Vera Aldejohann: Take & Give
The starting point for “Take & Give” was graffiti in urban areas that was appropriated in different ways. Identical metal plates and decorative pieces were attached to walls and then collected after they had been sprayed. An associated book serves as a reference and archive. The other part of the project turned fragments of multiple layers of graffiti into jewellery. The pieces were refined to reveal the lower layers to create new pictures.
“In Vera Aldejohann’s project we were attracted to the shapes and colours of odd pieces of jewellery. Once you find out the supranatural fractal pendants are not painted by the designer, but are made out of layers of graffiti taken from the street, the jewellery becomes a contemporary fossil. It seems like a powerful statement to reuse and interpret an art form which is often seen as vandalism as beautiful jewellery.” Hansje van Halem
1. Did you have a particular connection to the graffiti scene, or was it just that the aesthetic appealed to you?
I didn’t have any connection to the graffiti scene at first. I didn’t know any sprayers, and I wasn’t particularly keen on most graffiti. Due to my love of colour I started to notice and appreciate the explosions of colour provided by graffiti on my daily train journeys from city to city. Grey expanses of concrete and brick are transformed into exciting spaces by colourful graffiti. Spray canisters contain fantastic colours, so I began to spray my jewellery with graffiti paint. At the same time, I became aware of the visual messages in graffiti work and the techniques involved, and I began to see and like graffiti not only as a way of using colour, but as a whole art form.
2. The title “Take & Give” suggests that a mutual exchange took place between you and the graffiti artists. What form did this take?
As a designer, I see myself as an active member of society. I want to link up my skills with those of others and use these pairings to create something that goes beyond my area of expertise – something that I would not have been able to come up with myself. I enjoy developing a concept that involves me devising a design and then accepting what others do with it. Of course, I can spray my jewellery with graffiti paints if I want it to be multi-coloured. But I could also find a place that could be enhanced by graffiti, and hang it there and wait and see what happened. The original idea behind this concept was to use the sprayers in a parasitic way, without asking their permission. Instead of jewellery, I hung metal plates to walls, as they can carry more in the way of images. By chance, I bumped into sprayers on my rambles and got to know them better. Despite the scene’s reputation for unfriendliness and radicalism, I was welcomed and given images. In return, I made photos of the graffiti and recorded them in a book along with the plates. My exchange with the sprayers became more important than a parasitic concept, and it was the background for the theme of giving and taking.
3. As a designer, what do you feel that you can learn from graffiti culture?
There is an incredibly strong sense of solidarity within a crew. They work together on an image, with everyone doing what they do best. In the end, it’s all about how good the image is as a whole, not about individual egos. I think that this sharing of ideas, skills and results sets a wonderful example, and, as a way of working, it also makes sense for designers.