Vandalog Presents: An interview with Iranian street artists Icy and Sot
Vandalog is trying something new, as this is our first interview published on our Tumblr page. Give us your feedback to let us know if we should do more posts solely for our Tumblr fans. -Caroline Caldwell
Icy and Sot are brothers and partners in crime in the Iranian street art scene. Drawing on the influences of C215, Banksy, and MBW, these stencil-mavens combine symbolic imagery, portraiture and text to depict the human condition in the turmoils of the contemporary world. Icy and Sot have done their share of traveling, but their recent show “Made In Iran” at Hendershot Gallery in New York City was their first solo show abroad which they were actually able to attend. Vandalog took this opportunity to ask the brothers about their time in New York, their inspirations, and their experiences living and putting work up in Iran.
V: What are the risks when putting up work illegally in Iran?
The worst thing in Iran is that they charge crimes without knowing what they were, so they stick so many labels to this kinda art like Satanism or political activism.
V: Had you both become interested in street art at the same time or separately?
We were and are best friends. When we started, there were just few people (most of whom were in our circle of friends) who knew what street art, stencil and the whole street culture was. Being brothers helped us a lot as we did everything together and all over we just understand each other .
V: What provoked you to start putting work up on the street?
In the beginning it started with our career in skateboarding, especially Sot’s. We started with small things like stickers and small stencils and posted them up in spots that we hung out.
V: What’s the best part in working collaboratively with your brother?
The creative thing is that we can share our ideas with each other.
V: How does the graffiti and street art that you’ve been seeing in New York compare to what you’ve seen in Iran?
New York has a vey large street art scene, with so many participants. But in Iran there isn’t much going in the street art scene. It’s an underground movement in Tehran and Tabriz.
V: This is your first show outside Iran that you’ll actually be able to attend. What has this process been like?
The preparation started a long time ago. If a male wants to leave Iran, he must finish a mandatory 18 month military service. So we went and finished that before we were able to travel and exhibit our work outside of Iran. While in the military service, our good friends, The Yellow Dogs band who left Iran, were living in NY and introduced us to their manager. And from there, we've had endless skype calls and emails over the course of almost one year until we were able to get our visas and come to USA. Us and the Yellow Dogs are now all living together in their space in Brooklyn.
V: Does the local audience that sees your work first hand in Iran or the international audience that sees your work online play a bigger role when you’re considering the audience of a piece?
Graffiti and street art scene have a long way to go before it becomes a part of our culture and people realize what it really is. Because of the lack of exposure to street art here, people aren’t familiar enough with these sort of things.
Maybe if a pedestrian passed by a stencil, they might not know what it is, they might not have any interest in it, or maybe in some cases they might even wipe it off. For example, Icy once did a wheatpaste, went away for a few minutes just to let it to dry off and when he came back a guy was tearing it off. But despite all of this, it does now and again impact and influence some people on very rare occasions and the international audience plays an important role in that.
V: Can you explain your inspirations for the “Dream” piece you just did in Williamsburg?
It’s good to have big dreams that you can make real.
V: Does cultural context play a role in your work?
Yes it does.
V: What can we expect from your “Made In Iran” show?
Art speaks for itself and everybody has their own vision, so it’s hard to tell what people might get out of this exhibit.
V: Any future plans?
Doing more walls in New York and a few other states as well.