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Brooklyn Street Art

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Gilf! in the Maze Says “Trust Your Vision”

Posted on July 7, 2014

A new optic vibration under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood by Street Artist Gilf! has been installed for passersby to decode and in a recent conversation with the artist she frankly reveals that she’s has been just as busy decoding her own myriad motivations for doing art in the public sphere.

The piece is entitled “Trust Your Vision”, a commentary on the influence of an ever- more competitive city environment on our personal ethics and goals. The project is a public works project sponsored by the DUMBO Improvement District in partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation Art Program and it was completed with donated space by the newly formed private Masters Projects.

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Gilf! and an assistant at work on the panels. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The eye-jarring near-florescent orange/purple maze mounted on the recessed vertical pattern of a corrugated metal wall itself will challenge your vision; a discomfort that Gilf! is comfortable with. Buried in the patterning is her message, which may not be clear without some study. Her own record on the streets as an activist in the last few years advocating social and political issues around topics including war, sexism, free speech, and gentrification is becoming better known and it positions the artist as an outspoken critic, fanning the flames of recognition as a renegade vs. the system. But life is rarely that simple, is it?

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Contemplating the conundrum of becoming commercially or professionally viable while advocating for what she believes in takes some time and careful consideration, but Gilf! is determined to do it. For some reason certain purists can’t find a place for political speech unless you take a distinctly outsider vow of poverty. When it comes to Street Art culture however we have seen a bucking of this limiting mindset in recent years; an ability to advocate for social and political change while not sacrificing an artist career. You may see some charges of “selling out” lobbed at artists as they become commercially successful, but words like those rarely come from anyone who has offered to help out and naturally has no skin in the game themselves.

But even this project, while done with a city agency and a BID from Brooklyn, caused the artist to examine her motivations, and she shares some of her thought process and vision with BSA readers today.

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A careful assistant to Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: What is this project that you have been working on?
Gilf!: I’ve been kind of working on this new aesthetic for a year and a half or so and it has evolved, become more maze-like. I’ve been finding myself in this sort of transformation and it is sort of confusing. I’ve been hitting all of these dead ends and and somehow visually I’m relaying it through this sort of maze-like work. It’s been a very frustrating period, especially when doing public work and how my social views fit into that has been very confusing. And some how the experience is coming out visually.

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you think that it is a subconscious process that brings these patterns upward or do you play with the patterns and find one that seems to fit?
Gilf!: Yeah I was going through of styles and patterns; dots, lines, – like those lines that were at 45 degree angles. But they were really hard to read. And that mural I did in Bushwick about democracy – nobody could read it.

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: It sort of vibrated, but it didn’t speak much.
Gilf!: Yeah, in my prep for the piece using chalk lines it was legible and you could read it but as soon as I filled it in with paint you couldn’t read it. It was super frustrating because that took me forever. Just like this has taken me forever. Also I don’t want the message to be too hidden – I like for people to have to work for it a little bit.

Brooklyn Street Art: You are also dealing with people’s short attention spans and maybe their unwillingness to unpack things.
Gilf!: It’s funny because the work I originally started doing on the street was more obvious – you looked at it and you would get it – which gave me a certain amount of gratification. And this new work is a complete 180 degree turn for me because I feel that people are starting to look at Street Art differently now and they are taking the time to look at things – especially murals. Since they take more time looking at a mural I think doing it on a larger scale makes more sense.

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So this will get a lot of traffic with people walking by it all the time –but will it be readily evident or will they have to dig a little to discover meaning?
Gilf!: They don’t have to work too hard, there will also be a little plaque to help explain it. I don’t know, I’ve never done of this big and I did one in Miami and people said, “Oh it’s a maze,” and they didn’t even see the letters. This one, with the vibrational colors, will make it a bit more difficult to see it though.

Brooklyn Street Art: It feels like it is a conceptual piece that is appropriate for the denizens of DUMBO. It appears as a contemporary piece of public art – not committed to any particular philosophy and you could interpret it a few ways.
Gilf!: Yeah well it’s the BID right? It also has to be approved by the City. So I couldn’t go too aggressive. I’ve done work here before with the DUMBO Arts Festival last fall and it was a really cool experience and part of what this is saying is “hold on to what you are going after”. One of the things with the festival for me was this feelling that it was a milestone and a realization that “Oh! There are people who actually think that the work I do is worthy of sharing.”

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Getting Gilf! up in Dumbo requires some serious help. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: There is a certain validation to your work when that happens.
Gilf!: So when you do that it is important to keep things in perspective and sometimes just focus on me and the message and not just making money.

Brooklyn Street Art: I think it’s a balancing act that you have undertaken.
Gilf!: And with you as well I mean you guys are doing a million things all the time just on BSA, let alone actually paying the rent here with your day jobs, so.

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah it feels like a juggle. It’s a continuous juggle. Is it a conflict for you to do commercial work and to pursue your activism side?
Gilf!: Yeah, it’s frustrating. I feel like stuff like this helps me to do a lot of other things and while I don’t necessarily know if I consider this commercial, because I consider it “public art” and it is at least in part sponsored by the city – and I have a lot of problems with things that happen with the city sometimes – but I feel like if I can take that energy and I can funnel it toward projects where more activism is needed then I am using it the right way.

Brooklyn Street Art: I’m not sure if it is fair generalize about the City like it is all one monolithic thing. After all it is meant to be representational of “the people” and “the people’s will”. You could say that “the people” have set aside this amount of money to edify the city and to give artists money through programs like this to subsist, if not prosper. In a way this is also activism within the context of government action.
Gilf!: I agree there is a lot to be said in that New York does actually put a lot of money into the arts, whereas some cities don’t. And the culture here – this whole city has been based around creativity for generations, for decades. I think it is important to keep that going because I think it is eroding. And I was really honored when they said, “We like it. Let’s do it” and I’ll do more work like this; it will just depend on the context.

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Gilf! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

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