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Healing the City with Art: Street Artist Ememem Makes US Debut in Bloomington & Chicago, IL

Artist Ememem calls his technique “flacking”—a play on the french word flaque, meaning puddle. Photography by Dave Fulghum.

Artist Ememem's first “flacking” event took place in Bloomington, IL, nearing the end of last week, marking his U.S. debut, with citizens awaking to a street mosaic in front of it’s McLean County Museum of History.

This week, Chicagoans awoke to find themselves the second U.S. site to be flacked with gorgeous street mosaics. By Wednesday, Ememem’s Instagram hashtags changed from the usual Paris, Barcelona, and Milan to #Chicago – only to be met with a flood of comments from overjoyed art finatics and fans including the likes of “Been so inspired by your work for so long. So happy I’ll be able to go see something in person!” and “Wait we have so many more - can you pls stay.” The warm welcome of the artist and his signature mosaics has many anticipating to see more works pop up, potentially continuing a speculated trail up route 66.

Sidewalk Street Art by Ememem in the artist's US debut in Bloomington, IL. Photographer: Dave Fulghum

What do you do when you see a crack in the pavement? Do you ignore it, avoid it, or complain about it? Or do you see it as an opportunity to create something beautiful? That’s what Ememem, the mysterious street artist from Lyon, France, does. He fills the holes and gaps in the city with colorful mosaics, turning eyesores into artworks.

Ememem has dubbed his technique “flacking”—a play on the french word flaque, meaning puddle. Using materials such as ceramics, wood, and bitumen, he fills everything from tiny cracks to gaping craters in the pavement with his artistic bandaids. His work is now a characteristic token of the cobbled streets and cracked sidewalks of Lyon, but his playful mosaic art can also be found in cities throughout Europe—including Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Milan.

Photograph courtesy of artist, photographer Dave Fulghum, 2024.

According to a My Modern Met article from 2021, Ememem described themselves stating,

“I’m just a sidewalk poet, a son of bitumen. My work is the story of the city, where cobblestones have been displaced; a truck from the vegetable market tore off a piece of asphalt. Each becomes a flack.” Ememem’s flacking is not only a way of repairing the city, but also of expressing his emotions and thoughts. He says that each flack has a meaning and a message, and that he tries to create “a poem that everybody can read” and “a memory notebook of the city”. His flacks are often inspired by the history, culture, and people of the places he visits, and sometimes by his own personal experiences.

Mosiac street art "heals" the city through art. Photographer - Dave Fulghum, 2024.

Ememem’s flacking has also attracted the attention and admiration of many people, including other artists, journalists, and photographers. One of them is Dave Fulghum, a seasoned photographer who has a passion for exploring the world and documenting its beauty. Fulghum has been involved with the photographic community and visual expression since 1975, working in various disciplines such as documentary, landscapes, sports, and portraits. Earlier this year, Fulghum was on assignment for a major publication to shoot the work of Jim Bachor whose work is also that of a street mosaic artist for a spread due out in May of this year.

Fulghum’s recent project was to photograph Ememem’s work in Bloomington, Illinois, where the French artist had chosen to showcase his flacking for the first time in the United States –and mere blocks away from the Photographer’s downtown studio (which features the famed organic-shaped exposed brick slash said to bring luck to whomever touches it). Fulghum was fascinated by Ememem’s flacking and decided to capture the contrast between the vibrant tiles and the gray concrete – a theme of contrast that seems to echo throughout the downtown. He used his skills and experience to create images that highlight the details, textures, and patterns of the mosaics. He also wanted to convey the message and meaning behind Ememem’s art, which is to transform the urban environment and bring joy and inspiration to the people who live in it.

Fulghum’s photographs of Ememem’s flacking are not only visually appealing, but also culturally and socially relevant. They show how art can heal the city and its inhabitants, and how creativity can overcome challenges and limitations. They also reflect Fulghum’s own vision and values as an artist, who seeks to find and share the beauty and wonder of the world as a nature, adventure, and portrait photographer.

Fulghum’s work is represented by Art Legal Art Advisory, a company that specializes in promoting and supporting emerging and established artists. You can visit their website and browse Fulghum’s portfolio, where you can also purchase his prints and books. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook to see more of his adventures, photography, and projects. If you are interested in commissioning him for portraits or another project, please contact Art Legal Art Advisory directly.

Ememem is currently working on a special project in Bloomington to be unveiled later this year according to one of Central-Illinois-and-beyond well-versed art dealers, Matt Erickson, AKA his moniker “Royal Mansfield” of Come Together space where he also produces music and live shows in the art-filled space shared with well-known printmaker and Registrar at University Galleries of Illinois State University, Lisa Lofgren. Previously, the artist worked on special projects with funding from the Société du Grand Paris, flacking the construction site of the new Grand Paris Express metro. He also held previous exhibitions with Spraying Board in Lyon and in a group show at La Galerie Italienne in Paris. To find out even more about the artist, visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

As Illinois Art Station Executive Director, Hannah Johnson remarked, “Public Art (and public good) comes in all shapes and sizes,” encouraging residents and visitors alike to make their way to Downtown Bloomington, IL to take in the artwork as a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, and that art can make a difference in the world. Next time you see a crack in the pavement, don’t look away. Look closer. You might discover a flack.

Art Advisor, Kimberly Babin, is the founder of Art Legal Arts Advisory and The Art Law Case Briefs podcast Art Law & Art Market specialist, and currently serves as a legal writer and analyst in Immigration Law for Extraordinary Artists. She has curated numerous exhibitions and worked with world renowned artists. Kimberly holds a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice - Art Law & Crime, and studied art law with Christie's, Sotheby's, and the Institute of Art & Law. She regularly presents on the arts, art law & crime, curation, cultural heritage and the arts market to Christie's, colleges, museums, and other institutions. She was an invited speaker at Fashion Week New York, DCentral, Digital FashionweekNYC, Art Basel, and ICOM The International Law Conference by the Florida State Bar.

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