Sergej Vutuc: Interview

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Sergej Vutuc is an inspiring DIY artist: he gets out there with his art and makes things happen for himself. He’s an artist, skateboarder, photographer, zine maker, musician and traveller. Born in Doboj (Bosnia and Herzegovina), he was raised in Zagreb, Croatia before moving to Heilbronn in Germany.

He’s a prolific zine maker, primarily of abstract, doctored photographic compositions that centre around skate culture and his travels. He incorporates texture in his work by manipulating light and objects in his photography; reinterpreting and responding to the essence of the situation, the environment and the act of skateboarding in his images. Sergej is currently on an tour in America but kindly took time out to talk to The DIY EYE:

The DIY Eye: You started skating in the 80s, does your photography and zine making come out of the same time, from skateboard culture?

Sergej: Ah, skateboarding was ’87/’88, I was kid, zine making came later. I think I bought my first zine in 1992. Zine making was more related to the punk and hardcore community. Around ’95 I started a label and distribution “Get Off” and played in a band. Zines for me were a way of making your own media and exchanging information about that scene. My abstract and skate related stuff came much later.

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Do you think that zine making will always have a place in the so called digital age? Will it always be an important way for you to make your creative voice heard?

For me that’s why I make my abstract zines and moved away from just information exchange-type zines, this has to do with the growth of internet access and social media.

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Do you still predominantly photograph with film and develop your own film?

Doing stuff on film gives me space to control the whole process from developing to breaking/playing with the light system and whole process of using a darkroom, but I also now use my phone too, which is more a tool for blogging and online writing.

With the move towards more digital practices, have you found it harder/more expensive to get hold of film, get film developed etc?

It’s definitely harder to get stuff and sometimes it scares me, like am I gonna get my film tomorrow? But price is not really an issue, it’s a question of what do you want to do? These are just tools of expression.

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You use a lot of texture in your images, lots of layers and scratches. Can you talk a bit about this practice and how it reflects the subject matter?

It’s playing with subconsciousness and all the information surrounding us, we’re not always listening and not taking them seriously anymore but it’s also asking why? It’s also reflecting my feelings in the image as well as the situation at the time.

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You seem to be on tour and travelling a lot, are you more naturally nomadic, preferring to move about than stay in one place?

There are many aspects to the last years spent travelling: From how I see the exchanges and connections within the [art/zine/skateboarding] scenes, learning firsthand by taking my art to new places and my experiences on road. You know I was running a space [Basementizid art space in Heilbronn, Germany] for almost 8 years, hosting people, bands…

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So is your gallery space Basementizid still operating?

No, I tried a few times to see it reborn and keep it rolling. In the end it was around for 8 years in total. It was a great time but it came to a point: is it a project or institution? You know a project could exist at full power for like 4 years then it’s time for something new… repeating is dangerous, as well listening to people.

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What are some of the things you enjoy most about travelling, are there places you haven’t been but want to go?

Definitely when you meet soul brothers and sisters on the other sides of world and then some of those spaces become your home too. When art goes over/connects us…

Ah places to see, since this year I am in touch with many people in South America, Australia and Asia, those places are my future wishes. Only don’t know how to do it… tickets to those lands are much more than my whole tour budget. You know I make it all [traveling etc] based on selling my art and hustling. So I hope…

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Your most recent travels have taken you to the USA, what have you been up to there? Did you have a pre-planned schedule or route worked out beforehand?

This current USA tour happened with the artist in residency at Home School #5 in Chicago.  They saw my zines and work at my last exhibition in Chicago and loved it, then invited me to come over for one month. So I used that opportunity to also go on a small tour visiting friends, making exhibitions and projects.

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What is the best or most important thing skateboarding has taught you?

To forget everything, just be in moment and do it…. everything is possible if you want it.

Any other upcoming shows and projects you want to mention?

Ah many, many. let’s talk about it when is out.

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Could you recommend one thing to read:

As we’re talking zines and DIY: We Owe You Nothing – about Punk Planet

One film to watch:

This film started everything for me in the 80s: ‘Thrashin’

One album to listen to:

As the name says: Repeater (Fugazi)

One place to visit:

That’s on you, don’t listen to other recommendations too much.

