• January 2, 2004
  • Posted by Marc

Profile: Monster Project


If you’ve recently roamed the streets of lower Manhattan, then you
have undoubtably come across the work of Monster Project.  We’ve been fascinated
by their brown paper creatures for quite some time now, but until recently had
no idea who was behind them.  A few weeks back we posted a photo of one of
Monster Project’s works Not more than two hours later we received an email from
them saying hello.  The guys we’re kind enough to send us some snaps and info. 
Here’s what they had to say:

“Monster Project looks to give a
face to the cannibalism of urban life, a face to that which is always eating
itself, a face to the City. Monster Project is not about “getting up” of going
“all-city.” Monster Project is not trying to “keep it real”. Monster Project is,
however, about noticing the forgotten. Monster Project is about pointing out
what is already here, trying to make us take a second to look around and see
again. Monster Project is about noticing the beauty that happens in these places
we call City.”


Monster Project - The Vitals:

Age: Monster Project began in
November of 2000
Hometown: Monster Project was founded in
Providence, Rhode Island.
Where do you now live?: We
recently moved our base of operations from Cambridge, Mass to Brooklyn.
/>How long have you been creating street art?: Some team
members have been writing graffiti and thinking about stuff since 1997, while
Monster Project is the first outdoor art project for others.
did you do last night?:
It’s January 1st, 2004 as we write, so you
What is your favorite thing to eat for dinner?:
What do you currently have in your pockets?:
If you were given “more time,” what would you do
with it?:
Go bigger.
Who do you love?: Anyone who
builds stuff in the city.


Monster Project - The A’s to Our Q’s:

Wooster: How did you
get started in creating art for the street?

Monster Project started with the idea that all good public
art, whether sanctioned or not, interacts with its environment. Several of us
had been active writers or were interested in graffiti as an art form for a
while when we came up with the Monster. While we were living in Providence,
Rhode Island, we realized that a lot of the walls and spots we were painting
were more interesting than what we were painting on them. This notion developed
to the point where there were some spots that looked amazing without graffiti.
We didn’t just want to do plain old name based graffiti at these spots. Monster
Project developed as a method of interacting with the spots we were doing,
attempting to create art that complimented its location. Today, we are trying to
create spots for ourselves, bolting stuff to rooftop signs, creating our own
supports and moving onto the ground, anything to utilize the space.

/>Wooster: Why the Monster Project?:

  The idea of interaction was key to the whole thing. The
Monster is a character of the City. Our idea is that a city environment is in
many ways cannibalistic. It eats itself. Buildings are built, other buildings
are built, and things get old, rust, and fall apart. The whole city becomes
involved with itself, it becomes an entity. Monster Project has never been about
the image as much as what the image points out about its surroundings. Each
Monster is site specific these days. This has always been the idea, but we are
really trying to push it these days. We do not mass-produce the monsters; each
one is hand painted and cut. The process goes something like this: An
interesting spot is found, measured and scoped for interest and feasibility.
This often takes two or three trips. The Monster is then constructed to fit the
spot (it almost never works perfectly) and installed. Our installation methods
are mostly pasting a paper portion and bolting or otherwise attaching a wooden
section. The next day, we document. We have had Monsters last for anywhere from
half an hour to years, so getting the flick is critical. Since we often do out
of the way spots in a manner that might not be the most permanent, the photo is,
in a lot of ways, the final piece. The most recent Monsters that we have been
doing are sometimes hard to get a good picture of because they go onto the
ground or around corners or deal in some other way with the spot. We are really
trying to push the idea of audience participation, where people get to walk over
or through the Monster. In the past, we have made Monsters anywhere from 3
inches to over 12ft long. We have experimented with painting Monsters and
decided it is not the way for us. We have tried just making a bunch of monsters
and walking around trying to put them up, but that doesn’t work either, so,
today, each installation becomes very thought out and labor intensive. The
chances of people actually seeing any large number of completed Monsters are
slim, but that isn’t really our goal. Monsters do not go everywhere, and today,
as they become more and more work (and in our opinion, better), our output has
decreased drastically. It is made harder by the fact that all of our team does
other things, so we are always scrambling for cars, lookouts and extra hands. We
are always on the lookout for free wood, free film developing and free help.
Space and energy are always in short supply. It is an ass load of work, but fun
and interesting (hopefully for others as well).

What other street artists do you most admire and why?

/>Monster Project:  Some of us grew up in Cambridge where there
is this huge university presence. We have Harvard and MIT who own close to a
quarter of the city. Boston has even more. Generally it is annoying, but there
are redeeming qualities. MIT has a great tradition of intelligent, unsanctioned
public art. They call it “Hacking.” There is a great book out from the MIT press
called “Nightwork” that documents these hacks. It talks about anything from
kidnapping guests of Harvard and bringing them to MIT first, to planting
inflatable balloons of talcum powder under the football field before Harvard v.
Yale, to putting a cop car on the roof of the school dome, to turning that dome
into R2D2. It is all really intelligent stuff. Their rules are something like it
has to be harmless, it has to do no damage and it has to be smart. Last month,
for the one hundred year anniversary of flight, they built a scale model of the
Wright Brothers plane and put it on top of the dome. The only access is
something like a 2ft sq. hatch. This stuff always makes the paper, which can
never be bad, and everyone in Boston knows what Smoots are. Being in Providence,
all the Fort Thunder stuff was great.
They would do some amazing, outrageous 18-color silkscreen posters for shows and
just paste them all over. They threw parties, put on shows, made comics, put out
a newspaper and lived in the most intense old illegal factory building ever.
Their work ethic is beyond comprehension. The Fort closed a few years ago but
they really influenced the whole Providence artistic mindset.
As far as
more graffiti based public art goes, we have to thank Sonik for doing the signs,
KGBE for his diligence and always moving on and beyond, and team of The Funky
Point Oner and Histo (138) for keeping us on our toes and reminding us that this
is, above all, fun. These four have all been great supporters of the Project, so
they deserve many, many thanks.

Wooster: What’s your
favorite city, neighborhood, or block, to post and/or to see street art?
Monster Project:  Providence, as a city has always been
the great influence, but it is changing quickly. Boston and Cambridge are great
because they have a lot to do, a great tradition of interesting graffiti and
very little being done. And New York is New York. We would love to work in St.
Louis in the future.

Wooster: What inspires you

Monster Project:  The best experience we have
had with doing this is having friends come up to us and say “I saw this great
spot for a monster.” and go on to tell us where, and how we should do it. When
people start to see our work where is not, we feel like we have done something. 
It is great to see that we have pointed out to others what we saw in the first
place. This type of excitement from others about what we do is the biggest
inspiration these days. Kelly’s book (INY) was a huge boost as well. It is great
that people notice.

Wooster: What are you currently
working on?  Can you give us a sneak peek?

  We are about a month away from getting our next book Xeroxed
and bound. Whenever we have gotten a good body of work done, we put it into book
form with the help of Cantab
. Up to this point they have just been made as thank you gifts for
the people who have helped us with everything, but were going to try to make
more this time if anyone is interested. The old ones are all gone, but you can
see pictures at the Cantab website. This new one should drop in about a month,
so check the site.


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