CZECHIA. Prague: Vladimir Hirscher, also known as Caer8th, is a virtuoso of perspective, light, proportions, and anatomy, one of the most prolific street artists in Europe, and the first urban artist to be interviewed for Transcontinental Times. Teaching himself graffiti in subway tunnels of Prague since a very young age, Vladimir has produced now more than 4,000 artworks in Czechia and all over the world. In October of 2020, some of his paintings were selected on NASA’s website and Neil Armstrong’s family even sent him congratulations.
As per his signature Caer8th, “caer” in Spanish means “to fall,” and the number eight (8) stands for “infinity and a constant flow of energy and power.” The elder son of Vladimir Hirsch, the prodigious and vanguard Czech composer, Vladimir possesses a unique view of the spiritual role an artist has upon the surrounding world, and gets up early in the morning so that he can finish each commission in a single day, no matter how complex it is.
Interview with the Graffiti Artist Vladimir Hirscher
1. Vladimir, first of all, and foremost, thank you for accepting this interview with me. Please introduce yourself in a few words to our readers.
— I don’t like to talk about myself much, and usually say that “I’m the brush only”: painting is everything to me, it is a kind of permanent obsession in my life, and I believe that it says much more than spoken words. About me too.
2. When did you start painting, and what is the radius of action of your work now?
— I started painting in 1999 with illegal graffiti. I was fifteen at the time. Over the past two decades, I have realized more than 4,000 works as legal commissions such as paintings, street-art, murals, interiors, live fluorescent painting (light art), body-art for theatrical performances at the prestigious Laterna Magica, car designs, etc.
3. You are the elder son of Vladimir Hirsch. According to you, such a mastering of art is something you have been born with or has been acquired?
— There is a predisposition here, as with most artists, athletes, and the likes, but developing one’s talent is primarily about one’s own idea on life, a lot of effort and strong will.
4. What is your artistic style according to you?
— I do not like to pigeonhole. If I had to describe it, I’d say that my style arose from different influences such as graffiti street art, realism, post-graffiti surrealism, sci-fi, and other inspirations in the 3D space.
5. What plastic artist do you consider to be your top influencer?
— From an early age, I enjoyed Dali’s imagination, Buonarotti’s efforts, Velazquez’s and Van Rijn’s workshop techniques, and the work of many others. As a teenager, I became fascinated by the German 3D graffiti of Daim and Loomit, and as almost no one used to paint in Czechia at that period, I simply started to experiment with 3D space and still do.
6. Is your art process traditional media or you use digital tools, too?
— I use almost all traditional techniques from pencil, brush, oil, and acrylic to airbrush spray. Digital applications are not foreign to me at all and I do not draw any boundaries between digital art and traditional technology. However, technology is a simple mediator: the authenticity of the result is much more important to me.
7. How long does it take on average to finish a typical mural?
— Usually only a few hours. I try to create as quickly as possible as I perceive it as a bonus to what I enjoy the most and I do my best to focus without paying attention to external distractions.
8. What are the greatest challenges during the realization of big-format murals?
— Well, there are a few: elaborating the most specific idea of the entire implementation, the correct estimation of proportions, the adequate knowledge of anatomy, the capacity to maintain the perspectives right, and the proper choice of colors.
9. Do you have or do you plan to have any editorial projects?
— Yes. I would like to make a book and it would definitely be visually based. I also have ideas for sci-fi comics, but it would take a lot of time I don’t dispose of at the moment. Maybe in the future.
10. Some of your artwork reminiscences of Asimov, Kubrick, and Bradbury. Does your vision of the cosmos and the future have something in common with these sci-fi writers?
— I love reading all types of science fiction since I was a child and like the mentioned writers very much as Jules Verne, A.G. Wells and A.C.Clark. However, real research and its implementation as a visual means of communication attract me much more (than reading). For example, watching Star Trek, I began thinking about the depth and functioning of the universe, and “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a “movie of movies” for me.
11. You have painted Pietá* in at least a couple of versions, and one shows a mixture of classic Ancient Greek themes and space exploration. Is this a hint for transhumanism? Do you consider humans as a species destined to live outside Earth?
— Absolutely. I perceive it as predestination in the distant horizon: even nature itself encourages us to transfer life and change its forms, which may also include the gradual genetic transformation of man to a higher degree (hopefully, without losing our very essence). I dream of a future when people colonize unused surfaces of other planets, or their interiors and moons. Of course, the world has to unite first, resign itself to antagonisms, dissolve armies, etc. Right now, it seems unimaginable as in the meantime we might self-destroy ourselves.
* Pietá (in English: Piety) is a picture or sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus Christ on her lap or in her arms.
12. What do the cosmic saints represent to you?
— I use the words holy and halo as a relic, a common symbol of both the Old and New beliefs, man’s desire for a higher mission and an expression of respect for those who are to discover it. To me, the whole universe has been sacred since the Big Bang. Now, my only faith is in the freedom, responsibility and unity of the human race, in our common research and understanding of the higher sense — raising self-awareness, mindfulness, and purpose.
