Sometimes it’s easier for other people to say for us, what we lack the articulation for in ourselves. Perhaps this is why Laser 3.14 is so popular, a street poet for us to shine though, someone saying what we may never think, but know all too well deep inside the attic of our mind.

When the time came to write a piece about the elusive character Laser 3.14, I felt challenged to offer something as unique as the person we see all over the city of Amsterdam.

To say a proper thanks for the years of work Laser has created deep in to the night while “normal” people sleep deep away from the troubles of the day.

“I no longer write words or make films about street art. What attracted me 15 years ago was the sub-cultural, it was off the radar. Now it’s just another thing to waste time looking up on the

Internet. The tipping point has long been reached. Laser 3.14 on the other hand, is still firmly in the underground. I don’t care about street art, but I do give a flying fuck about Laser. His work has matured into the voice of Amsterdam. It’s part of the whole city experience. Laser has become part of the vernacular, part of Amsterdam’s cultural DNA”.- King Adz, United Kingdom. 

To get the most out of this article, I reached out to people around us as to shed some insight in to things. Some I knew, others I sought out. Laser of course was integral to the piece as well. But for me, it had to be more than a artists self justification or another Q&A session between pictures.

I wanted the people affected by the work on a street level to chime in as well (they seem a core competent of things which often gets overlooked). Together we tried to articulate why Laser is getting a article, why you are reading it, and why you will end up talking about him to someone soon.

 

Starting out with people like Zedz and Delta in Amsterdam’s street scene must have been exciting. Any stories to share from back in the day? 

I like ZEDZ he’s a cool guy; but he wasn’t around in Amsterdam’s scene when it began to explode in the early 80’s. I saw his work appear here in the early 90’s. He was part of a group of artists from Leiden (a whole other story). The stuff I was doing in those days was very trivial. I was tagging when I was around 10 or 11 but had no clue that it was called graffiti or whatever. I just saw cool names around the city which I emulated: Ego, Tarantula, Dragon, Collodi, Dr Air, Harakiri, Dr Smurry. I started out writing my own name, but soon figured out that you had to have a cool fake name to stand out, to define yourself. When I attended art school later on, I went to the Leidseplein where a lot of writers where hanging out. I felt like a kid in a candy store meeting all the people behind the tags. It was a great time of creative explosion in Amsterdam, the city was on fire. There was this intense energy in the air that all people, creative or otherwise could tap in to. Along the way Amsterdam has lost something special; when they decided to run it as a corporation instead of a exercise in social freedom. 

While other street art is based on graphics. Your work has rooted itself in text. How did this occur for you?

Things just naturally progressed that way. When I was focusing on painting in the 90’s I wasn’t that busy or totally aware on what was happening on the streets. I saw a lot of new 3D style graffiti, the best of them at the time was Delta. But my focus was more on painting and learning how to do that. I also started writing poetry and started to add sentences from the poems as captions under images I painted. At some point I thought the captions were stronger than the images, and started to write poetry like crazy. I soon got bored with just tagging my name cause I felt it had been done to death, and by much better artists, and didn’t add anything new. So one day I went out with the idea of spraying a couple of the poems around the city. 

How do you think of your text? Do you go out with a list of things written? Or do you make it up as you go along? 

I go out prepared with a list, but when I’m “in the zone” I’ll write something spontaneously. I don’t really know how creativity works. It’s just there. When a emotion or idea takes hold, the images take root in my mind, appearing to me, and art pops out. Whether it’s in written form or imagined, it just happens. If you over think it too much, It’s already dead. 

“I experienced the first piece of Laser’s work riding a bike past a wall in the Kinkerbuurt. I was really surprised when I saw this sparse, simple message written in black capital lettering. It made me focus on the words instead of the presentation.”You look perfect in that dress, all in sync with all the rest.” To me, his work interrupts my “automatic day-by-day working-drone” mode. Stoping the insane ‘mind train’ of chasing pipe-dreams such as career, money and status, helping to assess what’s really important in life. There’s a consensus among me and my friends that Laser is doing great things to improve Amsterdam. A lot more people should follow this example. Being a retired graffiti writer myself, I am happy he’s out there”. Stephen Vlieland, France. 

 

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A lot of people think that the 3.14 in your name is biblical. Are they absolutely correct in thinking this, even if they are totally wrong? 

It’s really interesting to see the residue of religious influence in everyday thinking of people. It clearly says 3.14 and not 3:14 but a lot of times people first perceive it as a biblical verse number. That’s interesting to me because I clearly see the scientific discoveries of the last 200 years (Pi for instance), trumping those of so called religious “insights” by light-years. When you look at life functions, at the vastness of the universe and the beauty of it. Becoming aware, that if 65 million years ago a meteorite didn’t hit this planet we wouldn’t even be here, that we’ve only just scratched the surface, that’s really interesting stuff! It trumps every religious doctrine to me, and is part of why I chose a math reference as my name. I’m always in true awe about what science has revealed. But then again, when I was a kid I was a stargazer, looking up, always wondering what was out there… i’m still a stargazer .

Speaking of the stars, do you like Alien or Aliens more? If you like Alien more, please like Alien more, please explain why you are totally wrong. 

I think both are classics and extremely good, but Alien is the better of the two. Next to Blade Runner this is one of those films, which truly stood the test of time and still looks amazing today. I like the simplicity of Alien. It’s actually a very basic story. It such a straightforward film but executed so brilliantly. It deserves all the praise its still getting. 

