Surprise is a significant element of street art, both for the street artist during creation and for unsuspecting street walkers passing by. French urban installation artist going by the name of Lor-K is currently serving up a smorgsabord of surprises on the streets of Paris in the form of over-sized culinary delights made from discarded mattresses.
That’s right, Lor-k specialises in finding abandoned objects, especially mattresses, and on the spot turns them into pieces of food that look almost good enough to eat. She documents all her work, too, so even if you haven’t walked down one of her streets you can admire from afar via Facebook or Instagram.
I was keen to learn more and here, Lor-K explains the premise behind her street art …
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about your background and how you’ve ended up where you are today.
I first started studying business, which is when I started doing projects in the street: stencil, collage and painting. But I couldn’t blossom in these techniques. I then studied at the Sorbonne faculty in plastic arts, which is where I really found my way. That’s when I first started doing sculptures in the street, which I’ve been doing for six years now.
Tell us about your ‘Eat Me’ project. The giant food sculptures you make from unwanted mattresses look so realistic and very un-trashy! Where did the idea come from, what’s involved and how easy is it to execute?
The projects I’ve been doing over the past few years lead me to create ‘Eat Me’. Travelling for the project ‘Dans ce Monde’ (In this world) was one of my inspirations. In this project I travelled around different countries and got a real sense of the global standardisation of the food industry. I also have a strong attraction to colour, as in the projects ‘Objeticide’ and ‘Consomas’. With all my projects the goal is to attract attention to human waste. Being used to working with abandoned objects to create sculptures, I wanted to appropriate mattresses. These objects are very common in our streets, few people are interested in them. They carry the stigma of their past lives; their stains and defilements make them undesirable waste. They are rarely picked up to be used again and attract disgust and ignorance. Abandoned mattresses call to mind the precarity of people living in the street. Representing our own waste in food is a metaphor. Finally, like hunger, consumption is an endless cycle.
I’m always observing the streets and constantly photograph every abandoned object I find. (#worldofwaste; https://www.instagram.com/lor_k_land/). When I feel creative I jump on my scooter and search the streets for the perfect spot. The objects and location are equally important. I search for ‘recipes’ that have an interesting chromatic composition: different flashy colours, that stand out from one another. I use spray paint and different tools such as saws, cutters, knives and scissors. I also use sewing equipment, string and tape. As with all my projects, my main goal is to attract the attention of passersby to highlight the waste littering city streets and the potential they have. The amount of items abandoned on the street is a source of raw material that is unusual and neglected. It is also a way of transforming reality by acting on banal and everyday objects.
What was your favourite food to make?
I take pleasure in ‘cooking’ every meal I make. It’s a new challenge every time. I like to think about new ways to transform the material. The sushi, the cupcake or the wrap are good examples of that.
Is there any type of food you still wish to make?
The project started recently, so there are a lot of meals I still wish to cook. The menu is built on a day-to-day basis, depending on my desire. There will be new meals throughout the summer!
Is your true love street art? Tell us about your creative process – how do you like to work, what inspires you?
I am passionate about the urban area and everything it encompasses. I have been drawn to this creative context since I was very young. I do not think the city is an open air museum but rather an experimental ground where it is possible to interact with the real. I like the freedom of action that exists outside. The creative process is made of three stages. First, I have a thinking stage, where I will think technically about the project. Then comes the action stage, where I will intervene in the street. The last stage is the transcription where I perpetuate my urban actions with photographic impressions, videos, sketches and the writings that remain.
What are some of your important tools of trade?
Today the promoting of my work is done mainly by Internet. My website and social networks allow me to share and broadcast my research without limitations of territory and without any middleman. It is also a showcase for my portfolio, in order to exhibit.
During the process, I film myself using a camera on a tripod and take pictures. I abandon every sculpture I make, I only keep the memories. For indoor exhibitions, I like to tell the story of the making of each action, I express the experience I had outside. Once I abandon it, it no longer belongs to me anymore. People are free to do whatever they want with it. So I have pictures of the creative process from start to finish.
Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability for you?
Upcycling and sustainability are movements which interest me. But even so, my work does not depend on them. I often have the sensation of destroying objects (to let them shine one last time) rather than recycling them. Otherwise in my personal life I am very fond of upcycling and the secondhand.
I see all my urban actions as experiments. These are experiments with results that satisfy me more or less. The final outcome is given by the permanent exhibition of the project. Photos, videos, writing – I like to use memories to convey my actions over time. They are not really abandoned, but suspended without permanent materiality.
Creations I make outside are ephemeral. I do not wish to conserve them, their place is outside. I like to create volumes in the street with simple techniques. And then keep the memory that is left of it to expose it in the exhibition.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you would like to share with us?
The project ‘Dans ce Monde’ is going around the world. In this project I wish to discover the capital city of every country. The goal is to go searching for waste in the city and place the word ‘welcome’ in the country’s language. The letters are made out of wood and fixed using cleats. I would like, in the coming year, to continue discovering all of Europe’s countries.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Working in the street is always full of surprises. One of the moments I remember the most is the ‘Objecticide N°4’. I was with a friend wanting to disembowel a fridge we had just found. With a hammer and lots of noise, we tried in turns. A man passing by saw us having difficulty and asked us if we needed help. Without asking any more questions he took the hammer and disemboweled the fridge in a few movements and left straight after. We were smiling, as we apparently gave him the emotional release he needed. And all this in the eyes of two astonished and powerless policemen!
Then I think about the cloud in Marseille for the ‘Divinite Urbaine’ project. A father and his four-year-old son walked by the sculpture. The curious child stops and asks what it is. His father answers, naïvely, “It’s a cloud, can’t you see?” The child stopped, amazed, and got closer to touch and take a bit of foam. He was so happy and left, smiling with his piece of cloud, saying “I have cloud, I have cloud!”
It is the magic that attracts me. It is possible to plan everything but the context will always offer the surprises.
Thanks so much, Lor-K, for such a detailed insight into your work!