Rheinberg, Germany, 2015
Bond Truluv is a graffiti artist from Leipzig, Germany. Blurring the lines between digital and physical space, his vibrant, futuristic, tech-infused, geometric explosions of color can range from huge murals spanning the facades of multi-story buildings, to more subtle typefaces tucked away in obscure, abandoned lots, to portrait pieces , which are suitable for galleries.
Though he cut his teeth as a traditional graffiti artist, Bond Truluv has recently entered the realm of augmented reality, using YouTube tutorials and gaming software to develop his own app that allows viewers of his work to immerse himself in three-dimensional patterns, brought to life through their screens.
We recently spoke to Truluv about his creative process, the convergence of art and technology, social media and his work with augmented reality.
I just wanted to start by asking you a little about your background. I read that you studied anthropology and then painting in Indonesia. I was curious how this affects your artwork?
Yeah, I mean... I knew pretty early on that I wasn't going to be an anthropologist, not going to be an academic, kind of complicated getting a job and doing research and all that stuff. But I have to travel a lot. Because anthropologists do that, you have to look for a specific culture that they want to delve into. And I chose India, and I went to India without ever being really far from home, and that was my biggest culture shock in life. And I stayed there for about 10 months in a small place for street children, sort of a shelter. And then I started traveling from there all over Southeast Asia the next year, I think for six, seven years. I spent most of my time there traveling around Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and of course Indonesia.
[I lived in] this city called Yogyakarta, and the city itself was really inspiring to paint because it's a crazy place. It is a sultanate, one of the few sultanates left and the sultan allowed people to do graffiti. So there's no ownership in the visual case, you can basically just paint anywhere except of course religious structures or the Sultan's palace, which is forbidden, but anything else is allowed by law because that's how he likes it. So I just rode my scooter around for a year and drew everywhere. And it was an incredibly good experience. And of course I've toured Indonesia, which is made up of 14,000 islands and can be a pretty empty place if you stay away from Bali.
One of Truluv's tags in Jogja, Indonesia, 2012
Your point and click series and your other augmented reality murals use AR in really cool ways. Could you briefly explain to me how this technology works?
Well, the augmented reality thing works with image tracking. It's basically like a QR code. So obviously you need to have an app and a camera, and the app needs to access the camera to see certain patterns it can recognize in QR codes with black and white squares. And an image tracking, it can be light and dark values, contrasts. So the app tries to read this contrast of the image in order to match it with a content that you previously assigned to it. However, if you see this image, you must play this type of video. That's basically what the app does.
„Bots“, Leipzig, 2018
And you developed the app yourself?
Yes I started doing this through some YouTube tutorials and software called Unity 3D which is mostly like a gaming development platform. And yes, I created the apps myself, very individually. There wasn't much to change about the apps and it was kind of bulky, didn't run or only ran on my phone with a certain type of firmware. You couldn't download the app from any store because you need licenses to bring apps to stores. And I'm not a professional developer. I don't even work in the industry. I only self-taught. I'm a self-taught, DIY guy. This is also the case with my first app, which I developed with the help of YouTube tutorials. And of course I have a basic technical knowledge. And I know some softwares and how they work. But it was really a gradual process following YouTube tutorials and then of course I finally understood what was going on and how to tweak and change certain things.
So how have you noticed people's interactions or reactions to using this AR when looking at your graffiti?
I mean it's always very exciting for people, especially for those who are using it for the first time. It's always like, "Wow, crazy! What's going on there? How is that even possible?” You know, there's pretty much always that first reaction, because people don't know how it works technically, and of course once you've explained it to them, it makes sense. But the first reaction is like this. And it's one thing I've always wanted to achieve with my pieces, to blur the lines of dimension and reality to create the ultimate illusion. So that's something where the AR aspect really helps to get parts to move. I mean, when we paint something, it's a static image of a potentially infinite process in a potentially infinite movement. We're just picking one frame out of all that movement, and the AR helps me really bring that whole animation, that whole thing, movement to the people, to the viewer. That's something special I feel. Even if it's very technical. And it takes a long time to render the animations and design them into a concept. And so, for me, the technical process usually takes longer than actually painting the picture.
