, 18. May 2017
Colourful Street Art with a Message

Interview with the Artist Collective 3Steps

Since x-working found its place in introspective Central Hesse, we seized the chance to introduce the impressive artist collective 3Steps from Giessen to you. I met Uwe, one of three artists of the collective, in the 3Steps studio. Joachim joined later. Awarded as “Germany's cultural and creative pilots” by the federal government, they have decisively shaped the cityscape over the past years.

x-working Artist Collective 3Steps from Giessen
Artist Collective 3Steps from Giessen

x-working: First, thank you very much for having me here today for the interview. Since when do you exist as 3Steps artist collective and how did you get to this collaboration?
Uwe: We have been around since 1998. So now almost 20 years. The collaboration actually evolved from the intention of making graffiti and wall painting. Initially, we had the hip-hop break-dance pillar in place, primarily occupied by Joe (Joachim), who also belonged to a local break dance group. Somehow, we noticed that our feet are not as nimble as our hands and we then increasingly focussed on graffiti. My brother Kai started the whole thing in 1997. At the age of 17, he started writing, at that time mainly sketching. In a summer holiday, we became aware of graffiti as art-interested teenager and found this pretty cool. On the way home, we finally realized that a graffiti lettering is to be seen on any motorway bridge or on any large wall. In Giessen, there was already an established and well-known graffiti scene, so we were also inspired. In 1998, we initially grabbed the can and started. Originally, we branded as Three Steps Ahead (TSA). There is a step in breakdance that means "Six Step" and there we added "Ahead" and put the number as a prefix. We were just three guys, that fit perfectly… Over time, we shortened it to "3Steps".

x-working: You originally studied. Kai studied economics and political science and did a doctor's degree in guerrilla marketing, Uwe is a doctor of human medicine and Joachim studied computer science. To what extent does your study expertise have an impact on your art and does it help you in view of what you do today?
Uwe: I am talking now for my brother Kai. His studies are very helpful in what we do every day. In case you know how hard it is to live from art and finally to feed families then you know that you need more knowledge than just painting pictures. We consider 3Steps as a collective and as our joint project. In our context, it helps us a lot what he has studied and derived from the study.
Joachim: You see, there are computers everywhere. IT is an integral part of today's world. This helps us to proceed further. We work a lot with graphic programs, we design light installations that are controlled by the help of the computer.
Uwe: It helps especially with the design of the pictures. We work a lot with the computer. Both, with the sketchbook, of course, but also in the final version with the processor. The operation with the graphic programs is essential. We released our book "Milvus County" last year. We have created this entirely off ours own bat. Medicine itself now brings us nothing from an artistic point of view, but the precision in stencil cutting is amazing. This is like using the scalpel in the quiet hand in the operating room. However, for me personally this is always completely a change of scenery. You can still identify in some pictures that there is actually a minor influence based on medicine. Ultimately, it is completely different for me. I also appreciate that there are two completely different parts in my life. They both have their right to exist. Here, I can primarily concentrate on art and make my own thing with the guys.

x-working: In addition to classic street art and mural artworks, paintings are also being created for new exhibitions in your studio. Are there certain artists or special experiences that influence your art?
Uwe: The work we do is pretty much coined by the experiences we have. Especially our view of the world: See the beauty, but do not forget the ugly. One of our approaches is to transform unadorned objects or everyday objects, such as telephones or cars, into objects with new a sense. The other thing is that my brother has been dealing with photography for years. For example, we shoot the models for our portraits ourselves. The whole thing is inspired by a closer look at how we see the world or how we would like to see the world sometimes. We call it the "Milvus County", that is, our fiction world. That means, when you see our works or you visit our exhibitions, you can leave the real world behind and dive into a new world. It is like being a child - and seeing things with new eyes. We often link this with the slogan "Where fun meets adventure". Apart from fun and adventure, there is also a critical view of the world. We also try to interpret this perspective on our large wall paintings in our own way.
Of course, there are also artists who inspire us we find great. That's a part of it. It starts with greats such as Kirchner, Kienholz, Richter, Rauschenberg or Rehberger, and reaches up to other street artists from America and Europe. Of course, on the other hand side we also inspire people who have nothing to do with street art, such as game designers, musicians or friends. We try to go our own way, to find our own topics and our own language. Anyone who has been following our work for decades knows that we prefer to paint very colourful. We use poppy colours and so we dive into the genre of neo pop. We refer to this with the term "urban glamor". As I have just said, such banal objects as a typewriter or a telephone are beeing provided a new glance. Alternatively, in principle, the girl from next door becomes a beautiful diva. We encourage people to see the beauty in things - to make a change in perspective. Just imagine changing from the shadow to the sun or changing the road.

