Interviews

Urban Heartbeat Visits Jamaica – Interview with Founder Jim Avignon

Written by Xavier Murphy

The Street Art Project “Urban Heartbeat – An Artistic Encounter in Public Spaces” arrived in Jamaica on February 23-25 2012 (See the images in the gallery).  The founder of the project is German artist Jim Avignon. Urban Heartbeat, is regional project featuring artists from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean working with Jim Avignon on creating a mural in a public place.  We interviewed Jim 3 weeks before he and his team arrived in Jamaica. 

What is Urban Heartbeat?
Urban heartbeat is a regional street art tour coming to seven countries of Central America and the Caribbean in February and March of 2012. Together with German painter Jim Avignon, local artists will create a public mural in each participating country, followed by an after party with participation of German and local DJs. As a photo exhibition, the whole project will be presented in Berlin in July 2012, where people also will be able to see the book about the project, which will include portraits of all participating cities and artists.

How did you become interested in bring it to Jamaica?
We liked very much the idea of doing an international street art project that visits different countries of Central America and the Caribbean, creating contacts and exchange between the involved artists. In Kingston, for example, we saw that there exists a small, but very unique scene of graffiti and public art. We found it very interesting to expose these specific Jamaican talents so that their work can also be seen in Trinidad, Dominican Republic or Nicaragua, for example. We also have very strong partners in Jamaica, which are the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as the Jamaican-German Society, both of which cooperate with us in bringing “urban heartbeat” to Jamaica.

Have you visited Jamaica before and what do you know about Jamaican culture?
It will be my first time in Jamaica . I know a bit about Jamaican culture, since I listened to a lot of reggae and rocksteady music in the past. I am very curios to see if there is an equivalent to the music in the art in Jamaica…

Have the public location been selected for this contest?
The public location still is to be announced, you can check for updates on www.urban-heartbeat.com and www.facebook.com/demibarrioatubarrio (“de mi barrio a tu barrio” is the Spanish name of the project, which means “from my borough to your borough”)

What type of artist should enter the contest?
We invite all urban artists, graffiti writers, designers, muralists, illustrators, cartoonists and everyone else who would like to participate in painting a big mural in public space.

Many people say artist who graffiti do their work for an audience of one; themselves. Do you agree?
In Brooklyn where I live, you can spot a lot of street art fans, they are walking the streets and take photos of every graffiti they see.  I am not sure if the artists work for those people but for sure, their work gets seen a lot.

Tell us about amazing the murals you have seen in other countries that hosted the Urban Heartbeat? What was the most memorable experience in other countries that hosted the Urban Heartbeat?
We still cannot tell you because Jamaica will be the first country of the tour! We hope to getting to see lots of great art in all involved countries and of course you will be able to follow the tour on www.urban-heartbeat.com and www.facebook.com/demibarrioatubarrio

Are working on any other projects that may involve Jamaica in the future?
If “urban heartbeat” will work out well, we already have some ideas for a follow-up project, but that will be a surprise!

Your pet peeve with mobile phones.
I have a couple of mobile phones, one for each country, for some weird reasons I just cannot remember my American number and always have to write it down. My german phone is almost 10 years old, at that time nokia invented an undestroyable phone that you can throw against the wall. They realized they made a big mistake because everybody who had one of those never needed another one and took it of the maret. It still works and I am sure it never gets stolen

Any closing thoughts?
None of us has done a tour like that before. I always told everybody that I believe art is communication in first way – now it’s time for me to prove that I wasn’t so wrong. I hope I will return with a good amount of new contacts and I hope some of those will stay friends for lifetime. 

To learn more about the recent visit to Jamaica see: www.urban-heartbeat.com

About the author

Xavier Murphy