Thanks so much to Sergej for taking the time to answer my questions while on the road. Check out photos from his travels on www.sergejvutuc.wordpress.com and follow him on Instagram. You can find out more about him and his work at www.sergejvutuc.com buy his zines from www.sergejvutuc.bigcartel.com.

He has an exhibition ‘Correlation’ coming up at The Rubicon in Chicago on 1st November with Tim M Johnson:

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We Are The Best: DVD Review

We Are The Best is a Swedish (with English subtitles) film by Lukas Moodysson, based on the autobiographical graphic novel ‘Never Goodnight’ by his wife Coco Moodysson. The DVD came out earlier this year and after much anticipation, I’ve finally had chance to see it.

In a nutshell it’s the story of three thirteen year olds starting a punk band in the early 80s. It’s a fantastically executed tale of friendship, growing up, family, DIY spirit, home hair cuts, trying to fit in, boys and rebellion – like an ode to youth joyously yelled over a badly strummed guitar.

I LOVED this film. The attention to detail is perfect, you can really tell the filmmaker was also 13 during the early 80s, as the period setting is very well observed. The acting and dialogue is also perfectly natural and believable from the trio of young and first-time actors, who were able to improvise a lot of their responses, which gives this film an extra layer of warmth and authenticity. In particular the scene in which they write their first song together is natural, uncertain, naive, unforced and unpolished: exactly as it would and should be.

A nice detail of the film which was especially appreciated by me (a stickler for authenticity and lover of short hair) was that the actresses all sported genuine spiky or shaved haircuts. Usually in films when there’s a haircut scene, the central character looks suspiciously wiggy as she has her ‘hair’ chopped off, but these girls all have short, shaved hair for reals. Yes!

If this had been a mainstream ‘Hollywood’ movie the girls would have probably got a big record contract at the end, had a makeover and turned into superstars, or at least learned to play better and won over their peers and impressed the boys, receiving knowing nods of approval while a rapturous crowd applauds. Instead, in this little refreshing gem of a movie, they just get invited to play their one song ‘Hate the Sport’ based on hating their PE lessons at school (and who can’t relate to that?!) at a nearby town’s youth club concert and all does not go well.

We Are The Best doesn’t quite follow the traditional story form where stuff happens and there’s some big resolution at the end. Instead Moodysson conjures more of a sequence of feelings and observations (peppered with subtle humour) beautifully capturing the awkward spirit of youthfulness, that could be transposed to any group of 13 year olds, boys or girls, in almost any country and era.

The message of the film is pretty simple but effective without coming across as overly sentimental: people might think you’re the worst (and even tell you so, as in this film) but it really doesn’t matter. Friendship, having fun, being true to yourself and believing you’re the best are what’s most important.

I may have related to this film a little bit too much. About twelve years after this film is set, in the grunge-fest 1990s, wielding a cheap guitar in my bedroom, I was pretty much the doppelgänger of bespectacled, bad-home-haircut Bobo. I wish this film had been made back then, my 14 year old self needed to see it.

The setting to We Are The Best may have been 1982 but this film isn’t just a nostalgia fest for age appropriate adults, it’ll definitely inspire and empower any potential alternative/nonconformist 13 year old girls out there today. In fact, I think it should be made compulsive viewing. Hedvig, Klara and Bobo and this film, are definitely the best as far as I’m concerned.

Majls: Wizard Anthology

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Independent Swedish clothing label Majls are about to launch their 2014 Wizard Anthology collection. The Wizard Anthology designs seek to juxtapose the magical with the mundane, with designs and symbols inspired by legends and fairytales.

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The range which will be available from shop.majls.se features caps, jackets, t-shirts and shirts, with a fitting mix of dark and light options, with the emphasis on quality craftsmanship with quirky little details for those looking for something a bit special.

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Based in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, the brand came into being through a process of development and refinement by the designer of the same name, who I first came into contact with in 2008 through one of my Concrete to Canvas books. “We came from the art scene but I always had clothes as a part of our expression.” he explained.

