Now that Living Walls has expanded its outreach to include year-round programming, Gaia and frequent collaborator Nanook, will be back for a visit this Sunday March 11. The pair will host a discussion at Space 2 (next to the Sound Table) on the impact of mural projects on urban areas and the importance of illegal street work and direct action from 7-9 p.m. We caught up with Gaia this week to get a feel for how Sunday's conversation might go.
How long have you been doing your street work and how’d you get started?
About five years I got started in a really weird way. Basically, I learned everything on the Internet. I was observing on the street and really became familiar through the blogs, primarily Wooster Collective. That’s how I learned what wheatpasting was and I started doing that on my own with no real personal connections at first. [The decision to pursue an art career] came together my senior year in high school. I realized I should pursue art instead of psychology or something and I just kind of rolled with it. Prior to that it was just a hobby — I never thought about actually pursuing it, but then the topic came up with my parents and I was like shit I should do this.
One of the things you’ll be talking about this weekend is the importance of illegal street work, would you discuss your point of view on that some?
It’s something I’m a proponent of, obviously, since I do it so often. From my perspective, my personal standard is no occupied homes. I think that [illegal street work] is a really good opportunity to fill the vicious real estate cycle that defines impoverished neighborhoods. It’s a really good tool for filling that void [of vacant property] otherwise the property just sits fallow. [It gives people a] vision of having volition — you could even say control — of their surroundings. People assume that since it’s not theirs they can’t do anything; that they’re just bystanders to a process that happens invisibly. Obviously a lot of bullshit also comes out of [illegal street work] and that’s just a byproduct of the process of democratic public art making. When it’s beautiful and has the right intentions it can be good for the neighborhood.
What did you think about it when Vomet tagged over your 2010 mural for Living Walls?
That’s a process of the streets: He didn’t agree with it. For me, personally, a friend of mine fixed it so I’ve got no beef - you know you work publicly. It would have been even cooler had he done something that spoke to the piece but it is what it is. My murals won’t last forever, the building it's on won’t last forever. We think of the urban landscape as this static urban monster, but buildings are always coming up and going down and graffiti is a part of that.
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