abcnt speaks

hailing from the los angeles streets, anarcho-street artist ABCNT has been plastering the walls of the city since the nineties. hip hop inspired, iranian born, he’s been critiquing the hypocrisy of the corporate world with his business bandit imagery.     interview with i.t.a.

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hey ABCNT, i’d like to say thanks for speaking with us at powder. we love your street art and might i add that it is certainly shall we say heavy...

you’re an anarchist. what anarchist thinkers are your influences and what writings would you recommend to someone who was just starting down that path?

There’s various types of anarchists, and I'm not an expert but everything I read seems to suggest I lean heavily to the left. That being said George Orwell's 1984 is one of my all time favorites but Homage to Catalonia is Orwell's personal account of [anarchism] joining the resistance during the Spanish Civil War. Howard Zinn is just essential for history, and Noam Chomsky is pretty mandatory… Alexander Berkman's ABC of Anarchism is a good starter. From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp… AK PRESS online is a great resource to explore.

I think the new school of thought that everybody should be following up on are people like Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Cenk Uygur… not necessarily anarchists but the bigger picture goals are similar.

you’ve been involved in street protests in the past but became disheartened with them. why did this occur and what do you find to be a more meaningful way to be an activist today?

Most protests in my experience are put together by some random organization that is usually sanctioned by the state, or city council. When there’s no disruption to the everyday cycle of the economy, what’s the point of the protest? The point usually is to disrupt the routine, make some noise, ideally in front of symbolic areas, or maybe not. But when it's sanctioned it becomes a parade of well intentioned activists essentially patting themselves on the back. The police close off certain streets, and end up babysitting the protest and eventually shutting it down. Even if you get crazy numbers of people it barely makes a dent in the local news. That’s not to say that you shouldn't go to protests but flash mobs have the potential to grow into some sort of youth movement I think, but unfortunately it’s been used to loot innocent mom & pop stores which is fucking stupid. The Occupy movement was a bit effective for a while, because it was a disruption and that’s key. The state didn't authorize it so obviously they violently clamped down on it.

I think creative solutions are the best way to address state violence. A good example is the Yes Men, Pussy Riot, Ai Wei Wei, Anonymous or even Banksy. A movement like Occupy with a mix of creative resistance in high numbers could very well make significant change to any society.

you’re artwork makes a political statement… what are the major issues you are protesting against?

My work has focused on people I admire, iconic figures, Iranian politics, Native Americans, things highlighting the struggle for freedom and showing solidarity by doing so. I've also addressed colony collapse disorder, cell phone towers, the chemtrail geoengineering phenomenon; I plan to address more environmental issues in general because it’s been one of my biggest concerns and lately I've been angry just reading new stories every other day highlighting the destruction of our planet. Next on the list would be going after bankers.

what do you think are the most powerful political movements out there today?

The monks in Burma, students in Iran, the Arab Spring, Occupy, Anonymous, Wikileaks… social media…

your business bandit image is striking. how would you describe who the business bandit is?

Technically it’s me and represents my personal journey of subversion. The idea that you can be a radical artist, you can remain anonymous with your action, you can think differently and you can participate in society and be principled and remember where you came from, know where you're going and if you have to wear a tie, fuck it.

also your lioness works are powerful. what are they about?

The Lioness pieces were inspired by all the brave women in Iran who risked their safety and essentially their lives when they went out in 2009 to protest against the Iranian regime in order to have a better future. I think those pieces resonate with people because if you don't recognize the farsi which distinguishes the piece as Iranian, then you might think its Arabic and therefore reminds people of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, which is a good thing as well…

how long have you been out on the street creating art and how did you come to begin?

My first graffiti tag was probably around 1992 when I was fascinated with gang graffiti in Los Angeles and I tried to imitate it on my own with my friends. Naturally friends who were interested in the same thing stuck around and we evolved and grew up together manifesting what we later learned to be elements of hip hop culture… some of us became beat makers, some of us became emcees, others like me stuck with graffiks.

your artworks appear in fairly compromising positions on the street. how are you able to get your pieces up in these places without getting busted?

Depends where, what city we are in but for the most part locally in LA we go out on a certain day during normal business hours and nobody ever seems to really care, plus it doesn't take very long. During the day you get lost in the "matrix". At night in LA you become a little more suspect because it’s wide open, there’s not many cars in the streets and the ones that are driving around are more likely to be 5-0.

For the more complicated missions more heads roll to cover more ground make sure everything goes down smoothly, on some Oceans 11 type shit.

has being iranian born influenced your work differently compared to the other street artists in los angeles?

Definitely, from subject matter to composition and elements, it helps me get in touch with my roots and address issues of the diaspora.

which artists speak to you personally?

Sara Rahbar, Vahe Berberian, Brandy Flower, OG Slick, CRYPTIK, Jesse Hazelip, Restitution Press, Zoltron, Reef Kills Pop, Alex Grey, Mear One, Ana Lily Amirpour, B+ to name a few...

you also record music under the name abcntmnded which we’ve been getting down to recently. do you produce this yourself or with a team? who are your influences musically?

I sample records when I have time or put a mix together of music I'm listening to…some influences that come to mind, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Stevie Wonder, Freestyle Fellowship, Organized Konfusion, J Dilla, Madlib, etc… shouts to J Rocc.

what projects are you working on now and what is coming up for ABCNT in the future?

Just finished working on an ‘Iranian Vampire Western' full feature film, designed some prop money, posters, mural designs etc… I'll be planning the MarxistGlue II art show this year with Zoltron (, and I'll be working some more with Cenk Uygur and the Young Turks…

thanks for speaking to powder ABCNT, it’s been a pleasure. your pieces really speak to us. respect and khoda hafez.


check out ABCNT's site

his tunes Abcntmnded