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Majls//Engender Shirt – Deep Blu, Knowledge Cap

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The clothing company launched as a platform built upon their backgrounds in art, textile history and street cultures, including skateboarding: “A skateboarder sees the world in different ways to others and think in a creative way. That is one of the reasons why we see so many talented people who’ve come from the skate scene and street cultures.”

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Majls//Long Journey Jacket

The DIY Eye got an exclusive viewing of their mystical masterpiece film that’s launching the collection to the wider world:

This new collection is a window into the creative magic at the heart of Majls, who offer an enchanting alternative in their street wear designs. Find out more by visiting www.majls.se

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Follow the Majls story in all the usual places: Facebook >> Instagram.

 

 

Made You Look – Kickstarter Project

As mentioned on here last month, this super looking documentary film ‘Made You Look‘ – about some of the movers and shakers of the UK DIY graphic art scene, is currently in post production. Filmmakers the Look & Yes collective are currently seeking a hand with funding via Kickstarter to keep the project truly independent. They’ve interviewed some really interesting, talented folk and their funding incentives look pretty sweet. To chip in for this project, visit their kickstarted page HERE.

Renegade Craft Fair London

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The Renegade Craft Fair returns to London’s Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, on the Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd November. Entry is free and over 100 indie businesses and designer makers will be peddling their wares.

London is the only RCF city venue outside of the US and curatorial standards are high, so if your perception of UK craft fairs is still loosely based on seeing some dodgy doilies sold in a chilly church hall, then prepare to have that stereotype well and truly dispelled. Details of participating traders will be up soon on the RCF website.

Indie Business: The Emporium, Worcester

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The Emporium in Worcester is a haven for affordable, vintage furniture with the emphasis on stylish midcentury design classics. The shop opened just a few years ago and has quickly established itself as the jewel in Worcester’s indie business crown. Famed for its fast turn over of affordable gems, the phrase ‘you snooze you lose’ springs to mind when the latest stock hits their Facebook page . The DIY Eye chatted to business owner Elliot for an honest insight into what makes The Emporium tick…

Can you briefly introduce your business?

WORD UP. The Emporium is Worcester’s only true vintage furniture and home-wares supplier, sourcing and selling all manner of interesting stuff for your home at crazy cheap prices. The listed shop hours are 11am-5pm, please don’t take this as a green light to turn up at 10:59am; hammering on the door or repeatedly calling my mobile leaving irate messages. Come back after 12, I’m busy.

 How long have you been running the Emporium?

Just over two years.

What did you do before that?

Crap job after crap job subsidised by some ebaying, Flea Markets and under the radar type dealings.

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Was there a particular light bulb moment when you had the idea for the shop? How did the idea for the business evolve?

I’d like to say that years of listening to Fugazi and Black Flag has instilled a DIY ethic in me or that I wanted to help build or be a part of a community or collective in some way, but in truth the business has arisen out of necessity. The necessity is to make money to buy food to survive!

The “light bulb” moment would be the millionth time I had to hold myself back from punching out my boss at whatever soul-sucking corporate job I was doing. Putting together the shop, from it’s inception one night to opening the door for the first day of trade, took just two months and very little money beyond rent upfront. Foresight was/is the important factor.

I originally opened the shop with a friend, both of us being interested in certain periods of design and having some knowledge of such, but it very quickly became clear there isn’t enough money in it for 2 people. Business is also the quickest way to ruin friendships/relationships so we were getting in regular fights and slanging matches – this is now all sorted and everybody is bestest friends. (Awwwwwww!)

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What if any, has been the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

The first profit is the best profit. When you don’t have a tonne of money knocking about to buy stock, usually anything you make gets invested back into the shop immediately and sometimes you won’t have the rent money until the 11th hour, so the turn-over needs to be fast and constant.

