"You want to leave some kind of legacy behind when you die. That's pretty much everyone's goal. To be remembered, right? Graf [sic] is the ultimate tool to being remembered in this lifetime," muses GOUCH, one of Brooklyn's finest graffiti writers.
A new documentary shot by Queens-based director Raul Buitrago follows GOUCH on his underground endeavours and offers an intimate look into the street artist's outlook on the world.
Whether the footage shows him spraying tags on the concrete walls along Dead Tracks or teaching his daughter the art of tag through what he calls "special letters," GOUCH paints a slightly different picture than what you'd imagine a typical bomber would be.
After being lured into the underworld of graffiti at an early age, GOUCH says he felt a love/hate relationship with it for quite some time. Growing up in the 90s without internet or venues for inspiration, graffiti was a purely "self-destructive sport," a dead-end thing for him. But quitting it wasn't an option...
But quitting it wasn't an option...
Albeit constantly struggling with it, GOUCH says he could never really pull away from writing graffiti. But after many lingering thoughts he sorted things out: went back to school, got a job, met a girl, had a kid... You know, the youzh.
All this experience gave him a new perspective on what it means to have a creative mindset, share it with the world and leave a mark on society.
Watch the full documentary on GOUCH here and read our interview with the creator below:
Konbini: Hi Raul! Tell us how did you and GOUCH meet?
Raul Buitrago: I met him on Instagram. I had just gotten an iPhone and when I joined IG, I immediately started following all of my favorite graffiti writers. Gouch was one of them. At that time (September 2014) I was exploring film and wanted to create some sort of documentary.
They say: shoot what you know, right? I know graffiti, very well. I've had my eyes glued to the walls since I was in Junior High. Gouch was, actually, among my favorites growing up. I noticed he was one of the very few guys that had his contact info on Instagram, so I sent him an email, pitched him the idea of doing a video and he was into it.
The initial idea was to do a short 2-3 minute video, but the more time passed, the bigger the project became. It grew quite organically.
Graffiti writers and artists tend to be very secretive of their personalities. Why do you think GOUCH agreed to share this very personal story with you?
I definitely pushed for the possibility to explore more personal topics. He was a little hesitant about sharing that stuff for the film, but ultimately, he agreed to tell his story.
Years ago, Gouch was featured in an underground graffiti video called State Your Name. It was a huge moment for NYC graffiti and really shook things up. Gouch and his bombing partner were in that video. Gouch wanted to do an interview but his partner didn't so the video only has footage of them bombing.
My film kind of fulfills something he didn't get to do at the time and more: share his story. Speak his mind. Elevate what graffiti writers can do with the medium of film and continue to add to the already rich, dense history of graffiti.
What stereotypes are most commonly attached to graffitist and street artists?
Graffiti and street art are very different but that's a whole other conversation... Briefly, street art includes things like colorful murals (typically legal), stencils, wheatpaste posters. There are also artists who have knitted, welded or installed a piece of art on the streets.
Graffiti is made up tags, throw up (bubble letters), pieces (more complex lettering with different colors), blockbusters/straight letters. The emphasis is on letterform and flow.
Gouch is a graffiti writer. And some stereotypes surrounding this particular group include being uneducated, derelict, gangsters or complete degenerates. There are some cases in which this might be true, but more often they are very intelligent, self-aware, talented people.
What was your overall goal with this documentary? Can we expect more to come?
I had a few different things in mind when making this film. As a graffiti fan and nerd, I wanted to know more about what makes the artist tick, where he comes from, how he got into it, and what keeps him motivated. There's a mystique that comes along with being a graffiti writer because you never get to see and know who they really are.
I also wanted to put a visual focus on the craftsmanship that goes into developing a tag. It's not something that can be learned overnight. It takes years of practice and learning about your roots in order to develop flow and style. It's no different than studying up on and excelling in any other form of art.
I wanted to show that Gouch is human. He has a family. He has a job. He's a busy guy. He has a morning routine. He has dreams and aspirations, just like the rest of us do. Except his are unorthodox. Vilified. Will there be more? There are no definitive plans yet, but don't be surprised if you see another one in the future.