned earlier are still littered around the city - including one right outside my house. If I make a valid point it gets removed, yet other people’s graffiti is allowed to stay for some reason.

Do you want to change people's behaviour or just get their attention?
Well, the attention always leads to discussion which I'd like to think in turn contributes to change in some way. Even if it's just a change in the way someone thinks about a particular subject matter.

There are thousands of pranksters and street artists in the world, yet only a small few who are incredibly famous - Banksy, Shepard Fairey in the US, etc. Do you think you've actually got anything in common with those?
The general public have only ever heard of Banksy, which is why people draw comparisons. He has done some amazing work and is a very talented artist. Shepard Fairey is also very cool - my Mother Goody piece was loosely inspired by his style - so it would be right to see similarities along the way. However there are plenty more artists out there that you should check out too. I'm constantly blown away by works from all over the world which can be seen daily on a great website called The Wooster Collective.

What do you get up to when you’re not running around Nottingham in the early hours?
I enjoy ice skating - it's fantastic having the National Ice Centre practically on my doorstep. But I recently buggered my knee which has left me out of action for a while.

How does Nottingham look at 3am in the morning?
Pretty awful, to be honest. If it's a weekend, the roads are usually filled with kebab leftovers, bottles, urine and vomit. Credit where it's due though - the council do a good job of clearing it up before the sun rises. But no, it's not a pleasant place to be at such an hour.

How significant might it be for you to be a woman - if, as some have suggested, you are - working with street art?
Gender shouldn't make the slightest bit of difference and it actually annoys me to think that it might.

What's your fancy dress costume of choice?
Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

Anything else to say to LeftLion readers?
Buy local produce and support local shops. Finally, I'd love to see more artwork on the streets of Nottingham as it can be a very dull place at times. Join me!

LeftLion would like to remind you all that graffiti is against the law, apart from in designated areas. 

Questionmarc official website

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