Sometimes this means you let things go for under their value – I’m constantly guilty of this and everyday somebody will say “you’re under selling/that’s too cheap.” At the end of the day those people saying that are TALKING, not BUYING and they’re also not in a position where they need to make money fast, so it’s often a necessity to sell something far under it’s value – this is fine as long as you remember that the first profit is the best profit. If someone wants to buy from me and sell on for double or even triple – that’s fine, let them sit on it and pay storage fees – I don’t have that luxury. Plough on.

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The Bristol Comic and Zine Fair

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Last Saturday 4th October was the Bristol Comic and Zine Fair (#BCZF). I love visiting Bristol, it’s such a vibrant place with so much going on, they’ve really embraced the varied creative elements of the city, something other places could really learn from. Above are just a few street art sightings that can be spotted around the city centre.

The BCZF started in 2011 but this was our first time visiting. It was held at arts venue The Station with free entry. The large room housed 60 participants selling their wares that included zines, comics, t-shirts, postcards, prints and totes. Most were individual artist/makers, others were small presses selling compendiums or work by different artists. There was also a pop up zine shop selling a variety of works and refreshments.

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It was packed out with an appreciative crowd. We tried to make a full circuit to have a good look before committing to buy, but at some instances it was difficult to squeeze through the gaps or get to the front of the tables. We managed to get round a good few times and it was really impressive: there was a great mix of styles and subject matter, with really affordable prices starting at £2 for zines up to about £12 for limited edition books.

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This is just some the zines we came back with:

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It includes, issue three of the compendium of new comic art Dirty Rotten Comics, The Fish Eyes Have It by Alex Hahn, Same Day Return by Sean Azzopardi

Alternative Press – Pop Up

If you’re in or around Greenwich, London on 24th-26th October, then the Alternative Press Pop Up event sounds too good to miss. Their DIY art and zine show will include workshops and screenings. There’s a bring-your-own-drinks ‘public view’ (love!) on the evening of Friday 24th, 6pm to 11pm with an acoustic open mic. The venue is 139 Greenwich South Street, SE10 8NX. Find out more on their website and follow them on twitter: @alt_press.

Indie Business: Pilgrim Cycling Company

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The Pilgrim Cycling Company is a brand new, British, independent cycling apparel range set up by London based designer Tom Probert. With the first collection launching very soon, Pilgrim will fill a serious gap in the market for stylish, design-led casual cycling wear, with plans for much more. The DIY Eye caught up with Tom to talk about his fledgling business that’s almost ready to take off.

How did the idea for Pilgrim Cycling come together, can you give a little intro to the company?

I started to identify myself through cycling, but there weren’t any brands out there that fitted what I love about the lifestyle. Cycling gear was either very functional with no style, or very stylish but very serious and focused on racing. That’s when the idea started to creep in. I wanted to make something less serious, less intimidating, celebrating the small details that make an adventure special, memorable. I wanted to make a brand for people who have cycling at the centre of a laid back, carefree, adventurous lifestyle.

How has cycling itself inspired you?

I have my best ideas on a bike. The ideas for Pilgrim started to form over a 2 week ride across the Pyrenees. With so many hours each day in the saddle, you get in a little trance and there’s something about it that sets off a wave of ideas. Moving through beautiful landscapes is inherently inspiring, the new cultures, sights you see and people you meet along the way give me ideas to feed in to the brand. And then there’s a rich visual language of cycling that everyone’s familiar with, which is there to use and to build on.

Congratulations on a successful Kickstarter project. Can you tell us why you decided to raise funds via Kickstarter and go for the DIY approach rather than raise investment other ways? Was it important to keep the business independent?

Kickstarter fits the scale and nature of my project perfectly. I’m so excited that there’s this technology now that allows me to get off the ground whereas 10 years ago when I wanted to start a clothing brand I would have needed to get traditional investment, or get together my own savings! It allows me to launch the brand without the risk and commitment of getting investors onboard, and also it’s been a terrific platform for spreading the word.

Being forced to present the whole brand and share it with people was a priceless shot of motivation and in itself accelerated the project and forced me to look at it through others’ eyes. At this stage it’s important to keep things independent. I’ve got plenty of ideas for the future, but I want to grow carefully and naturally, keeping everything manageable.

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