|Masha Sumtsova: Who are you and what do you do?
Gaia: My name is Gaia. I am a street artist currently enrolled in art school in Baltimore. The work that I am most known for is based in block printing utilizing animal motifs generally as an emotive, or signaling tool. My work is very much founded in a tradition of narrative, amongst other things.I am generally concerned with methods and situations of domination. I mean I guess my work is informed by the Christian, Western approach to animals, which in turn is a reflection of our approach to the other.
Gaia, interviewed by Masha Sumtsova
Masha Sumtsova: Who are you and what do you do?
Gaia: My name is Gaia. I am a street artist currently enrolled in art school in Baltimore. The work that I am most known for is based in block printing utilizing animal motifs generally as an emotive, or signaling tool. My work is very much founded in a tradition of narrative, amongst other things. I am generally concerned with methods and situations of domination. I mean I guess my work is informed by the Christian, Western approach to animals, which in turn is a reflection of our approach to the other. I can’t quite position a good term for where I think a certain branch of new artists is located, but there is an obvious resurgence in painting and printmaking.
MS: I guess gender has no objective in your world.
Gaia: Gender as an objective? I think gender absolutely has an objective. The application and presentation of gender engender specific responses. Being someone who can make work with an unclear gender within the art world provides me with a new experience. It is an opportunity to shape and decide which path I intend to go down. It is a problem of representation, or a dilemma of representation, or I guess, misrepresentation.
MS: So are you unlimited in societal or cultural identity?
Gaia: Of course I am [limited]. We all are. We are constantly imbricated in matters that control and are beyond us. I mean there is definitely a struggle with agency. I mean specifically a lot of street artists are now trying to transition into the art world disrobing their former pseudonyms and assuming their birthed identities. The first name-last name structure holds more legitimate weight in the art world. I wouldn’t consider myself a writer.
MS: Do you shape your public identity to what they perceive, perhaps as you shape their imagined perception of you as female?
Gaia: Don’t we remain true to our artistic vision regardless of what the public thinks? Do we? That is what I try to do with my blogs. My gaiathought.wordpress.com is probably the most effective, and my Flickr. Yeah, I mean the Gaia Thought blog establishes my intellect, establishes my credibility, but my Flickr keeps people informed. I’m always thinking of new ways to direct people to the various Web sites that I participate in or run, because then I keep everyone informed and share. Through the generous process of sharing I am also occupying people’s time. I am hopefully shaping their perception of me, establishing my pertinence. If I can get up around the city as much as possible, then I am in their personal and public space. I am constantly reminding them of me, building a network of spots, developing a new approach to envisioning the urban space, how we navigate and investigate the public space. How do you reconcile promoting one’s self while remaining anonymous? That is why I like to retain the pseudonym. The name takes all the heat and it doesn’t trickle down to my personal life as much. Talk about Allen Watts, separation of ego and self! It’s like Gaia is the ego and my personal self is my mind. It’s that strange binary of my inner self and the outside, but in a more physical and more tangible manifestation.
MS: What do you want to tell your readers?
Gaia: I don’t ascribe myself to being someone who fights advertisement. I readily admit that I am advertising, that my work on the street earns me reputation amongst my peers and sustains me financially. But it is so much more beyond the advertisement. The intention is not to sell but to convey. It doesn’t end at the sale, nor is it initiated by the sale. It is totally interactable like I stated in my semi-utopian vision; yes, anonymous interaction.
That is afforded by our illegality; that is what is so intriguing. That open-endedness is the uncontrollable that has been relegated to the realm of the criminal. You know in that illegal space we can do anything until we are punished. Street art becoming legal would change it entirely. It would have different ends and of course means. I mean I think it would make for a beautiful environment, and maybe a totally wack environment if any Joe Schmo could put shit up, but it’s not possible currently. That is far too open-source, far too horizontal, far too multiplicitious.
MS: How would you like to conclude?
Gaia: I think we are slowly struggling toward acceptability. I think once street art has reached its pinnacle of art institutional acceptance, then maybe we will transition toward an urban environment that is more open.
It is in a very precarious state. It is constantly on the verge of disappearing. We are all cooperating in a very horizontal manner. We are all moving toward an object that is still unclear and amorphous. I cannot express any more deeply how strange I think it is that we all work together so cohesively, and yet so divergently in a place that is without any institutional structure. It is in fact underneath the institutional structure. It is delicate. Once we move into more acceptance, it will become a form of organization. We have to change how we employ organization as an oppressive force. We have to scale back our structures of organization, bureaucracy, and hierarchy if we want to see an open street art that is simultaneously broadly accepted, widely practiced. It is a very culture industry concept. If it becomes legally acceptable, there will be immense cultural and organizational structures dictating, bending, regulating its application: who is accepted, who is denied access.
Currently its state is so extremely democratic because we have developed a small community that works mysteriously, that depends on the cooperation and interaction of its various parts to remain alive. We are hanging onto this culture that is literally existing by the skin of our teeth. I don’t see it being legal any time soon. Nor do I hope it to be honestly. I love its ephemeral unregulated existence.