x-working: I am from Giessen myself, and then, before I moved away, I perceived the city as very grey. You brought a lot of colour into the cityscape. What are you doing here in Middle Hesse? What is your vision?
Uwe: I can provide a quote here. There was a cool local band named "Dear Diary" in our youth. They had a song pertaining to our hometown, "Dark Greytown". This also applies to this saying: "The Grey Pearl on the Lahn" - Giessen. As natives of Giessen, we are convinced that there are enough beautiful corners in the city, which you just have to identify and experience. Of course, the city does not look like the cities of Bonn or Heidelberg, Munich or Hamburg. Unfortunately, Giessen had the misfortune to be one of the German cities, which were quite bombed in 1944, and then succumbed to the desperate building delusion of the fifties and sixties. Here - as everywhere - one very quickly tried to create necessary living space. However, there are still a lot of nice corners. We noticed that we were able to bring even more colour into the region, initially with graffiti art and now with street art. Especially at corners, which fell into desuetude, like the Wieseck stream course or also spots around the Lahn. They thus get a higher quality of life. We were quite early interested in bringing our pictures to the public. It is always a conflict in between what you are allowed to do and what you should not do as a street artist. Moreover, where can you paint a picture calmly? It is very difficult in Germany to squat facades and to paint walls, because cities and municipalities often balk at this approach. Giessen and Wetzlar, on the other hand, were towns that recognized early on that street art belongs to the modern cityscape.
We also benefit from the support of the city of Giessen for our "River Tales" project. In the autumn of this year, there will again be a street art festival in Giessen, where we invite international street artists to paint in Giessen. We want to show that street art has to take place not only in big cities like New York or Berlin, but also in the countryside or in a provincial town.

x-working: The red kite is your wreath, which is also found in numerous artworks. What is it all about?
Uwe: This is also a personal story. My brother and myself as a children had a nature protection club in our village. At that time, we branded the nature protection club "Red Milan". The red kite is an endangered animal. As children, we had the task to keep the local creek in our village clean. In addition, we did this quite a long time, until we were 14, 15 years old. Then other hobbies came as well as painting. The nature protection club then stayed out of school by studying and skating, but we are still natural people who are very close to nature protection. So it was natural for us to pick up this old own story to save the world. For us the red milan is a symbol for endangered animal species and the threatened environment, but also as patron saint for the weak. That is why it always shows up in our pictures. Our last great wall we painted here in Giessen was an interpretation of Kriemhild's first dream out of the The Lay of the Nibelungs. Kriemhild dreams that two eagles attack the falcon. We replaced the falcon by the red milan. This is, in principle, a parable for the struggle of the little against the great. Whether in everyday life or in a global sense. Who finally wins this fight remains open also in the picture interpretation.

x-working: You have already organized the successful River Tales Festival in 2012 and 2014, at which various artist design facades and concrete walls alongside the river Lahn. Can you tell me more about the edition in autumn?
Uwe: River Tales will take place for the third time this year - magical number Three (laughs). Basically, River Tales is a project for the redesign of the city, land and river. Contemporary art in the way of street art and mural art plays a central role. The project is initiated and curated by us. This year with the theme "River Tales Goes Giessen City" and the slogan "The Grind Of Live Through Art". The River Tales Festival will transform the city into an artwork. In the summer, a crowdfunding project will start on Here, anyone can become a part of River Tales through financial support. The goal here is to invite more artists to Giessen to design further house facades. The money is then used to cover the travel expenses, accommodation and the fees for the artists, so they find theirs ways here to Middle Hesse.

x-working: What are you currently working on?
Uwe: We are currently working on several major projects. One of these is our upcoming exhibition at the Kleinsassen art gallery in September, where we will exhibit next to Herbert Mehler. We will through our biggest solo show so far there. For this show, we are now planning, designing and operating. The other project our supporting team is working on is the next River Tales Festival in the fall. We won the prize "Ab durch die Mitte" a week ago for this event. This is a funding of the state of Hesse for the improvement of the cityscape. We have thus received a high financial support for the River Tales project so that we can also invite international street artists to design house facades in Giessen. Still, we need more resources.

x-working: What are your next steps / plans for the future?
Uwe: We plan to move to our new studio in late summer / autumn. We will enlarge spatially. We continue to work on the development of the international art market. This is one of our great goals. We have already found a very good partner, the gallery 2CforArt from Salzburg, where we have been exhibiting since a year and a half. Most important is to create works and to paint many many images.

© 2017 – x-working

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