We talk to Yoav Litvin, a doctor, photographer and writer who manages to use all his expertise with plenty of passion in approaching street art while contributing to spreading its impact. Read on and discover more about his latest book titled: 2Create, as well as what keeps him so dedicated to his cause! Enjoy.
– Introduce yourself to us. (Include titles, origin, location, some basic facts about you)
My name is Yoav Litvin. I am a doctor of psychology/behavioral neuroscience, a photographer and writer. In my current work, I investigate the intersections of science, the arts and politics and aim to promote creative and radical causes with a focus on urban culture, social movements and peoples. I believe in- and advocate for a collective humanity based on equality, sustainability and justice. I feel freedom of expression, well-informed yet unrestricted creativity and disciplined resistance are society’s propelling positive forces. I am extremely passionate about street art and graffiti and its documentation and recently published my second photography book titled 2Create – Art Collaborations in New York City (Schiffer Publishing).
– What is street art for you? What impact has it had in your life?
Ideally, street art is an unfiltered, unbiased and radical form of expression that comes from the people and speaks to and for them. By virtue of its public context- the streets- street art has the potential to stretch and even break prejudiced societal taboos and challenge authority and power structures. Street art can be a democratic force within our hierarchical society and art establishment, and thus has a unique ability to innovate and revolutionize on multiple frontiers. However, by virtue of its freedom, there are constant attempts to reign it in to serve private, corporate and state interests.
Street art and graffiti opened my eyes to the limitless and positive power of creativity to empower and unify people, regardless of age, gender, race or any other societal definition. I strongly believe that street art needs to be protected and promoted, and have dedicated the last 5 or so years of my life to this cause.
– What made you write your first book on street art?
I sustained a pretty bad injury and found that the act of walking alleviated the pain more than anything else, even more than strong pain meds! So, I started cruising the streets of New York City, sometimes for 15-20 miles every day. Very quickly I decided to bring a camera along, and soon enough my focus turned to graffiti and street art – art forms that I rediscovered after seeing them everywhere as a youth in New York City. Through social media, I met others who shared my passion and the artists behind the work. As I accumulated more and more images, I knew that the materials are worthy of publication and decided to apply the skills I learned in academia to compile a book. The result, my book Outdoor Gallery – New York City (Gingko Press), profiles 46 artists that I encountered most on the streets during my walks throughout the boroughs of NYC. The book captures a very unique period of creativity in the Big Apple.
– Tell us a bit about your latest book (difficulties, aims, whats special about it etc.)
2Create – Art Collaborations in New York City (Schiffer Publishing) is the first book that examines the processes of collaborative duos in street art in various mediums: collage, screen printing, stenciling and mural making. It follows the creative processes of 9 collaborative duos that work on the streets of NYC. During my studies in psychology I learned of the duo as the basic unit of a collective humanity, and felt that this creative relationship is fascinating on multiple levels- artistically, psychologically and sociologically and is worthy of investigation as a model of cooperation. What’s more, as the title “2Create” implies, the book documents the creative process of each collaborative duo from start to finish. My aims were to present the immense potentials and the diversity of the collaborative relationship with the hope of encouraging and inspiring others to work together. Some difficulties included choosing the duos, coordinating walls and materials, and finding an adequate publisher. But it was all worth it!
– Which street artists do you admire most and why?
I admire artists who show discipline, creativity, courage and skill in their work. But equally as important, I appreciate and promote those artists who respect the streets and their peoples, and recognize the privilege they have in using them as a mode of expression for the common good. There are too many artists who sell out to private, corporate and state interests, and I dedicate significant time and effort through my writings to calling them out on it, as they selfishly abuse resources and space that could have otherwise been applied toward the benefit of artists who advocate for local communities.
– Street art in the last few years has had a big impact on society, a lot of artists being in the spotlight and trying to make a carrier out of it. What do you think about this evolution?
Street art is evolving in many directions, and I promote the one I feel is most important. I believe the streets, especially during our times of turmoil, war and uncertainty, should be used by artists as independent platforms to express the needs and concerns of regular people. I don’t like it when artists view the streets as a jumping board into galleries- they’re missing the whole point and immense potential of street art to affect public discourse.
– Which cities do you think have the biggest activity and influence in the global street art scene?
Last year I traveled in South America and was blown away by the art on the streets. Cities like Medellin, Bogota, Lima, Quito, Santiago, Valparaiso, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are exploding with beautiful work. I feel that the stranglehold of capitalist forces on the art establishment in the United States and Europe has negatively affected the direction street art has taken.
– What are you working on nowadays?
There are so many negative developments in the world that I believe we must all devote some time to resistance in one way or another. Nowadays, I’m writing a lot- with a particular focus on political analysis. I am also working on a new book that examines relationships within social activism. It is in early stages and I tend not to talk about projects before they are sufficiently mature. Otherwise, I engage in grant writing and teaching.
– What is the biggest challenge when writing a book?
We as humans have a need to clearly see a vision from beginning to end. But as every artist knows, in order for a vision to mature into its full potential one has to learn to embrace the actual process and not solely focus on the end product. It is a practice that requires patience and a strong belief in yourself and others involved in your project. Because a book is such a serious and big project that requires significant time and money, and a strong commitment, it is very risky but extremely rewarding if you manage to pull it off!
– Do you remember any occasion in which something went horribly wrong?
One time I spent significant time and money, traveled to another city and even hired an assistant only to be stood up by my subjects. It was and still is extremely frustrating and infuriating. I also worked for months on a large-scale film project, which disintegrated due to personal differences I had with my collaborators. But I try to brush off bad experiences and keep plowing ahead! There really is no choice.
– What are your plans for the future?
I would like to keep nurturing my creativity through writing and photography and to do what I can to promote positive societal changes. I dream of having a regular weekly column at a radical left publication. Another dream is to one day publish a novel.
-Is there a specific thought or message you would like to pass to our audience out there?
Art is a powerful tool that can be used to help people for the betterment of human society. Please support radical artists who take significant risks in order to maintain a vision of freedom, equality and justice for all.
‘’I Support Street Art’’ team.
You can find more information about Yoav Litvin’s work on his website at https://yoavlitvin.com