LSD Magazine interviews Jerm IX

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED
Issue Six – Stand and Deliver – January 11th 2011


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Jerm IX, Vancouver & Toronto, Canada

Street Artist, Poet, Emcee,

You’ve been an active street artist since 2004, tell us a little about your first pieces…

JERM stenciled onto a Purolator sticker I stole from work was first, the next day at work I called in a fake flood to Purolator and they replaced dozens and dozens of rolls of stickers, and it began. I stuck one to the next and began stenciling    one-liners that were usually anti-capitalist or humorous in nature. The early pieces were a mock advertising campaign merging the techniques of graf writing, street art and advertising my thoughts.

What made you decide on the stencil message format?


For decades now graffiti has been an evolution of letter styles, growing evermore complex and thus less accessible to the public at large. I came to the conclusion that style and any creative aesthetic needed to be removed from the equation as I wanted my statements and poems to be accessible to all ages and demographics, not just the graf and street art community.  I chose store bought stencil letters as my weapon of choice so that the words themselves would take center stage. The stencil letters provide familiarity and own a certain authority as they blend well with the other texts that communicate with us in public spaces. I find that by using the stencil letters as opposed to a tag style, my work simultaneously stands out and hides in plain sight.


Did you consciously decide on the paste up format or were you minimising future court appearances?

I started with markers and spray cans and was uncomfortable with the amount of physical and financial damage I was doing to my community as well as the risk involved. Within months I progressed to paper and paste and never looked back. Pasting paper, I realized quickly is much more tolerated and respected by Vancouverites and Vancouver authorities. Getting the vibe now that anything goes in Toronto. I still rock of some wack throwies and tags here and then but the pasted paper is my primary medium.

What motivates the messages you create?


Everything. It’s innate, living inside me. It just has to come out.

How often are you out pasting?

As often as I can, day and night, I’m a wanderer. I always have a pocket full of stickers and usually carry my whole kit. Between 24 and 30 hours a week at least I’m out here hitting. For years there was no break, we just kept going and going, but lately there have been some ebbs and flows that allow me to come down and experience other parts of life again. I’m a street art addict, I guess. I’ll never be abstinent but I’m recognizing that I can’t stay high all the time either.

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Do you fear arrest and have you ever been arrested on the job?


I just do it like I’m supposed to be doing it and no one seems bothered. I don’t fear arrest because I use a cellulose paste which is water soluble and does not do any damage to the structures my work is adhered to. I’ve had my fair share of chases and bad scenes but that’s usually when I’m bottle half empty kinda drunk. For the most part I’m confident that my techniques are law abiding and therefore I have no worries.


How long you been a writer?

When I was 16 I started serving what would turn out to be 21 months in young offender jail for a laundry list of offenses that I wouldn’t have committed if not for a serious drug problem. It was then that I first picked up a one and a half inch pencil and turned it on myself. I began evaluating my life and my decision making on pads of lined paper that became a mirror of sorts, allowing me to see myself for who I really was. Since that day I have used writing as a form of therapy and progressed in both style and the mediums in which I work. Starting with apologetic letters and poetry and quickly switching to songwriting in the form of raps. After being released I began recording some of these songs and in 2004 started mining my rhyme-books for street art poems and scrolls. Now in my early thirties, I am writing a semi-autobiographical novel with heavy street art themes.


What does the terms Capitalisn’t / Vandalisn’t mean to you?

CAPITALISN’T, VANDALISN’T, MATERIALISN’T, CONSUMERISN’T, COMMERCIALISN’T, FEMINISN’T, and so on are simply meant to inspire people to question the dominant systems and ways of thinking. My work, as in my life, is much more about questions than answers.

We love your ads, can you tell us a little about the concept behind some of them…

Frustration over advertising bombardment and consumer capitalism played a large role in inspiring me to become a street artist, and adbusting and culture jamming is still some of the most gratifying work that I do.  It is unacceptable to me that corporations pushing an agenda of consumer capitalism dominate our public space. When my wife ninja IX and I began the Jermalism campaign in 2004, we intentionally adopted marketing and advertising principles to reach the broadest spectrum of Vancouverites. When working in adspace, whether it be V-TARP or bus shelters and billboards we use quick little one-liners mimicking  corporate slogans and adspeak. Usually we simply contrast the message of consumer capitalism that exists in this not so public space with terms like DEBT PERCEPTION, THIS ADVERTISEMEANT NOTHING TO ME, THINGS & STUFF, I AM THE PRODUCT and so on. Sometimes we change it up and try to add some simple humour to the transit ride, CTL ALT DEL and SAY YO TO THUGS were two of my favorites.

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Is there a line between vandalism and street art graffiti?


Yes, but it’s not my place to say where that line should be drawn, or sprayed, or stenciled.


Where else in the world have you pasted your art?