13. In the same line, some of your pieces depict halos on top of the heads, human and non-human indistinguishably. Is it a way to totemize animals or to underline a common spiritual conscience that transcends antiquated perceptions?
— It’s equality and a kind of sacredness of the whole universe and life as such. I expect that there are life forms in the solar system that we have not discovered yet.
14. You mentioned earlier the Spanish surreal painter Salvador Dali. Can you elaborate on his influence on you?
— I have always admired Dali’s unbridled imagination and also feel the connection with science in him. I still love him to this day, including his films — he has always been an inspiration to me, free-dream visions. Of course, he had influenced many other artists and artistic directions.
15. There’s subtle environmental activism in the message your work conveys. Isn’t there a contradiction between such a message and the space-age imagery you use, given the fact that human space exploration has been funded with a priority over climate care and may also represent a direct risk to Earth?
— As Hawking once said, “One should look at the stars, not the feet.” In addition, cooling Earth from space and improving the ecosystem would be relatively easy, say, somehow installing a thin aluminum foil in orbit with a telescopic closure to guarantee the required -100° C at the poles… Space research not only does not contradict ecology, but it can also provide solutions to climate-change problems. As you may observe, I combine biological life with technology as I look forward to the unity of nature and technical progress some define as the singularity.
16. Czechia played an important role during the XXth century awakening of youths that motorized protests and change in post-war society. Given Czechia’s complex history, do you think the country still plays a role in generating global consciousness?
— The geopolitical position of our small country in the middle of Europe is nothing less but complicated as one may find influences from every single power-side around us. It is a miracle and I am proud that we have withstood centuries of pressure on us. Unfortunately, communism has severely damaged the country and exhausted valuable resources. Even after thirty years of relative freedom, its footprints are still visible.
17. During the domination of the former USSR, arts had to serve the purpose of the state’s propaganda, and movements like “social realism” depicted an optimistic future where the USSR peacefully colonized the Moon and Mars. What message could you extract from such imagery, much of which were murals, in contrast with the current reality of private enterprises taking people and cargo into space?
— To me, that propaganda still seems irony as the quest for space conquest has always been motivated primarily politically in contrast to the pure intentions of scientists and astronauts, those of the average citizen too. Demonstration of dominance, even during the Cold War, was somehow absurd as commercialization affects all areas of human activity, and while everything seems abusable, we can’t survive without contributing to the same advancement, doors-closed. I am grateful to all those brave people who completed dangerous discovery missions and went preparing themselves beyond the individual country’s limitations.
18. They say Czechia is a highly conservative and controversial country in racial terms. Even if so, your graffiti proves the preconception wrong. Do you think that what you do is what the majority of Czech people would like to see?
— Czechs are not as conservative or racially intolerant as media like to claim us. If it were so, I would have had problems already for a very long time… Our approach to getting to know other cultures is cautious, not racist. Similar tendencies can be found everywhere, but some prefer to have it bit more off the lights. The fact that Czechia is among the countries with the highest security index speaks for itself. I have no problems with my paintings on racial topics at all for I paint to provoke discussion rather than rejection. Of course, I cannot avoid criticism, but this applies to everything, not only to what has a political or racial subtext.
19. What do you think about Tesla and SpaceX roles? Do you approve of Musk’s enterprises deciding for all humanity?
— Definitely yes! Personally, I would turn the whole world into an enlightened monarchy, and he could be one of the leading figures. He is of a decent character, which is practically non-existent in politics.
20. Is there any particular anecdote you may share regarding doing graffiti in illegal places or any not-so-good encounters with the authorities when you were a young street artist?
— Humor is very important to me, I like to consume it and I have ideas in this direction, but I don’t implement it yet. Then, there are many stories, but there is not much humor in them. Illegal creation has cost me many conflicts, including police bullying. As it happens with other street artists, those are details that are not pleasant memories, and I would like to share them with your readers. One thing is for sure: if there were enough spaces for artistic expression, those activities would have never been considered illegal.
21. Are there any works of yours that depicts Czech culture and heritage?
— I perceive everything in a supranational context and speak of humanity, not nationality. I’d say Czech-themed might be all paintings with Eugene Cernan, the astronaut of Czech origin.
22. What is your message to your compatriots?
— I would not like to tell others what to think or do, but if I could, it would probably have concerned our political culture and long-term decline in values such as to vote more for non-discredited political parties, most of which are outside parliament today, and keep an objective judgement.
23. What is your message to other artists?
— Create! Create freely!
24. What is your message to the world?
— Unite into one state that agrees to move together (through applications), dissolve armies, and use the resulting wealth to save the planet and potentially expand to other planets.
Disclaimer: This interview has been conducted by correspondence in Czech and translated into English. If you want to participate in our You in 24 Questions, reach out!