LONDON — Banksy, the one street artist that everyone knows, made a stir in the week leading up to the Olympics when he posted a stencil of a pole vaulter trying to clear a barbed-wire fence and a javelin thrower holding a missile. Images of those pieces appeared on blogs everywhere, but Banksy was hardly the first member of London’s booming street-art scene to weigh in on the Games.
Rome-bred, London-based artist #CODEFC (named after the hexadecimal codes used to identify RGB colors) has been the host city’s most prolific planter of Olympic-based work. He started in 2010 with a stencil of a crouched sprinter and the message, “F*ck 2012, I’m ready now” — and proceeded to post scores of pieces around East London over the next two years. He earned enough notoriety to put on an Olympics-themed studio show earlier this summer, and was kind enough to provide SI.com with a gallery of his outdoor pieces as well as answer a few questions.
SI.com: Why are you fascinated with the Olympics?
#CODEFC: I like painting around the world doing very site-specific projects, and being in London during the last few years, the main input was the Olympics. I started with a couple of stencils and then realized it would be a nice project, and started doing a lot more research on the history and visual images. The project has changed over the last few months and got divided into outdoor and indoor painting. I had a solo show in June mostly based on how the Olympics have been used for sociopolitical expressions and how the very reason for the ancient Olympics — the truce between the nations at war — has been lost.
SI.com: I’ve seen Olympic protest art in London, but your outdoor work doesn’t fall under that heading. How would you classify it?
#CODEFC: I did very political art in the past and on a few occasions it got misunderstood. I wanted to keep the outdoor images pure and just related to sport, as a juxtaposition to the way sport images have been abused — by sponsoring something or promoting companies. There are sport images everywhere in London but they all publicize something else, not sport, and I think it’s a bit wrong.
SI.com: Can you explain the presence of camcorder headgear that all the athletes are wearing?
#CODEFC: I’ve been doing visuals (VJ-ing and motion graphics) for the last 13 years and did a lot of filming in Super 8, so the symbolism comes from that. It’s some sort of self-portrait, but also I created these characters that I place in different places and situations. The camera head is also a statement that represents me and how I interact with events that surround me. Instead of taking part actively, I stand back and observe (recording and filming), and that’s the input that generates my art.
SI.com: The camcorders seem to lend a sinister quality to the images. Is that deliberate?
#CODEFC: I think Super 8 is a romantic way of expressing memories, so I don’t see it in a negative way, but a lot of people see them as gas masks or CCTV cameras, which clearly shows how they’re influenced by society — it’s to the point where you can’t distinguish a cinecam from a gas mask or a CCTV camera.