When Vienna-based street artists happen to fall down the rabbit hole, they often find themselves in the depths of the capital’s bureaucratic labyrinth. Spinning the thread that holds their network together demands spirit, power and energy.
It demands a movement.
The Rabbit Eye Movement (REM) at Gumpendorferstaße 91
It all started in 2005 when graffiti artist, Nychos began spreading his artwork, morbid and wicked rabbits, onto the walls of Vienna. Little did he know that the real rabbits, urban/street artists hidden in their burrows, were about to emerge, too.
Throughout the following years, Nychos’ Rabbit Eye Movement strengthened the ties between them as he crossed national boarders and communicated his unique style to all those mad rabbits in Europe and the US. After the acquisition of a home for the movement seven years later, the REM Art Space was brought to life in 2014.
There is no paradox in founding a gallery about street art since we do not exhibit urban artwork itself. We share the artists’ sketches and drawings, displaying other facets of their talent. It is all about the expansion of the classic term ̎gallery ̎. – Katrin & Lydia, REM
Gumpendorferstraße 91 is therefore no gallery in the typical sense; it is a café, an atelier, a place to devour books and magazines, to connect and share ideas. It is whatever you want to see in it. Like art.
Rabbits in Vienna
The artists, the companies, the volunteers and the crazy ones: they are all members of the REM, expanding the movement from its Viennese roots to the international stage.
̎”It is a movement; you cannot narrow it down to numbers and names.”
This is how Lydia, spokeswoman of the REM, explains the beauty of their work. Building on that, manager Katrin adds that many future projects are already planned with one of them starting this summer. Lydia and Katrin, both with a background in art history, prove to us that art is not only about overweight babies flying around the walls of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Art in all its forms, the old, the new and the ones yet to come, needs a place to be shared with the public, be it a sophisticated gallery or a large public wall.
Still, the Viennese walls are a street-art project in the making, as the city’s bureaucratic obstacles are difficult to overcome.
First you have to explain how the planned artwork will fit into the cityscape, then organize the permit, the lifting platforms, the payment… – Katrin (REM)
Of course, the distortion of Vienna’s elegant and historical districts has never been an option for the REM. It is the dull new buildings and ugly garages that may function as a canvas for urban/street artists. “When planning houses like that, the psychological factors must always be considered”, Katrin explains to us when mentioning that Nychos was previously called upon to paint a school in Linz.
But what is it that makes Nychos’ artwork so outstanding? We met him (and artist Look the Weird) at the opening of their new exhibition at the REM Art Space and talked with them about art, bureaucracy and pop culture.
Q: Nychos, Where do you prefer to spray: in America or Vienna?
Nychos: That does not matter. There are all kinds of people everywhere. Pop culture in America is, in many ways, a lot more advanced than European pop culture, although we are consuming the same kind of media. But they just get it and they appreciate those things a lot more than people around here. We will see how it will go on for them and how it will be for us.
Q: Is it more difficult to deal with bureaucracy here than elsewhere?
Nychos: Yes, of course. We are living in one of the oldest cities with too much bureaucracy and, I don’t know, culture and architecture and I don’t know what. And we are living in the city or country where laws where invented. I mean, basicly all these Magistrate laws are there to invent countless jobs, that make our lives more difficult. But the urban landscape is a very serious business in Vienna and we [they] don’t want any change. Where would that lead? No, it doesn’t work like that. Painting a white/grey or beige building in another colour? Can you imagine that? Well, I can’t.
Q: They won’t even allow street art for unpleasant looking new buildings?
Nychos: That doesn’t matter. But they do not think that far. Other cities are dealing differently with the topic. Take Berlin for example, well… they do not bother about anything. But, anyhow, Berlin is a much younger city. Vienna is an old city, where you can plesantly live when you are older. But as far as younger people are concerned, it’s much more difficult to live here, I think. Yes, you can party all the time. Woo hoo, great. But that’s all, basically.
Q: Is there a wall or an area in Vienna that you would like to paint one day?
Nychos: Tons. This city has enormous potential for big facades. There are a lot of them. But it would never cross their [bureaucrats in Vienna] mind to let young culture into the city. Why? There are different reasons for that: one of them is that a young art movement could possibly emerge in Vienna. We [they] do not want that. The Viennese do not want that. Things are as they are and that is comfortable [for them]. But the main problem is that most of the areas are rented by big companies for advertisements and that is a money issue. And of course we are living in the city, that is filled with street advertisements. Nowhere else there is so much street advertisements than in Vienna. In some other cities it is simply forbidden. Those cities are a lot more pleasant in my opinion, visually.
Q: Can you imagine bringing other street artists to Vienna to start some projects here?
Nychos: We are working on that. It’s difficult and we are fighting a lot. It’s really exhausting. But we are becoming more successfull in that regard.
Impressions from the REM Art Space:
Thanks a lot REM, for the insight and Nychos, for neglecting your dinner for us!
by Alina Nikolaou and Ece Isil Sahin
Header + Images 1-8 by Ece Isil Sahin