In 2009, ICY, SOT and three other Iranian street artists (FrZ, MAD, CK1) took part in 'From the Streets of Iran', shown at the Crewest Gallery, Los Angeles. But as you'll find out, ICY and SOT couldn't make it. They're both currently seeing out a one and a half year term of military service - required in Iran to get a passport. Still, that didn't stop Zack de la Rocha from showing up... We got in touch with ICY to find out more.
What are things like in Iran at the moment?
Everyone’s disappointed and angry about the current status. It’s very hard to protest or even think about it at the moment. I’m doing a very big risk by even answering your questions.
If you could say one thing to the authorities and protestors?
I have nothing to say to the authorities, but the people should never give up hope.
What’s the saddest thing?
The saddest thing, overall, is the Islamic cult going on here - which isn’t so Islamic or humanitarian. The people controlling this country do everything in the name of it. They imprison us, they cheat us, they lie to us and they kill.
What’s the art scene like? Are people turning their pain and frustration into great art?
All the creativity is mostly in the traditional art fields. Yes, in some cases. But people do that everywhere, not just in countries with democracy issues.
Any other Iranian artists we should know about?
In other fields, there are very good artists. But they are mostly in the traditional fields. If you mean street art; SOT (my brother), A1one, FrZ, MAD, CK1, tr0jan. Mostly our close friends.
How much of your work is about rebellion and revolution?
About a third.
And what about peaceful resolution?
We have no other choice, because if it isn’t a peaceful resolution, we would end up like the people that are controlling the country right now.
How did you get into street art?
It started with skateboarding. We used to watch skate videos and play skate games. We saw graffiti and stencils on the walls and we got interested in it. We started with small things, like stickers and small amateur stencils.
Who/what inspired you?
Skateboarding, foreign street artists like Banksy, Dolk etc, and all the contemporary artists that started street art in other cities of Iran.
Why did you choose the alias Ice Punk?
I don’t go by that alias anymore. That was a few years ago. My alias is ICY. The city I live in, Tabriz, is a cold place with atrocious winters.
What kind of music are you into?
All sorts, from punk rock to reggae and a bit of Iranian music.
Have you ever got in trouble for your work? Do you need to be careful and remain anonymous?
Of course, we have been interrogated and arrested several times. Remaining anonymous isn’t enough, the police and intelligence service know who we are.
I saw a photo of a guy tearing down one of your pastes, how do people in Iran usually respond to your work?
Graffiti and stencils have a long way to go before they become part of our culture. People aren’t familiar enough with these sorts of things. Maybe if a pedestrian passes by graffiti or a stencil they might not know what it is or they might not have interest in it or maybe, in some cases, they might even wipe it off. For example, once I did a wheatpaste and went away for a few minutes, just for it to dry off. When I came back a guy was tearing it off. Despite all this, sometimes it influences people.
Where else have you been around the world?
I’ve never been anywhere else. Unfortunately, in Iran, we are limited of going over borders. In Iran, before a man can exit the country, he has to do a year and a half of military service to get his passport. Because of that, we decided to drop school and pass this goddamn period of time. We have spent one year of that year and a half so far.
But you have work up in other countries?
Yes, we have several works all over the globe; France, Italy, Brazil… But we have never had the chance to do it ourselves. We send them to our friends overseas so they can do it for us.
And what else do you do, besides art?
As I said, in the meantime, me and my brother are both in military service. We have different hobbies, like skateboarding, snowboarding, beer and Internet surfing.
Visit www.flickr.com/photos/icepunk for more.