jerm ix

One man’s quest for self-actualization as he journeys through reformation, revolution and a rebirth of his very being.

You could be forgiven for thinking that you have flipped open a copy of Faith Today or some equally devout publication spurting advice about rebirths and self awareness, when in fact, you are about to embark on the story of ex-convict, addict and self-proclaimed scumbag, jerm IX. Hell, even his name, with its despotic IX, sounds biblical. But this guy is no apostle. To some Vancouverites, an introduction to jerm IX is not necessary. They have seen his social acclamations peeping out from behind alleys, embellished along park benches and stretched across the citiy’s highways. His black and white stencils are witty, thought-provoking and subversive. “Hello, my name is jerm and I’m an alcoholic,” strategically placed under a Heineken billboard. “For Rent” signs on public benches. “Journalisn’t” embellished across newspaper boxes. So, what’s it all about?

“The goal is to provoke thought. Life is the inspiration. We all have those moments while reading the paper or rotting in front of the TV when we vent our frustrations out loud. I just put them up. I’m inspired by homelessness and racism and homophobia and giant power wielding corporations and marijuana laws and climate change and nonsensical wars and far right Republicans. I’m inspired by the things that piss me off. And I’m driven by the need to share my voice.”

With his combination of words, puns and quotes, statements and rhymes, the streets of Vancouver provide an ever-changing canvas for jerm to share his often contentious and always thought provoking messages. “The right quote in the right location will provoke the desired emotion and push that button in people. That’s what I’m after. I just follow my heart really, corny as it sounds,” he says. With the influential tastemaker of urban street art, Wooster Collective, providing him with much coveted coverage and the internet set alight with his provocative images, is there a fear that jerm himself may turn into one of those brands that he is so intent on lambasting?

“Absolutely.”

What!

“Yeah, right from the jump we have utilized marketing strategies to spread our jerms: consistent visual delivery, use of repetition, omnipresence, branding, and targeting specific demographics. I was a brand the minute I slapped that first jerm Inc. sticker up. Before Flickr, before Twitter, before anyone knew I was alive.”

You can’t argue with that.

There was a time when Jeremiah was alive, but jerm IX wasn’t. Confusing? A little. Think Eminem and Slim Shady. An alter ego of sorts. But one he has killed off in a quest to become a better person. “That old Jeremiah was an addict, a victim and a scumbag. He was tortured daily by life,” he explains. “He hated himself and it showed in actions. He wasn’t me at all. That old Jeremiah is just a shadow now. He will come with me everywhere I go and always stay behind me, but he’s dead now. I killed him.”

It was in street art that jerm found a saviour. Battling manic depression and anxiety for as long as he can remember, jerm has been obsessed with death, but from this desire to self-destruct he has found creation in the form of a radical new street art, the innovative Hypothetical Corpse Project. Hallelujah! This phenomenon, which has built up quite a following online, sees people throw themselves to the ground and capture their fantasy death on camera. “I actually find hypo-corpsing quite cathartic,” he remarks. “For a brief moment, at any time and place of my choosing, I can fulfill that fantasy and momentarily die. There have been times, however, that I’ve been asked to hypo-corpse and I just wasn’t in the right mindset.”

Akin to his attitude, not only to his art, but to his life, jerm succeeds in finding light in even the darkest of places. Like when fulfilling his darkest death wishes. “I like to do it when I’m in a positive place, not when I’m depressed. It’s a celebration really—a victory dance.”

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