“Poetry for me has always been related to books. He has taken it out of that context. I have spent weekends cycling around the city in search of his art. When I see a new construction site, I always wonder if he will make it his canvas. His words speak to me. Even the ones I don’t understand. His mind really fascinates me. I remember I was going through a very bad break up and walked by the verse: “If my feelings are true, then where the hell are you”. I burst into tears. He spoke my anger, my grief, my sadness. Putting words to my emotions. It’s like he could see inside me. When I think of someone, it always brings their face to my mind. I can’t do that with Laser. I don’t know who he is. I often wonder what he looks like, if I’ve ever bumped into him, spoken to him. And as you can see, I refer to him as a man. I did go through a phase when I wondered if Laser was a woman. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that hes a man. Right or wrong, it is the way I like to think of him”.- Carolina Georgatou, Greece. 

People seem to like things, what do you like? 

I like music, films, books, collecting vinyl, comics, painting, a good conversation, working on art, writing poetry, drawing, running in the park, yoga, meditation and all the rest. I am a person like any other, I just happen to do something that resulted in answering some 

questions for you, as if I had anything more to say than someone reading this, we are all the same to me, that’s a part of my point. What I don’t like is political correctness. I really can’t stand it. It’s like willingly turning a blind eye to facts that are as clear as day, only because people want to hold on to a almost perverse fantasy. It’s like knowing you’re wrong and forcing it to be right at all cost, and may the world burn for it. 

Speaking of facts that are clear as day, is art a scam? 

There’s hardly anything left these days that doesn’t feel like a scam to me. Even living and breathing feels like a scam. A lot of things have been exposed as scams: Religion turned out to be a scam; politics got exposed as a scam, economics turned out to be a scam, the music and film industry turned into scams. Overproduced, superficial, fake and clearly looking only to make money, I feel scammed even if I watch and listen to most of it for free. Real art, the art that you have to make because you clearly have no other choice, you’ll sacrifice everything. It never feels and looks like a scam because it isn’t. The spectator will know whether your art is a scam or not, the question is will you know it?

Most artists seem to go out of their way to not make sense, in hopes they can hide a lack of opinion or talent. Is making sense a challenge? Do people make sense to you? 

Some people make sense, most don’t. Through my art I’m trying to make sense of the world and sometimes it does, most of the times though I really don’t get people. I don’t understand why we look for cobwebs in our cellar while their attics are full of gold, I don’t 

understand why people would kill, maim and die for crafted doctrines and perpetually silent invisible beings, who clearly have sprouted from our own imagination; or the lack of it. I don’t understand why we hold ourselves back when we have the ability to truly blossom and reach heights we could never imagine. There seems to be this fear to exceed and transcend and it’s choking and killing us. 

So is this a mission to wake people up? One street at a time. 

In my life I’ve noticed one thing; If you try to think outside the box some people will come after you. Some people cant handle if you dare question or dare to criticize this existence, and it pisses people of who believe that there is a perfect way life should be lived. For the most part people don’t want to wake up from the dream, because they then have to deal with the nightmare. You’re likely to aggravate them when you try to make sense and question the fabric of this existence. Things can get very ugly quick, but as an artist I’m not here to please. For me it’s a personal journey, which I share on the streets. Art should evoke a whole spectrum of reactions, it will make some happy and others it will piss off, so be it. 

“Seeing one of Laser’s pieces can hit a pause button on your day, even if it’s only for a few moments. Even when you read it and then keep walking, they seem to drift back to the surface of your mind later. The street pieces seem to set him apart from other artists because they are temporary. To me it seems that artists are trying to leave a little piece of themselves in the world; I like that these pieces of this person are there for only a little while. When I move away from Amsterdam, one of the things I think I’ll miss the most will be running into that little bit of beauty Laser brings to the streets, especially when I’m not looking for a piece and one takes me by surprise”.- Jen Dowhie, United States. 

 

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Street culture is contstantly coming in and out of the spotlight. Does this cycle excite you? Or make it hard to feel like you are making progress with a ever changing audience? 

To be honest when I’m working I’m not interested with what’s hip at the moment, what people may think of what I am doing. For me art is an introspective journey where I discover all sides and levels about myself, cycle of our existence, this world, subjects that interest me. This journey is something I love to keep embarking upon no matter who the audience happens to be at the time, that’s just a end game of it all, if anything I like finding new ears and eyes who have not seen the work before. 

Amsterdam is known for many things, from the special to the mundane. We all know what’s in the tourist catalogs and around us on our walk here and there, but when it comes to people like Laser 3.14, it’s hard to know where that fit’s in. The work is a reflection of our daily lives, more than it is a constant critique of the Amsterdam state of affairs. 

Every city has it’s night watch, those brave souls who “owe the night” in individual and often unsung ways. 

From the siren blaring across town to save a unknown life, to a new friend buying you a tosti at the local bar which saves yours. These people are all around us, making the city we live in that much more special, that much more our own. 

Life rarely get’s a soundtrack, not like in the movies. Perhaps Laser’s work is as close as we can come to such a overture. 

A spray painted sentence out of the corner of your eye helping define the moment as you laugh, love, cry, run, worry, care, live.

Interview: Julian Lynn

Photography: Myscha Oréo

 

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