Interview with Julien Breton

John Lennon
University of South Florida

Julien Breton was born in 1979 in Nantes, France. Originally a graffiti writer her has expanded into a "lightgraff" process that plays with body language, calligraphy and choreography. His website, at «», and flickr page, at «», show his own take on graffiti. For further information on Breton, please see the excellent recently published book Arabic Graffiti edited by Pascal Zoghbi and Stone. I interviewed Breton over email in April 2012.

Please tell us where you're from and what you write. How about the first time that you went out and wrote on a wall/train? How old were you? Why do you think you went out and did it?

My name is Julien Breton, aka Kaalam and I'm from Nantes in France.
I write about Arabic and Latin culture with the aim to build a bridge between them.
The first time I wrote was in my flat, a long night of winter. Alone.
I'm 33 years old.

How long have you been writing? Who were/are your influences? How would you describe your style? How often do you go out to write?

I have been writing since 11 years. My influences are Hassan Massoudy (calligrapher - Bagdad/Paris), Marko93 (graffiti artist - Paris), Web's (graffiti artist – Nantes), El Seed (Graffiti artist - Montreal).
I can describe my style like a mix between arabic and latin.
I developped my own latin alphabet inspired by arabic aesthetic. And sometimes I do some words in arabic. I just want to create a new type of writing who can "speak" to arabic and occidental people.
I go often out to write because I use a lot light-painting.

Please tell us about the graffiti scene in your city. Is there a large scene? Are you part of one or more crews? What access to paint/markers do you have? How connected are you to other writers?

The graffiti scen in my town is big. There are different crew with different styles and different philosophies. I don't take part of a crew because I don't do graffiti often...
But I follow them, I look at their artworks.
I'm more connected with internationals writers like Marko 93 and El Seed than in my own town. Certainly because my style is not a common style in calligraphy.

Do you plan "missions", go out with a general plan, or improvise? Can you take us through a day when you are planning on writing/painting. We would like to know the everyday stuff that goes into planning and then writing.

Sure. When I go to realize light calligraphies with the photographer David Gallard, we plan all the night. The different type of place we're going to visit, etc...
We put the battery of the camera in charge, we organize something to eat because we do light painting from 8PM to 6AM. I take all my different light and the battery and go.
When we arrive on a place, we choose the frame of the camera and I start working. I repeat the calligraphy again and again until, I have the good one.

What is the reaction to your work? What would happen if you were caught (or what did happen if you were caught)? Do you have any chase stories?

People think we are strange. A man who move light in front of a camera could be escape from a psychaiatric hospital in the head of a lot of people. And for the police too.
One day, Police stopped me, because they thought I tried to help a plane to landing...

What, in your view, is the point of graffiti? Do you think of it as art? Vandalism? Political? Fun? Resistance? All of the above? None of the above?

Graffiti take the place that adverstising robber us.
Graffiti can be aesthetic only but political too. It a question of people and of country...

How is being a writer part of your identity? What we would like to know is pertinent information about you—or as much as you feel comfortable: how old are you? How would you describe your politics? How would you describe your economic class? Are you religious? A little background on you—and again how much you want to reveal is up to you—would be helpful to get a fuller picture.

Transmit is my aim. I'm against injustice and democrate. I come from a lower class. I'm not religious.

How aware are you of graffiti writers throughout the country? The world? Do you follow or maintain contact with other graffiti writers? Has the internet played any role in this? What do you think of the internet graffiti "scene"?

I aware of internationals graffiti artist because of books (arabesque, arabic graffiti...) and Internet. This tool is incerdible to discover artists. Internet allows to everybody to exist without borders.

What do you think of permission walls? Daytime/chill spots? How important is the risk?

I find this important for graffiti artist who are not in a political transgression.
Everybody has his place in graffiti.

We would love for you to take one or two images—any that you want—and briefly tell us about them. (Give only as much info as you feel comfortable giving.)

I choose two picture.

First a light calligraphy I done in my town "oublié/forgotten". In the center of my town, near an homeless tent. The graffiti on the wall behind mean "I need to speak to someone".
It was just a testimony.

The second one is more aesthetic acalled "under the bridge". It's a light calligraphy artwork in 3 dimensions.