Toronto, Vancouver, Whistler and Vancouver Island, I’ve never left Canada.
My work has been pasted by online artist friends in the USA, Mexico, Colombia, UK, Germany and a dozen other countries, with more to come. Eventually I will do some traveling I’m sure.


What type of reaction are you trying accomplish with your pieces?


I’m always fishing for a reaction, often a specific one, but any reaction will do. Sometimes, any acknowledgement that the piece exists where it should not is reaction enough. But often I do try to strike a certain nerve or provoke a particular emotional response and try to use placement in the environment to accentuate or contrast the message. Jermalism is my form of Gonzo Journalism, sharing my voice, as I am, reporting on me. Contrasting the dominant corporate hegemony whilst delving into an internal journey. Some of the closest people to me seem so distant and far, shut down to their emotional self, maybe subconsciously I’m trying to wake up the people I love. It’s definitely about a sense of connection between myself and the reader.

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How does the street art scene compare to that of the UK for example?


As I said I’ve never traveled so my awareness of each scene is only web-based and therefore not incredibly extensive. Graffers keep the buffers busy in Vancouver and there are a handful of respected street artists that touch down on a fairly regular basis, but it’s nothing like the UK. Toronto on the other hand is bombed, just spotted some KING COPE walls yesterday and rocked a fat grin. SUEME, GUTS and TAKE5 hits made me reminisce on Vancouver, which I just left at the end of September.


Would you mind naming some of the artists you respect in your city?


Byron Cameraman, Indigo, Take5, RedrumAYS, VTS, NWK, Open5, Vegas, Rich S., Champ, The Dark, OSI, Knitgirl, D-VOUR, A01, and so on. I respect everyone that touches down.

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We know you also work with the Obey crew, how did that come about? 


OBEY approached a friend of mine about postering Vancouver and she sent them in my direction, for obvious reasons. For years I have been trying to enhance Vancouver’s street art scene by importing works from global street artists that I admire. From covering the city in starheadboy and Biafra Inc. stickers to collaborations with a1one (Tehran, Iran), PosterChild (Toronto), Jordan Seiler (New York), LOAF (Germany) and several others. With more in the works. This collaboration also helps me fund my own street art campaign by merging missions together and paying myself to get up, as well as fund some traveling in the near future that will allow me to extend the reach of jermalism. Next stop: Montreal.

You’ve been doing some collaborations with Vegas (Team LSD), tell us a little about the ‘Banksy Wasn’t Here’ piece and the V-TARP campaign…


Vegas and I clicked as soon as he arrived from the UK. He put some shit up for me in Norwich a few months before he moved to Van , so when he arrived I took him on a giant bike tour. Him on a rickety ten speed with no brakes, me on my wife’s mountain bike. He followed me around photographing missions for a bit, before we started painting together in his studio and plotting V-TARP, which stands for The Vancouver Transit Ad-Space Re-Appropriation Project. An idea that was born to Vegas and I whilst riding the public transit Skytrain during the 2010 Olympics. VANOC, The Vancouver Olympic Committee had bought all of the adspace on the transit system but in the depths of the recession failed to sell all of that adspace. What remained was a half naked transit system, with most of it’s ad’s removed and it’s bare blank spaces showing. Naturally, these empty spaces called out to a couple of street artists like Vegas and I. We measured the ads, put out a global call for art submissions and we took the damn thing over.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, tons of media attention was paid once we published the email that Translink, the privately owned public transit system sent to us politely asking us to halt and claiming exorbitant removal fees. Our objective was to continue or create a dialogue on public and private space and who exactly it belongs to, so on that front V-TARP was a massive success.

Check out the V-TARP blog at v-tarp.blogspot.com/ to see all 33 installs.
The BANKSY WASN’T HERE piece was an idea I bounced off Vegas one morning as we were plotting our day in the studio and he replied that he should remake the balloon girl stencil that Banksy did. That night we had it up. At the time North American cities were being bombarded with media reports about Banksy here, Banksy there before his movie debuted, but no mention was being made of the dedicated and talented artists that are actively decorating these cities. That lack of local appreciation for local artists by local media pissed me off. It was also a direct invite to Banksy that Vancouver has a lot of blank walls to fuck with.

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Should we expect to see your work in London anytime soon?


A few dozen small ISN’T series paste-ups have been up in London but I’m currently focusing on a plateful of Toronto with a hearty side of Montreal. We do send out quite a bit of work around the world so you never know if you’ll see it there. I’m sometimes surprised when I get a pic emailed to me from Scotland or The Phillipines or Afghanistan or wherever.


How do you see the future for Jerm IX street pieces?

I’ve come to learn that discussing an idea before you bring it to fruition diminishes it substantially. I have a few pots on the stove simmering that just might come to a boil and get served soon. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Anything else you’d like yo say to LSD readers?

I’ll quote my man Sage Francis I guess…”Make love to the present, fuck the past.”

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JERM IX Flickr
  –  JERM IX Blog

 ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED
Issue Six – Stand and Deliver – January 11th 2011