Mint & Serf (Mirf), the New York City based Street Art Collective give a nod to the era of mega clubs as they proudly unveil an ambitious new nightlife project with the opening of District 36.
Since this summer the duo have been creating three site-specific permanent art installations inside the newly opened nightclub in the garment district.
No strangers to indoor walls Mirf collaborated recently on the interiors of rooms in the Ace Hotel, giving visitors very individual experiences according to their location. When Mirf heard of a new club being planned in a former garment warehouse in Manhattan, memories of their own wild fun times as teenagers in Gotham’s mega-clubs came rushing back. The artists jumped on the offer to help in the planning of the club as it was being built and what has resulted from Mirf’s concepting is a visual experience evocative of today’s richness and yesterday’s rawness.
Mirf (photo © Jaime Rojo)
For the epic staircase of District 36 Mirf’s inspiration was the iconic New York big clubs that drew crowds of students and creatives and freaks in the mid 1980s and 90s, a time when the city seemed to have a more robustly participatory artistic nightlife – and a feeling that they would like to bring back. Says Mint, “We both grew up in the nightlife in the 90s so when we met the owners they told us that we should reference the vibe of The Tunnel and Limelight.”
“Those days it wasn’t about bottle service – It used to be more about dancing and losing yourself for about three to four hours. So we wanted to create a piece that was site specific to this place and that referenced the NYC nightlife of clubs like Area, Danceteria, Palladium, The Tunnel and Twilo,” says Mint.
The two poured over press clippings for research and Lucien Samaha a friend, gave the guys photos from his days as a DJ in The Tunnel and Limelight and Osvaldo Chance Jimenez a friend as well, gave them photos from today’s nightlife. The resulting hallway staircase is a collage of vintage photographs and graffiti that merges the city’s nightlife over a few decades into one.
“The Tunnel was such a great inspiration to me. I started going there when I was 16 or 17 and you just would walk in, paid your $20 and lose yourself. It was fun. It was entertaining. The clubs now days are very bland. Getting in and enjoying is not just for rich people,” says Mint.
Brooklyn Street Art: Tell me about this middle wall. What was the process and inspiration?
Mint: Since the early 2000’s we started with the idea of mixing genres. We both have backgrounds in graphic design and we always wanted to combine the sensibility of graffiti and graphic design and mash it up. We wanted to create something very surreal and visually stimulating where people can look at it and say, “this is a beautiful thing” regardless of whether or not they know what it is. To me the nightlife then (1990s) was about seeing so many interesting things including the decorations like the Kenny Scharf room (The Lava Lounge) at The Tunnel. That room was also the inspiration for this wall.
Mirf (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Brooklyn Street Art: Did you get inspiration from the ocean/underwater landscape also?
Mint: This wall is not so much about aquatics as it is about plants. We went on trips and took photographs of individual plants and began processing them in Photoshop, creating these original compositions. I really didn’t think about the design being too aquatic until we put it on the wall and took a picture and we went “Wow it looks almost like a fish tank!”
Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah in certain spots it looks like you are underwater and the sunlight is coming through.
Mint: It is a surreal landscape with elements of graffiti. I draw a lot inspiration from nature. I like the translucency of light.
Mirf Lounge (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Brooklyn Street Art: And the Lounge; Is this a place for people to drink and have conversation?
Mint: The sound system in this place is amazing and it is loud so if you are spending three or four hours in this place you might want to get away from the sound, sit down and maybe have a conversation. That’s why is set up as a lounge.
Brooklyn Street Art: Can you talk about the images on this wall? It seems like some of these images were ever-present in the city this summer.
Mint: The original concept for the image was Mirf, which is Mint and Serf put together. When we used to write on roofs and there wasn’t enough room for both our names we would combine our names into Mirf. So back in April I designed the original Mirf poster and put a bunch of them in Russia. It was one of the first times I’ve seen graffiti being put up on the street but with wheat paste.
Back from their trip Mirf decided that they were going to grab their posters and go through the city over everything. Says Mint: “It wasn’t about beef it was creative because the conversation with Street Art a lot of times is how ephemeral it is, but the funniest thing is, once someone goes over someone it’s like ‘Oh my God I can’t believe someone went over a Swoon piece.’ But it is like if you are putting stuff on the street you have to realize that it is either going to be buffed or someone is going to go over it and you just can’t have these feelings about it.”
Eliciting charges of “Wall Hogs” and worse, Mint and Serf covered walls like this with other street artists on them with their giant wheat-pastes this summer. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
“If you say it’s ephemeral then you say is ephemeral that’s it. So we wanted to make that point present and we started going over everything to make sure people don’t take that seriously,” says Mint unapologetically.
Taking that message more formally into the gallery, Mirf’s show at Lyons Wier in Manhattan this summer shook some street art fans when they saw framed pieces by artists like Shepard Fairey and Gaia gratuitously tagged over by Mirf. “Collabo”, as Street Art term, instantly became muddied.
Phone pics at the gallery of Mirf going over Gaia (left) and Shepard Fairey (right) (photos © Steven P. Harrington)
For his part, Mirf found the whole experience with their peers to be positive, despite some of the negative responses. “The response was great. This conversation needs to happen more often. When people think, “Oh Mirf went over us”, it is not going over you at all. We are kind of opening up people’s minds. So that’s what the whole idea behind what this Mirf thing is”
At the gallery show they also created fresh black and white posters using some of their graffiti friend’s tags and stylized them in the Mirf style – now reprised for the back wall of the new lounge.
Mirf (photo @ Jaime Rojo)
“When we saw this round wall we knew the posters would be perfect. We wanted to pay an homage to all our friends we did graffiti with over the years. So these are a series that will probably be an ongoing project and we’ll add more people to it”