I was invited to be part of the BBC Worldwide Creative Summit last Autumn. The purpose of the event was to inspire around 100 staff members to think creatively who came from places including Europe, America and Australia. This was given with a series of talks and Q&A sessions by people from numerous industries (art, music, fashion, design and marketing) during the course of two days. I was involved in a 10 minute recorded talk you can watch below called ‘Problem Makers’, focusing on how I created an audience and how anyone could achieve this in a creative way. Enjoy and if you scroll down you can see a few more images of the day.
A few weeks ago I took part in Nathan Bowen’s charity street art event ‘Bring Down the Office’. I have been a big fan of Nathan’s work (view here) for many years now. If based in London/UK you will probably recognise his demons or demon heads around town on building site billboards with their hardhats entertaining your eyes on the streets. Nathan and I have been in discussion to do a live head design for a while and the perfect opportunity came up at his organised event in Holborn. The wonderful pictures were taken by the effervescent Marija Sribna who I hope to work with in the near future. Its been an eventful 2014 and I will keep you informed of any exciting new projects.
I had the absolute pleasure to be part of the BBC Worldwide Creative Summit at the beginning of this month. The purpose of the event was to inspire around 100 staff members to think creatively who came from places including Europe, America and Australia. This was produced by a series of talks and Q&A sessions by people from numerous industries (art, music, fashion, design and marketing) during the course of two days. As you will see from the photos I performed when people entered and interacted with the BBC staff. From that I was involved in a talk called ‘Problem Makers’, focussing on how I created an audience through my artistic career and how in my mind anyone could achieve this in a creative way. You can find the organiser, Charlie Henniker’s quote below, on his view of my contribution for the day.
‘Philip came to speak at the BBC Worldwide Creative Summit in Bethnal Green. He was briefed to speak about being a ‘Problem Maker’, identifying a new creative route and extending it to brand partnerships, and embracing the ‘What If?’ approach. This was preluded by a performance piece at the start of the event. Both were really well received, and Philip was utterly engaged with the purpose of the event from the outset – this resulted in a brilliant presentation and really positive feedback from all attendees.’
Charlie Henniker, Lead Creative, Content Marketing and Creative, BBC Worldwide
Images copyright BBC Worldwide taken by Michael Swann
I have been asked to give a talk on ‘What makes people give? Creative Fundraising and Sponsorship’ at UCL organised by Free Hype – An innovative student led volunteering project and society at University College London. They provide free, creative solutions to small London charities.
I will be talking about my experiences of receiving Sponsorship from past companies including Gillette as well as friends/artists who have achieved crowd-funding for their projects. I hope to give an insightful view into what makes people and companies give.
I am very blessed with all that has happened in the last year and many wonderful things have been achieved when I look back during 2013. To start the year off I was voted into the Time Out Culture 100 2013. I then went on to give a talk at Somerset House to the students of The Courtauld Institute of Art and a month later at Central St Martin’s. My work was publicly displayed in London as well as auctioned off to support a charity for The London Coffee Festival. This was all while I performed at not only The Roundhouse in London but also internationally in both Estonia and Finland’s national art museums – both trips kindly supported by their respective British Council‘s. To top this all off (with sprinkles) I went onto get my Hundreds and Thousands image immortalised in Phaidon’s publication ‘Wild Art’ (page 167), which is a thumbs up from people in the art world. Find below links and images to the recent happenings as well as a wonderful email from a mother who saw me with her children in Finland performing. Here is to 2014!
Philip Levine performing at Kumu – Art museum of Estonia – Photo by Evelina Vedom
Performing at Kamppi – Helsinki
Philip Levine performing at Kamppi – Helsinki – Photo by Ignacio Pérez Pérez
Email from mother a few weeks later after the Helsinki performance:
We saw your performance at Kamppi shopping centre in Helsinki. And I must say, hardly ever anything sticks to the minds of my kids so intensively… They are still sometimes talking about that man with the crystals…We have had discussions about how is it possible to have crystals instead of hair, did he really glue them on his skin, will he ever be able to get them off. And of course: “Mum, I’d like to have that kind of crystals too… to play with.” So, thank you – Best Regards, Anna.
Finally Wild Art where you can find my Hundreds and Thousands image on page 167. More can be found at http://bit.ly/18zjBJo through a recent Guardian article
Project I have been developing with the superbly talented Henna Artist Pavan Ahluwalia with us combining our talents to create a series of photographic images featuring a bespoke modern Henna design in a new and engaging light, using my head as the canvas. Photos by the wonderful Ani Lang.
I have chosen to use my blog to talk about the artistic medium I am very passionate about and have now been practicing since 2006. This entails performance, live or, in some ways, life art. I mention on my website that art is naturally collaborative and in all my work, be it writing, talks or performances I normally have someone or many people supporting my process. This, to me, is the essence of collaboration. I will therefore acknowledge anyone that helps me develop each one of my articles going forward. I hope you enjoy and find what I discuss now and in the future thought-provoking.
As an artist both within and exploring the field of performance art, a number of discernible patterns have become apparent to me. As I see it, the rise of performance art within popular culture – particularly in the last year – has been symptomatic of the general public’s disillusionment with conventional artistic mediums. I believe this has been brought on by the rapid and all-pervasive development of technology in the last decade – specifically social media – and the new interdisciplinary relationships this has forged between concepts of human interaction, access to information and consumption of media.
