During the period of 2001-2004 Roadsworth went ballistic on his home town of Montreal, enforcing a new visual language upon its streets. A language of road lines turned in to electrical wiring, barbed wire, fishing hooks, birthday cakes, animals hanging off of shadows and more. Like so many street artists, he was busted and persecuted to the full extent of the law. Lucky for him, community support was unanimous and he got off with mild community service term, forced to paint his public patterns only when commissioned to do so by the city. Roadsworth has since been invited to paint in numerous countries, and even has even been commissioned to paint Montreal’s city hall. Behold the words of the original street-preacher. Not enough for you? Check him out at his website, or in the new, highly acclaimed film Roadsworth: Crossing The Line.
“I’m not against corporations as a concept, I’m not even against advertising. It’s part of selling of goods and exchanging goods is part of culture and survival. It’s the monopolies and the extent of capitalism that bothers me.”
Format: A lot of your work has an anti-corporate vibe.
Roadsworth: Well I guess, ya, indirectly. When I started, and at my peak of illegal activity, I was feeling sort of anti-corporate. But I think it’s more a question of balance. I’m not against corporations as a concept, I’m not even against advertising. It’s part of selling of goods and exchanging goods is part of culture and survival. It’s the monopolies and the extent of capitalism that bothers me. It’s become almost synonymous with consumerism. It’s caused some progress, but It’s also been very damaging. I think we are consumers because we are encouraged to consume as much as possible.
Format: When you were starting, you were known for turning road lines in to electrical outlets or plugs, a reference to the ‘myth’ of the electric car. Now, many countries are close to implementing road side electrical fill up stations. How does that make you feel?
Roadsworth: Well it’s funny, because when I started doing this, back in 2001, there was a certain amount of denial when it came to certain realities including the nature of war, oil, its finite-ness, global warming, etc. People had been talking about these ills for a very long time but it was never very mainstream. The environmental movement is being used by companies to sell products now even. Global warming is pretty well espoused, and has become a mainstream concept. I started with the electric car stencils because it seemed like it wasn’t cool to talk about it. It was sort of alarmist. I had also seen a documentary about it called Who Killed The Electric Car. I guess I was compelled by that flick.
Format: You once turned an intersection outside your parents home into a birthday cake for your dad’s birthday. How did he react to that one?
Roadsworth: I think he was a little shocked. My parents didn’t know I was in to that. I had been in to music for most of my life and dabble a bit in art. I think he was pretty surprised. I think he also thought it was a bit of a one-off. He liked it, my parents are pretty easy going, definitely not overbearing “you have to be a doctor or lawyer, or you’re dead to us” kind of people.
Format: Have you thought of doing anything other than roads?
Roadsworth: Ya, there are so many ways to use the city’s infrastructure. I’ve been thinking about it, but I haven’t really decided on anything. I have been thinking about sculptures. Or taking a pre-existing motif that appears across a city and tweaking it some how. You can do that to anything. I’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to paint in places like France and the UK, but, to be honest, I’m getting tired of all the requests that I’m getting to work on the ground. It’s always the ground. You might say I’ve become typecast as that ground guy.
Format: Have you thought about changing your name then to detach yourself from that ?
Roadsworth: Ya, I have. Like why not? Roadsworth is now forever associated with my name, Peter Gibson, all you have to do is Google me. I have thought about a different approach/style, because at the end of the day, an identity is just an aspect or personality.
Format: Ya, producers do it all the time, so why not.
Roadsworth: Ya, I like that a lot! It’s sort of taken from dj and hip-hop culture.
Format: So you’ve gone from criminalized street artist to being invited to speak in grade school classes? How did that happen?
Roadsworth: Yeah, some school teachers have incorporated my work into their curriculums. Kids are drawn to graffiti but its not considered a viable form of expression. I came along and sort of changed that. What I do is clean and safe and humorous and pretty inoffensive. A lot of people associate graffiti with gangs and violence but my work is nothing like that. In Montreal , where I’m from, graffiti is tied in with gang culture because their anti-graffiti group is called “The Anti-Gang.” Crazy, I know. So there’s this whole association with graff that is negative. I sometimes think that I’m the lesser of two evils. So maybe that’s why I’m invited to teach at schools.
Format: You were tried by the city of Montreal for defacing their streets, which ironically legitimized your work even more so. What are your thoughts on laws?
Roadsworth: I think that laws should be challenged. Legitimate authority should accept being questioned. At the time I was doing a lot of the illegal work, it was the Bush era, and the general political attitude in the west was that the people didn’t have a right to question the government. They had this ‘ we do what we want to do’ attitude.
Format: Do you feel that you’ve evolved since you started doing street art?
Roadsworth: I think I have evolved artistically. I’m interested in politics and I’m not as angry as I used to be. I think anger is a bit of a drive, and what drove me to do what I did, but I’m definitely interested in politics. On the other hand, I find it’s hard to really know what’s going on with politics, I feel you have to really be there in the middle of everything to really understand what’s happening.
“I want to think more about aesthetics. Most of work is on the level of a gag, or visual pun. I’d like to take it past that and get more involved in actual painting.”
Format: Do you find that there are cities with urban landscapes that were more fun than others?
Roadsworth: Ya, every city has its own infrastructure, lines, etc. Things that I pay attention to are unique to every city. Amsterdam has a lot of really interesting infrastructures. Europe, in general, has it’s own visual language and iconography in each country. Even the designs on sidewalks.
Format: Do you have plans for the future?
Roadsworth: I want to learn how to paint. I still think about using city infrastructures as a starting point and I still want to work with street lines, but I want to try using elements that I’ve never used before. I want to think more about aesthetics. Most of work is on the level of a gag, or visual pun. I’d like to take it past that and get more involved in actual painting.