Born in Buenos Aires, Zosen came to Barcelona in 1989 at the age of 12 with his Spanish-born mother and Argentinian father. A celebrated street artist, his distinctive, largely political artworks have been exhibited in streets and galleries around the world, most recently StolenSpace in London. He runs graffiti workshops in Barcelona and is co-founder of street wear label Animal Bandido with Catalan designer Clàudia Font.
I am really happy to have grown up here in Europe as I think people are more open-minded. The South American mentality has changed a lot with the Internet, but it used to be very U.S. influenced.
I’m an anarchist. I think my family’s experience and background, coming from Argentina when it was under a dictatorship, shaped my life. Maybe with a different background, I would have been a lawyer or done something more mainstream, but there are a lot of artists and actors in my family.
I began spraying graffiti when I was 11 in Buenos Aires. I started riding a skateboard at the same time. I wrote silly things, like the name of the gang of skaters I was with.
I never thought about becoming an artist. When I started, graffiti wasn’t the big movement it is today; it was very underground and you certainly didn’t make money from it. I was a postman for a while, and I worked in a warehouse while I was studying art and design.
My early influences were the other graffiti artists in my neighbourhood. We used to go around discovering new walls, new murals. Now with the Internet, you can see graffiti from home—the new generation don’t have the experience of discovering a wall by a certain artist.
We used to meet up in Plaça Universitat every Sunday morning with our boom boxes and skateboards. They used to have legal murals on the metro, but it stopped around the time of the Olympics. It was like a big family; we all knew each other because there weren’t that many people doing it then.
The scene exploded around 92/93. Suddenly, there were all these video clips on TV, MTV was born. People from the suburbs started to write. At that time, you could recognise a graffiti writer from his hip hop style clothes. Nowadays it’s impossible to tell.
I like that people can make money doing something they love. It’s a profession and pretty respectable.
Maybe I’m getting old, but I think nowadays fashion and music trends change too fast. No one buys music anymore but I still have all my cassettes and vinyl. My generation had photocopied fanzines and there was a network of people sending pictures of their art to fans and other artists around the world.
I wear the mask so that people focus on the artwork, not me. These days, the image of the artist seems to be more important than the art itself. They’re like rock stars.
Barcelona graffiti is really colourful and free. I don’t know if it’s because of the sea or the history of anarchists living here but, in the late Nineties, we started to experiment and go further with it. It wasn’t an organised movement, it just happened.
I have been in trouble many times. Sometimes they caught me bombing [spraying with an aerosol] in the subway when I was a child, but when we were painting the murals with big colours, I never ran. The police would arrive and I would speak to them and say “Look, I know the spots you need to choose to paint. I would never paint new places or monuments. We are just doing free art on old buildings.” I’d still get fined though.
At a certain point, I realised people can be afraid of art that is really radical. I want to change that prejudice so that the message gets out to more people.
I don’t really go to the institutional art spaces anymore. I don’t know if it’s a reaction to the fact they don’t respect the art that I am doing in my own city, yet galleries abroad will show my work.
The city has changed a lot. Now they fine you just for drinking a beer in the street. We live in a hot Mediterranean city, so if people want to hang out and drink beer, why shouldn’t they?