And of course it's really interactive, the viewer can move around the piece, they can change their position. It really animates and inspires people to look for other angles and perspectives. I think it's a very interesting technique to watch live. It is very appealing, especially on murals. You know, when you have a large format mural, you can really walk around the piece, look under it, even look behind it, and that's usually a crazy experience.
So how do you view this convergence of art and technology and also its relationship with social media?
Yes, I mean, technology is all around us these days. So someone has to bring the art, the traditional art forms and the technology together and see what comes out. For me, I use technology as a tool to achieve my means. And I'm sure, for example, people like Picasso or even further back would have loved it and of course used it. And so it's very natural for me to play with new technologies and new tools to see what happens when I use them in my art and to come up with new ideas and try to bring things together that didn't come together before became. And of course social media is a big aspect. Because visual artists live a lot from social media, especially the graffiti people and the urban art scene. The entire presentation process takes place on social media these days.
"I follow you", Leipzig, Germany
People paint on the street of course, but most artists upload their stuff on social media, it's like the market. And you can reach so many more people through social media platforms than you can on the street. I noticed that early on. I mean, I'm a graffiti writer and my ultimate goal is fame; I want to be seen, I want to be recognized. And I can do that by painting lots of spots in the city streets. But now there is this other option which is to go global and upload your stuff. And if you have good stuff, more people will see it. So if you really come up with new and innovative ideas and have a certain visually striking style, then more people will see that and then for me, even now I paint in deserted places or in places that nobody really goes.
"Glory", Corfu, Greece 2017
So the picture is my work of art. It's not meant to be seen live unless of course I'm invited to festivals or I paint murals or some kind of activation/exhibition but the things I voluntarily do for myself are not meant to be seen, they are meant to be seen on social media. So I make little videos and photos and I take a lot of time to edit and design and plan accordingly. And adjust the lights and all that stuff. And I have a feeling that a lot of people do the same thing. They try to reproduce their work on social media. I don't want to say it's a good or bad thing. That's just the way it is these days.
So when we talk about choosing a place for a piece, how does the space, the outside atmosphere of the wall, affect what you're actually going to write on it?
Well, it's hard to find words about how it does that. It's actually always a surprise. For example, when I have the option to choose walls, for example, when I'm assigned a room and the different options for walls, I go through there, I take a lot of photos. And then, in a quiet moment, I sit down and flip through them. And I'm waiting for inspiration. And usually I have a list of things I want to paint. And then I try to see which piece, which style would go with which wall.
So of course I try to adapt the different ideas and approaches I have to the different wall options I have. And if it's just a wall for a big mural or something, for example, and that's a wall that I need to paint, I also flip through my photos and see what style would fit there. How is the environment? How are the lighting conditions? What would be the angle for the last shot? How much time do I have? How are the weather conditions in this place at this time? Can I use a projector? Or is there too much light noise, too much street light or whatever? What is the structure of the wall? The texture? Is it really rough and crumbly or is it smooth? All of these things influence the final decision for the play. What color are the houses around? What is the background color? What is the base coat of the wall? You know, those are all things I would consider when addressing the final concept.
Truluv is working on a large scale mural in Nuremberg, Germany
Do you have any future projects? What are you looking forward to? I know it's a weird time right now...
You know, like most of my colleagues, I've lost a lot of projects. About 16 I think. So it's been a really frustrating time for me these past few months. But just a few weeks ago a project came in that I was really excited about. It kind of saved my ass financially too, really, it came at the right time. So I can relax a bit now. But really, I don't have any big projects ahead of me, that's for sure. But I have many small projects for myself. I mean, that's always one of the things I've liked about being an artist, it's never really boring. Even if there are no paid jobs or people tell you what they want. You can always be busy in the studio or I have a lot of abandoned rooms and walls that I like to paint, I have a lot of ideas and approaches that I haven't tried. So not really boring, just economically unstable. But it's not like I'm not busy.
"I love you", Berlin, 2019
Based in London, United Kingdom
Andreas Bellis a freelance writer from Massachusetts currently based in London. Living in Istanbul for five years, he immersed himself in the graffiti and art culture of one of the oldest cities on earth. He loves getting lost in unfamiliar cities, loves music and tries his best to distinguish between honesty and bullshit.
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