Blek le Rat: I encourage people not to vote – the political system is broken

The father of stencil graffiti says we are living in an era ‘at the end of politics’

Blek le Rat known as the father of stencil graffiti, one of the most politically engaged art movements of the past century, but his faith the electoral system is non-existent to the point that he urges others not to vote.

The 63-year-old street artist, who began painting stencils of rats on the streets in Paris illegally in 1981, and whose style was famously appropriated by Banksy, told The Independent he has completely lost trust in the political system.

“I don’t vote, I don’t believe in that. I also tell people not to vote. If you don’t vote, you have your own power,” the French artist said. 

“When you vote for someone you sign a blank cheque to the guy running for five years, a guy who can change his mind in two years and have completely different politics than he used to have.”

Blek, whose real name is Xavier Prou, was a member of the French Trotskyist party for 15 years while studying architecture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris the Seventies, but has not voted in a national election for over thirty years.

“I realised we were f*cked up with politics in 1981. I really believed in [former French socialist president] François Mitterrand, and when I saw his politics over 10 years and nothing in society changed, I started to tell people not to vote,” he said.

While it is easy to draw comparisons between the artist’s apathetic views and the comments Russell Brand has made in the past, Prou does not want to be drawn into the British election.

Speaking ahead of his new exhibition in London, he said: “I don’t know England and I don’t want to talk about England, but in France you are just voting for people’s careers. It’s terrible.

“There is a lot of apathy in France, many, many people share my beliefs. I really believe we are living at the end of politics.”

Despite his French pessimism, Prou says he is sympathetic to the beliefs of the Anonymous Party. “I don’t believe in them but I believe in the movement. I like to go on YouTube and listen to them talking about certain problems in the world. But maybe they are manipulated by the CIA, we don’t know.”

He has some faith that the political system can be mended if experts in different fields become responsible for areas such as health, education and finance.

“We have so many important people in the arts, in the economy. Those people who are experts in their areas must be in charge – not politicians.”

The Art of Politics, featuring Blek Le Rat, Ben Eine and Nick Walker, runs until 23 May at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery.