Friday, June 02, 2006

The Roadsworth interview - part two of four


Back in November, 2004 L'affaire Roadsworth began, it seems to have come to a conclusion recently with Peter Gibson's community service being the subject of an article in Le Devoir this week. Back when this was all happening, Mr. Gibson risked serious repercussions, and came to Zeke's Gallery for a rather long and extended interview. He had been prevented by the Montréal police from stepping foot in the borough of the Plateau (imagine trying to live here, and not being allowed to be in an area from Parc Ave to Papineau, Sherbrooke to Van Horne). None the less, he successfully made it into the gallery without being arrested again, and we were able to record the proceedings. If you'd like to listen along, click here [40:07 minutes, 38.5 MB] I've chopped it up into four parts. Part One, Part Three and Part Four are all available by clicking on the links. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, try these two links to get up to speed: one and two.

First I'd also like to thank Jacqueline Mabey, she did an amazing and wonderful job of transcribing the interview. It started out at 20,915 words, and 2:43 hours in length, then a super spectacular job of editing was done by Stephanie McLean. So it ends up at 17, 656 words, or the equivalent of a short novel. I guess that it took about 80 hours worth of work to get it into this form, and I would like to thank both of them profusely and sincerely. I'd also like to thank Urbania Magazine for kind use of their photos (Peter took a bunch as well), and finally I'd like to thank Peter for agreeing to be interviewed.

Part Two

Peter Gibson (cont'd): And that just stemmed from the frustration as a cyclist I was having at the moment, you know, you're basically a second-class citizen on the road, just by the physicality of your situation, vis-à-vis the automobile, I mean, there's no contest there.

Zeke: I find, when I'm biking, I take up a whole lane, smack dab in the middle of the lane. Somebody honks me? Give them middle finger.

Peter Gibson: That goes back to that, it's like, most cyclists who have been riding in cities they know that. The safest thing, the best thing you can do is take your space, because if you try to make space for the car you're gonna get nailed by somebody opening their door, you're gonna get fucked. Take your space.

Zeke: At which point, it is to recognize - and to get back to your whole thing about the city imposition and so on and certain things - is where in a larger aspect having the laws, it does become possible to become polite, and respect, OK, this is an acceptable way to say, "OK, I exist, I'm here." Although, if I can switch, there is one thing that I do want to get down, especially because we're recording, you said you started with the bicycles, could you give me a list of every stencil you've done?

Peter Gibson: Oh, boy, let's see if I can think. The first one was the bicycle. Then that whole experience was thrilling, there was something pleasurable about the actual experience of, you know, taking space. And then the next one that just sort of popped into my mind... this whole enquiry I'd embarked onto about translating Andy Goldsworthy concepts to the city started coming back to me, because I had dropped it for awhile, I had forgotten about that, about doing that. And then I did the bike path. And then that kind of enquiry started coming back to me... and anyway, I did the scissors, I don't know if...

Scissors by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson
Scissors by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson

Zeke: Yeah, I saw the scissors.

Peter Gibson: Scissors cutting down the middle of the line.

Zeke: I like that very much.

Peter Gibson: Buttons...

Buttons by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson
Buttons by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson

Zeke: Saw those.

Peter Gibson: All these things have different kind of inspirations.

Zeke: Don't - I'll get back to that, just focus...

Peter Gibson: OK, the zipper I think I did third. An older version of that. Then what did I do? I did, like, these kind of can opener type tabs on sewer covers.

Zeke: Uh huh, OK, the can openers.

Can by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson
Can by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson

Peter Gibson: There was that... that's so far back, this is like three years ago. The candles, like, the birthday candles.

Zeke: Those are the first ones I haven't seen.

Birthday Candles by Peter 'Roadsorth' Gibson
Birthday Candles by Peter 'Roadsorth' Gibson

Peter Gibson: There's the safety pins. There are what is known as in the industry Boston valves, which are just, you know those things that deflate? Like deflatable dolls or mattresses? Like what you blow into? But that wasn't very successful, it didn't come off as much. Some were more successful than others, let's just put it that way. There was a pause button, which wasn't also one of the more successful ones. What else? I'm trying to think of ones that were more integrated.

Zeke: No, I want a list of all, and at which point, then discuss - one of the obvious follow-up questions is a discussion of each one individually. I'm looking comprehensive at this point.

Peter Gibson: Right, yeah, that's where the discussion starts wearing thin.

Zeke: OK.

Peter Gibson: There are more, I'm just trying to think.

Zeke: Shackles...

Peter Gibson: Shackles. That seemed to be a popular one. A lot of people seemed to like that one. What else?

Zeke: Velvet ropes.

Peter Gibson: OK, these are this year.

Zeke: OK, so hold on.

Peter Gibson: This is going back three years. I also did the bullets three years ago. Stupidly I did them again. Well, maybe not stupidly. Yeah, I'm beyond that right now, it's hard, in retrospect, to say... What else did I do? That's all I can think of at the moment, but I have a feeling there are others, I can't think of them right now.

Zeke: Of the new stuff, I assume you've seen the pictures that I've taken and so on?

Peter Gibson: Uh huh.

Zeke: Is there anything in those pictures that, have I...

Peter Gibson: There's one... OK, I'll just try and remember back. There's that manhole escape hatch. There's a lasso. There's a little devil sitting on a line. The owl. Plug inputs. Vines. Again, the updated zipper. Oh, yeah, the bike, the bicycle. There is speakers coming off the parking thing. There's the security cameras. Foot prints.

Zeke: OK, I missed that. Did you only do one of those?

Peter Gibson: I did two of those.

Zeke: OK, where?

Peter Gibson: One on... this is an area I'm sort of wary about, although I talked to my lawyer and asked him if I should mention things that I've done and he was like, "Meh, don't worry about it." He's like, "Water under the bridge." Based on records I've seen they don't have everything.

Zeke: OK.

Peter Gibson: Um, heart monitor, an EKG.

Zeke: No problem, you don't have to tell me where the footprints are [they laugh].

Peter Gibson: The velvet ropes, and tons of others that I wish I could have accomplished.

Zeke: I only gave a quick scan on the La Presse editorial, and given my comprehension of French, OK, to give it a close read is going to take an hour and a half.

Peter Gibson: Yeah, the light switch. Go on.

Zeke: At which point, when Luci read it, it was where he came up with the idea of commissioning you to do another 100 -

Peter Gibson: Sure. I've got a hundred! I've got plenty.

Zeke: I didn't know if there more... along those lines -

Peter Gibson: I think that's it. I'm sure a few odds and ends I hadn't thought of.

Zeke: I'm sure once you get all the stencils back we can -

Peter Gibson: Oh yeah, the bow, the Christmas ribbon.

Christmas Ribbon by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson
Christmas Ribbon by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson

Zeke: Oh, I never saw that.

Peter Gibson: I was on the cover of Le Devoir. A Christmas ribbon going across the… like a bow -

Zeke: OK, I only ever read Le Devoir online and they didn't -

Peter Gibson: That's the one I got busted on for.

Zeke: OK.

Peter Gibson: Candles, the candles on the crosswalk.

Zeke: OK, so there -

Peter Gibson: Well, there was the candles but there was also the candles on the...

Zeke: They're two kinds of candles.

Peter Gibson: They're two kinds of candles.

Zeke: OK, one of those things of looking at how much -

Peter Gibson: There's a lot...

Zeke: Uh huh. One thing I've noticed is, three years ago, when you started, they would crop up every now and again, then, there was, and we can get into the reason for the break, to my mind, a break in doing stuff.

Peter Gibson: There was a good reason I took a break.

Zeke: Then this past summer you started up again, and towards the end of the summer you went wild. What was...

Peter Gibson: Yeah, I guess so, eh? I didn't realize that it was so noticeable. Why did I go wild? My ego got carried away, is what happened.

Zeke: OK, 'cause there to me it was the sort of thing were one of the integral things to the experience of it, was sort of like -

Peter Gibson: The sparseness of it.

Zeke: Not necessarily the sparseness.

Peter Gibson: The chanciness of it.

Zeke: The chanciness of it, the playfulness of, "OK, oh, that's a new one." And maybe three or four of the same stencil, but as widely dispersed as possible.

Peter Gibson: And I feel like I got carried away, definitely, not only because I got arrested. For some reason I had this drive in me. I think it was partly that I got better at doing it, I could cover more ground. I was taking more risks, calculated risks, because I had developed the experience to have a better idea of what... obviously, I got carried away, to the point where I didn't calculate properly.

Zeke: Actually, talk about some technical stuff. Three years ago I'm fairly certain that you were using a brush or something like that, you weren't using spray cans.

Peter Gibson: Yeah, I was, yeah, yeah.

Zeke: This past summer...

Peter Gibson: I discovered spray cans. That's another aspect - I spent a lot of time... I don't know, I had just conceived of all these sort of things I wanted to do... It was basically, I guess, part of manic behaviour, if you want to call it that, that prolific-ness. Prolific-ness?

Zeke: Yeah, that works. We're talking. We can make up all the damn words we want [they laugh].

Peter Gibson: Part of it had to do with I had just been swarming myself with so many ideas, it had just become almost to the level of obsession. I couldn't ride my bike or walk down the street without trying to play this intellectual game. I'm almost not necessarily proud of it, 'cause I don't necessarily think the best art comes out of that type of.…

Zeke: Well, sometimes it does. It can, though, to get back to initially what I was talking about, technical stuff. What do you use for the stencils?

Peter Gibson: I use Masonite. At the beginning of the spring, when I did decide to get back into it, I spent lot of time researching the whole material aspect of it. Back in the day - that's probably another reason why there was more: not only did I get better at it, but the materials I was using were more resilient. Back when I started doing it I was using cardboard, cutting it out with an Exacto knife and using paint. So the life of a stencil was relatively short.

Zeke: OK, so now you're using Masonite, what are you using to cut out the stencils?

Peter Gibson: I'm using - what are they called - a circular saw?

Zeke: A band saw?

Peter Gibson: They're called rotating saws. In French it's "cie circulaire," as far as I know. It's like, you can... it's similar to a jig saw, you make forms, you basically draw something...

Zeke: Freehand?

Peter Gibson: Often freehand, or I'll just copy the object, I'll find the actual object and draw it, try and draw it. I mean, my drawing skills, that's a whole other... [laughs]. I don't have the best drawing skill, but I try. And then I will... it depends, in some cases I will just draw directly onto the stencil, whereas the cardboard - back in the day I did just a lot of drawing directly onto the cardboard and then take an Exacto knife and cut it out. But more recently I realized the advantage of... with the cardboard, it's riskier, because you have to time with traffic, and you have to remove it each time a car comes by, otherwise it will be destroyed. With the Masonite, you can leave it on the street, you can walk away from it, and that was important on several levels, due to A) it's fairly resilient material and B) it's heavy enough that it will just stay in place, and it's dark, and it's not noticeable by cars. And I can attest to that because -

Zeke: How would you carry them around?

Peter Gibson: Just on my bike. The whole process is very physical endeavor, just staying up all night, just carrying the weight around, biking around the city, staying alert, all those aspects were very - I mean, that was part of the challenge, as well, that I found very exciting. There's so many levels on which the whole process appealed to me.

Zeke: OK, then to focus back, one thing we haven't spoken about is the paint. 'Cause you started out - I imagine, as Luci said - there's something called concrete paint, I had no idea about it.

Peter Gibson: Well, I assume it's the same paint that the city uses. Although I've noticed, for example, the paint I was using three years ago from a can, that was the only paint that I had discovered, but it was canned paint, and it seems to last longer than the spray can paint, which I've been using most recently, there are advantages to both.

Zeke: Any specific brands you'd like to give shout outs to [they laugh]?

Peter Gibson: Oh man, well, Krylon does a good street paint. A lot of it has to do with, they sell it as different brands, and you have to do... I had to do a fair amount of research to find which hardware stores sell it. In most cases I would buy out a hardware store, and they wouldn't replenish it unless you ask them to order it, because nobody buys it, it's pretty rare I guess. Although it's available over the counter - so to speak - for the general public.

Zeke: You ever thought of buying in bulk? Opening up an account [they laugh]?

Peter Gibson: Well, I've definitely placed orders... the paper trail is there, if you really... so yeah, it's there for use by the general public, there for, I imagine, use in your garage, your personal parking space, I don't know what people would use it for. And you can go to Home Depot and rent a line striper. You can own pretty high powered paint guns, similar to the ones the city uses.

Zeke: Do you ever use any of those?

Peter Gibson: No, I've never used any of those. I mean, I've definitively researched that, I've definitely checked out what's on the market, because I'm just trying to fine tune the whole process. I think that has a lot to do with the proliferation, if you will, of things you saw. I just got better, ideas were flooding into my head and I sort of wanted to get them out, but I'm sure my ego also played a role in all that.

Zeke: So it would be the sort of thing were one night you say, "OK, I got the zipper with me, tonight's a zipper night."

Peter Gibson: Basically, yeah. That's what it comes down to. It's not so much that I would... I wasn't going out more frequently than I had been three years ago. There wasn't more frequency, in terms of my sorties, the only thing was that, yeah, I had these stencils, they lasted a lot longer, I was better at it, I had sort of developed a modus operandi, and I would just spend the whole night. I would just go until it got light and there were too many cars on the street.

Zeke: There my question is, you do one stencil at a time? Wouldn't be that you'd be carrying 17 -

Peter Gibson: No, I do one stencil at a time.

Zeke: So, "Tonight's the zipper night, tomorrow night I'll do the speakers."

Speakers by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson
Speakers by Peter 'Roadsworth' Gibson

Peter Gibson: Exactly.

Zeke: "This one looks good tonight."

Peter Gibson: Yeah, that kind of notion. I've definitely thought about - I haven't gotten to that level of... [sound of cigarettes being lit] bad habits. I've been indulging my bad habits lately. You're indulging my bad habits. Where were we?

Zeke: Um, indulging bad habits, the way you'd go out with one stencil, and say, "Tonight's a zipper night."

Peter Gibson: Right, like I was saying, in my mind, often I would have the location. Ideally, the location is important, like the actual placement of the - aside from its location in the street sort-of language, also, taking into account. But in actual fact, I didn't reach that level.

Zeke: That's where I come into with going wild.

Peter Gibson: Yeah, why is it here?

Zeke: Yeah, there are certain ones where it's like, "That's..."

Peter Gibson: I wish I could say that they were all sort of taking in the greater environment into account, but in most...

Zeke: It's a learning curve.

Peter Gibson: No, that's it. Ideally, that would be... and in many cases they were. In most cases - I mean, a lot of the inspiration for each piece was a general kinda of a concept that could be applied generally.…

Zeke: Although there, it is my view that each one came, my guess would be, you saw a spot, "Oh, that would look good there." Then you'd come up with a stencil for it. Then at which point, "Where else can this go?"

Peter Gibson: Yeah, exactly. I would sort of chose a spot, in some instances it was a very conscious choice, in other instances it was less conscious. A lot of the placement has to do with just my relationship to this city and my own movements around the city and how the places I relate to, you know, the people I know, as sort of conceiving of them. There is always, I think, with any artist or musician or whatever or anything you create or anything you present in a public way, or even if you're not presenting in a public way, if you're just painting in you basement by yourself, there's somewhere an awareness of a potential audience. Whether it's your girlfriend, your friends, or a city or a group of people or the world - depending how big your ego is or how desperate you are for attention. But for me, it just stemmed from a desire to... I've been living in this city for a long time, and I can confidently say that I feel love for this city. I don't know a lot of other cities, to be honest. I've traveled a little bit, not as much as I'd like to, and I don't really have a big awareness. But I come from Toronto, so I know Toronto, I have a relationship with that city. I have a relationship with Montreal. And when I came to Montreal, I've always felt a deep connection that is really hard to describe. A lot of the placement of the pieces is in areas that I feel a connection to, just from my experiences. Now, I would like to say that it is conscious - I've had certain plans for conscious targeting of certain buildings or specific messages - but given the restraints of the city landscape I haven't always been able to execute those.

Zeke: There, also recognizing, you gotta get to work. I got one last question, and I only want a yes or no answer.

Peter Gibson: In other words, shut the fuck up.

Zeke: Not shut the fuck up. I want to schedule another one, 'cause I got lots of other questions, but yeah, you gotta get to work. Are you willing to go to jail for your art?

Peter Gibson: Come on, you can't ask me to answer this yes or no.

Zeke: Yes or no?

Peter Gibson: You can't ask me to yes or no for this. Because I haven't... let's see, that's a good question, but you're gonna have to give me time to think about it.

Zeke: No problem, we'll pick it up on the second go round.

Peter Gibson: I mean, I question my motivations already, in terms of why I did this. I mean, for me - I know you want the answer but you're not gonna get it, I'm a politician at heart, I'm a Canadian, I can't fuckin' [laughs]...

Zeke: No problem.

Peter Gibson: I'm like Mr. Evasive. I'd make a good politician.

Zeke: No, you're not Mr. Evasive.

Peter Gibson: I'm still questioning my motivations. I don't feel like I know myself well enough - that's a very existential question you're asking me.

Zeke: But you're facing it straight down the barrel.

Peter Gibson: I'm facing it now. For sure, these questions are becoming more... the concrete consequences of my actions are closing in on me in various ways, I'm starting to look at this as part of the process, I'm really questioning this. I've talked to my lawyer about this because there are possibly certain options in front of me in terms of where I want to go with this with, of course, the risk of certain consequences attached to these options. So I definitely have to think of these... yes! I'll say yes... oh man, I don't wanna fuckin' paint myself into a corner.

Zeke: You got the right answer.

Peter Gibson: Well, what's the right answer.

Zeke: Yes, I'm willing to go to jail for my art.

Peter Gibson: Well, obviously I'm willing to go to jail for it because I did it. I did go to jail - only for 16 hours, granted. Am I willing to go to a jail where I'm gonna get raped? No, I don't think so. I don't think I'm that hardcore. I don't know how hardcore I am, to be honest, and that's what it comes down to. What a lot of this whole process comes down to is testing my boundaries, and getting to know myself, and I'm not fully aware of what those boundaries are, so it's very hard for me to answer that question. I don't know myself well enough to say... I don't know what jail is like! If it was like maximum security prison -

Zeke: I don't think they'd be sending you to maximum security prison.

Peter Gibson: If it was three months - I don't know how long - in confinement with very dull type of day to day... I think I'm capable of it. That thought doesn't seem to terrify me. But, that's a very good question, and I'm sorry I can't answer that yes or no.

Zeke: No problem, I'll give you time to think about it.

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