search burger
search ×

A chat with Laika: the street artist activist who conquered Rome and beyond

From Regeni hugging Zaki to Agnelli, Laika silently makes a noise and has a team of masked helpers

By Giulietta Riva

The computer rings, she calls me on Skype. Sorry for the delay, she was getting ready. “Complex” I think to myself “with all those layers”. For those unfamiliar with her, Laika attacks her street art works on Roman walls and not only, at night: “I want the street to speak for me, the most democratic gallery that exists”.

Nothing strange up to now, given that according to her the world of mural art is now mainstream, were it not for the disguise that makes it impenetrable. Her impenetrability scares me at first, so cautious that I thank her for granting me the interview in such an institutional way that I almost laugh at myself.

But Laika has something that makes me feel as close to her as I knew her. That despite the screen, the mask, the wig and the gloves, in some moments of the chat in moments (I said in moments) makes me emotional.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Hi Laika, I make a premise. I was born curious and not knowing who is hiding behind the mask is very difficult. Why are you hiding?

It is a necessity, I need this mask as a filter to free myself from the rest. I need to keep my two lives separate, without the disguise I could not be as irreverent as I am. And I don't give up on irreverence.

The bizarre thing? The impact of the mask is so strong that I am developing a “Laika thought”. Don't get me wrong, they are shades of thought, there is no real detachment from the real me but they help me to better address the outline.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

The drawing with Agnelli who pierces the ball is going around the world: what is the feeling you get to see your own work become a symbol of a historical moment?

It is not the first time this has happened to me but despite this I am always amazed that an elaborate piece of paper can go around the world. My poster of Agnelli piercing the ball suddenly appeared everywhere, I fell from the clouds, as always when something similar happens. 

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Do you want to fight something with your works?

I am firmly convinced of the social role of the artist. I think it is right to give dignity to one's role, without abandoning one's style. For me it is important that people reflect, that they stimulate their conscience, I prefer walls that speak to empty walls. My posters talk and a lot.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Women and football is a laboriously accepted duo and yet it is not the first time that you exhibit yourself artistically referring to the world of football: are you a fan?

I am a Roma supporter and there are times when I partially stop worrying about social issues and choose to be just ironic or celebratory. I like to celebrate figures related to my private sphere. In the first De Rossi, for example, there is a hymn to the character and at the same time a criticism of the management who in the name of the business was able to sacrifice its flag. I am nostalgic for old football, yes a fan but against contemporary football, why? It is not very inclusive.

The combination of women and football is a speech, however, that touches several points: the difficulty is found in moving in a context purely masculine appanage that comes from a stereotypical imagination (men) in which the woman remains relegated to the aesthetic, as if the values and principles are not perceptible felt or lived as a man. An example may be how the presence of women in football in-depth programmes is understood and proposed.  

From the cultural point of view, in Italy, in most cases, the sharing of the football theme already lacks with the female members of the family. From the point of view of cheering, leaving the world of "fans-elite of the ball", this disparity fades, managing to express the real feeling and passion that you try to support your team. But I’m still waiting to see a female leader!

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Let's take a step back: when and how was the passion for street art born?

I have always had a passion for walls that speak. Evolution has led to where we are today: between the underground and the mainstream. My myths are Mimmo Rotella and for the communicative action aspect I cannot fail to mention Banksy. As a child I used to sketch as a joke. Then one day, I decided to come out (so to speak). I felt a great satisfaction, like a liberation.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Each new work, each new assault on the wall, always produces the same adrenaline or do the sensations change over time?

It is an illegal gesture, the adrenaline always remains. It is often linked to fear, like when I wanted to raid the Egyptian embassy.

The wall, then, contains the magic: in an increasingly digital world, tripping over an illegal physical work has its effect. The work is a gift to the street, the walls have their own laws, the work remains there, it belongs to everyone and for everyone.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Tell us about your connection with Rome and the difficulty of living and loving such a complex city.

Rome is undoubtedly one of my greatest sources of inspiration. It is a city full of contradictions, if I had to translate it into an image I think of it as an elephant weighed down by centuries of history.

Living it seems to be suspended, as if it were always on the verge of collapse, but then take a tour at night and it takes your breath away. When it's me, her and the glue (to attach the posters ed.) The magic begins.

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

Do you have a dream?

Go around the world and communicate with people through my works, create debate, stimulate their critical spirit. What would it be like to do an installation on top of the Colosseum? Indeed: I don’t just make paper, I also make installations. In the future you will see...

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Laika (@laika_mcmliv)

You won't tell me how old you are, will you?

No.

I have the feeling that you are my peer...

I am trained not to fall into the tricks, if I said thank you I would seem older and then, I don't even know how old you are.

26.

Ah...

 
 
 
 
 
Visualizza questo post su Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un post condiviso da Acrimònia Magazine (@acrimoniamagazine)