Strange City Digest was visited by the amazing artist and mind, Pavement 1984. Not only is he our back cover artist for this issue, he also has a fantastic artist showcase within and offered up a thought-provoking talk about the power of symbolism in art and society. Be sure to check out his site where you can pick your own prints.
And check out his full interview and artist showcase only in SCD: FALL 2021, available here!
Essay and art by Pavement 1984
“’Pavement’ and ‘nineteen eighty-four’ are two words that represent two related ideas. I started using it as a tag because it’s an abbreviation, an obscure collection of letters and numbers to make people ask, ‘what’s that mean?’
I started developing a semiotic language. I’m creating a language of symbols. I often say that my artwork is ideographic, which is to say that the grouping of symbols forms its own language. Its kind of like idea patterns, thought patterns that occur because the way symbols individually carry an idea- grouping them, what you do with them, can change the meaning.
This goes all the way from something you would hand draw to cultural references like the Rolling Stones lips logo or Marilyn Monroe or the Joker that Heath Ledger played. Those are all iconic images that carry ideas. They have a lot of emotion associated with them. I realize that symbols are vaster than language. Language is very specific because of its use. Those kind of characters need a very precise use to convey their meaning, but in a broad sense, symbols have a direct line to a memory. It’s a different game when you’re using symbols; the way you interpret symbols versus reading a word changes things. I combine both of those, because they’re different but can equal something else when paired together. You can change the meaning of a symbol with a referenced word. Those are the fundamentals of the artwork and images that I’m making.
That’s the point of art: how do I make it relate to somebody? Take symbols for example. Everyone knows what a heart or dollar sign symbol means beyond just the image. You know that something exists and an idea is already out there, so how do you inspire people to focus on the specific ideas you want to get across? That’s the task. I don’t think that takes away from art, I think that is art in a big way.
Art can be very simple. One thing about what I’m doing is that it is very direct. This is me expressing myself with paints. I could be expressing myself in different artforms or aesthetics and it would come off differently, but I’m just staying true to the ideas in my mind and the intention I had in the first place. If I make a piece, I know what my intention is, but I also know that people will have their own personal experiences.
“When I started painting a lot of faces in my work, that was me specifically identifying the prompt of a human being, an individual, so you’re immediately relating to a person. Through the image, you’re allowed a moment of self and a moment of connection to other people, just by the prompt being a human head.
I’m trying to show some sort of motion, to show how dynamic it is to be alive. You’ve got your bodily processes going on, things are happening at a cellular level. A human being is a total system. Being alive is quite a miracle, a summation of different systems together that make different life forms. As a human, we’re interacting with bodily processes, having thoughts, moods, different emotions, interacting with our environment, and we’re having internal processes the whole time. I try to illustrate how that’s going on.
“Pavement” is about “you pave a way with your actions.” What I’m doing is laying the pavement. I’m blazing a path and I’m creating a road to another level of thinking and being, of elevated consciousness. I say PVMT84 encourages the evolution of humankind through the uplift of spirit and mind to higher planes of vibration frequency and increased awareness. I hope my artwork is an inspiration for people to be contemplative and self-aware, to realize what goes into the creation of the moments we live in.
“1984” is the larger concept. That is the core processor of all of this- pulling from Orwell’s 1984, taking all those elements. This is my perspective and interaction with being a person alive in society. You’re a citizen of a nation, you’re a member of a household, a son or daughter, you go to school, the adults go to work, and everyone does their thing. Then you start learning the dynamics of government and citizen relations and the structure and systems of life.
At around eighteen or nineteen, I started getting more into history and learning the level of effort that has gone into maintaining racism, systemic racism at that; the way it plays out through the laws and through history. Discrimination used to be the law itself, not too long ago. Whether it comes to voter suppression, the way voting districts are decided, redzoning, the GI bill not being equally available, all these things, I started understanding that these were things you were never told about in school.
1984 talks about totalitarian dictatorship extremism. You can easily equate that with the Nazi Party or Soviets under Stalin, but if you take that book and contemporize it, you can see what I observe as an active force in society today. I call it “The 84.” You have to realize the 84 in society to walk upon the “pavement”, because that pavement is the path toward evolution.
Getting older and understanding 1984 more and looking at life and how the government works, especially with me being a black male in America, was important. The black experience in America is a situation that heavily influences me and makes me very skeptical and inquisitive. The core of that relation is based in slavery. After that, you have a continuation of oppression and exploitation. It’s not unique in America. You see it play out in colonialism across the world. To this day we have, specifically in Africa, nations with banking systems still owned by France and England. I mean, just look at the news itself. Major news networks are all owned by like five companies, and I think two of those companies own two of the other ones. So you’re only going to hear what those corporations want you to hear. Those companies decide what the news is, not news itself.
I feel like 1984 is firm enough a part of popular culture that I can use this as a touchpoint for people to connect with my artwork. That’s my vibe, “free your mind and you won’t go through 1984. If you have real information that’s how you prevent being trapped in situations like that.”