This November, “infamous” local artist/ex-vandal Mickael Broth will host an exhibition at Love RVA Gallery and release the third book in his three part series:
This November, “infamous” local artist/ex-vandal Mickael Broth will host an exhibition at Love RVA Gallery and release the third book in his three part series: Gated Community: Graffiti and Incarceration . Broth has self-published the series. The exhibition, Gated Community: the Art of Incarceration centers around Broth’s time in jail for painting ‘REFUSE’ across a railroad bridge. He was a dean-listed Fine Art major at VCU at the time (talk about multi-tasking!). Both the book and exhibition challenge the audience to consider our society’s addiction to punishing ‘wrong’ and re-defining what we consider a ‘crime’.
What’s can we expect to find in your exhibition?
This exhibition: Gated Community- the Art of Incarceration, is basically kind of a culmination of all the work that has gone into creating this series of books( Gated Community that I’ve been writing. They detail my experiences with vandalism and the 10-month jail sentence that I served as a result. So this show will, in some ways, take people back to that time in my life. There will be references to that.
I’ll be showing lots of legal documents, photos from that time period, artwork relating to that, and art work related to the time I spent in jail – drawings, prints, homemade weapons that kinda go along with it- prison shivs and what not. I’m a bit of a hoarder I guess. There’s also a lot of stuff here that people haven’t seen in like, 12 years.
So is this a culmination of, what, three years of working on the books? Is it closure for you in regards to the project?
For me, it is [closure], because the project will, in my mind, be completed. I like to think it could have a wider audience at some point. Maybe someone else would be interested in publishing it.
Are you taking the exhibition to any other cities or releasing the books anywhere else?
In some form I’ve done this show in New York and DC in the past. But, I’ve never really shown all of this here [in Richmond]. As far as republishing, or someone taking the three books and turning them into one, I’m definitely open to that. Personally I don’t want to deal with distribution. I ran a magazine with a friend (Born Ugly http://www.mickaelbroth.com/born-ugly-magazine/ ) for a while and we handled all that. So, I don’t have any interest in handling distribution and what not, that’s not fun! (laughs)
What makes Book Three different from the other two?
Book Three, for one, is not as linear, not so much a straight narrative. It does follow chronologically the other two, it’s about my time spent in Richmond City Jail and on work release there, but it definitely jumps around more.
So, were you still at school during work release?
I was at VCU. Pretty much Monday through Thursday I went to class from 9 to 4 and then I worked at a restaurant from 5 to 11 then went back to jail.
I can’t fathom that concept..
It is weird. It’s just an odd thing.
I mean, when it came down to it, it was a decent deal but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because you’re allowed to go out and do all that anyway [yet you still have to return to jail]…there’s not a lot of logic to it.
So this focuses on a different time in your life than the other two books…
Yeah. This one deals with the Richmond City Jail period but also deals with more wide ranging topics like there’s a critique on graffiti as though it is actually art. Hopefully, it is taken tongue-in-cheek because it is meant to be somewhat of a joke.
Is it your critique?
There’s also some discussion of addiction mentality, related to graffiti and incarceration in general. Society’s essential addiction to incarceration.
Hopefully people will come out to the show. I felt like it was time to do something that was a little bit more ambitious related to the book release of the final book. The first one I didn’t really do any kind of release party, I just announced it on Instagram and Facebook. For the second one I had a small release at Chop Suey. This one is definitely the most ambitious for a release and I guess in some way, a nice closure or bookend.
For people who are coming to see your exhibition (at Love RVA Gallery throughout November) or to the book launch (at the gallery on November 23rd), what are you hoping they’ll take away from the experience?
Well, I guess it depends on the audience in particular. I’m assuming that people will take away a memory of something that they use to see everywhere in Richmond, which was, actual graffiti as you don’t see too much of that anymore.
The city is growing and there isn’t really a culture that fosters it here anymore, which is disappointing in some ways but I’m not involved with it anymore so it is kinda nice that there are businesses on Broad Street rather than boarded up buildings.
I have mixed feelings about every abandoned warehouse being turned into condos..
I’ve heard that from a lot of locals..
It used to be a lot of fun to explore those but at the same time, I’m not really involved in the activities I used to be . it is kind of hard to complain that more people are living here and hopefully adding to the city’s vitality, I don’t know that they are but it’s nice to think that.
What would you like the audience to take away from your exhibition and book series?
I would like people to consider : what is worth putting someone in jail for? That would be one of my biggest hopes, that people will read the book and get the picture of what it is like for a ‘normal’ person to go to jail. I think, when it comes down to it I’m hardly a criminal. I was in with people who broke into houses, stole cars, people who were in jail for attempted murder, and I’m just like “there’s a disconnect here that just doesn’t make sense”. So, maybe people will walk away and think “well, you wrote on somebody’s property, you do deserve to be in jail”. But, I’m hoping that some people at least will come away thinking, maybe there is a better solution”. This extends beyond what I did, in my opinion. This extends to drug use, and all sorts of non-violent crimes.
Gated Community: the Art of Incarceration will be on show at Love RVA Gallery for the month of November.
Love RVA Gallery: 202 West Broad Street (next to Comfort).
The book release for Gated Community: Graffiti and Incarceration Book three will be at Love RVA Gallery on November 23, from 7-9pm.
The Well will host the after-party from 10pm -2am, immediately following the book release.
Both the book release and after party are free and open to the public.