Establishments, organisations and museums are well aware of the dramatic shift undergone by art in recent decades. Most clearly, this has been demonstrated by the Tate, whose team have developed The Tate Modern Project – a space dedicated to film, video, photography and performance. In its vision statement, it claims ‘Film, video, photography and performance have become more essential strands of artistic practice, and artists have embraced new technologies. Ambitious and imaginative installations are now pushing traditional gallery spaces to their limits’, advocating the modernisation of artistic execution.
A great illustration of this innovation is the work of performance artist Marina Abramović, whose rise and influence on contemporary culture over the last three years has been nothing less than dramatic. Seldom in recent memory has a performance artist exerted such notable influence on popular society.
From March to May 2010, Abramović’s performance of The Artist Is Present in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), offered visitors the opportunity to sit for indefinite periods of time facing her, and engage in periods of unbroken eye-contact. This highly sought-after performance underpinned the subsequent release of a 2012 documentary film,Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Presenttracing the sensational impact of the installation. This piece would mark the start of the artist’s rippling effect among a widely diversified and global audience.
She has since exercised a marketing whirlwind by capitalising on her fame by broadcasting several surprising collaborations.
So why is this so important?
Firstly, one must consider the medium in question: ‘performance art’. For many, this art form is considered difficult to classify, and, unlike painting or sculpture, the practice is seldom recognised as a tangible or lucrative commodity. Unlike the majority of more conventional art forms, whereby practitioners’ work can be sold for an agreed sum, human embodiments of performance cannot be collected or stored. One might then ask, if captured artefacts – such as limited edition photographs of a performance – manage to arouse any high stake punts on value at all? Probably not. For any rightful gallery owner, art buyer or straight-laced connoisseur, even a love of the performing arts has traditionally failed to yield long-term investment, and up until this year, performance art has remained obscure, typified by independently funded ventures.
Against these odds, on July 10 2013 performance art was granted a wider, commercial audience. Here, we saw Abramović join Jay-Z in a six-hour performance of his ‘Picasso Baby’ single at a New York gallery (open to public and fans). Arguably, Jay-Z’s encounter with Abramović was meticulously orchestrated. This footage went viral on Vine and various other social media platforms, and later even re-mastered as the self-titled ‘A Performance Art Film’. In higher measure, Lady Gaga recently displayed her naked body as part of a promotional video alongside Abramović. The video was used by Abramović as a means to boost her Marina Abramović Institute Kickstarter campaign. Not surprisingly, the project hit its target of $600,000, three days ahead of schedule.
It is wise to observe these events in terms of popular culture and its mass sway over public consciousness. Jay-Z, considered by many as a rap superstar (not to mention, the weight of his celebrity marriage to Beyoncé), demonstrates both influence and clout among the media, music, and associated industries. Likewise, Lady Gaga now openly fames herself as one of the most iconic pop artists in recent history.
What is actually happening?
The first, is that social media, as a hyper-interactive virtual forum, is in fact driving many of its users apart. Subsequently, consumers can become heavily alienated from a natural or human basis for interaction. More interestingly, users exposed to a high concentration of internet based stimulus may also find themselves desensitised from to a range of emotive responses.
The result: in spite of our ‘highly interactive’ lives – supported by digital means – an inherently primal need for humanistic interaction quietly grows. I believe the growing attraction to more visceral experiences, and correspondingly, to performance stems from here. Public audiences now desire personal connections, both among themselves and with their creative icons. Interactive involvement has grown key to maintaining collective interest in art.
The “Quick-Fix Factor”
When Abramović sat in the MoMA for three months to meet each attendee’s gaze and enable an ‘authentic’ personal connection – it marked a cultural trend.
Ironically, one of the most effective tools for distributing performance art has become the web itself. A viewer’s desire to bridge the gap between themselves and their admired artist by means other than attending a performance itself, is something I like to call the ‘quick fix’ factor. After more than a decade of digital consumption, we as a generation now seek out immediate gratification from interpersonal performance that can be streamed live to our desktops. If a chosen artist does not satisfy this desire, we are quick to move to another that will.
Abramović’s broadcasted collaborations with pop stars Jay-Z and Lady Gaga, demonstrate explicitly the formation of an impatient, and ‘quick fix’ viewer generation. Gone are the days of curating performance art to sensitively illustrate the substance, nuance and complexity of this form.
Likewise, celebrities are recognising their audiences’ desire for a personal connection, demonstrating this in recent rhetoric and performance, mediated by a bank of digital press and media outlets. The big players – Gaga, Madonna and others including Tilda Swinton – have grown “streetwise” (recall David Bowie in his prime) to the incumbent Zeitgeist.
The Abramovic Effect
So “What is “The ‘Abramovic Effect’?” you might ask. It is a paradox within itself. On the one hand, it is the emerging desire to experience personal or sensual moments through performance art. On the other, it is the anonymous, digital medium broadcasting the phenomenon. Not surprisingly, performance art can now be harnessed by media campaigns designed to increase one’s fame. These events have the potential to reinforce impersonal, viral trends. As an artist, the duality of this phenomenon has been an interesting one, both to be admired and questioned.
What does this mean for performance art?
Despite the potentially negative aspects of the commercialising of performance art, it draws an interesting, and more realistically, positive trajectory for this medium in the future as a whole. Given the growth in popularity of ventures such as The Tate Modern Project and PunchDrunk’s The Drowned Manwe begin to see a clear signifier of what society wants, needs and, it seems, where it is actually going.
Performance Art and its various strands (live and life art) as well as digital art are the signs of things to come. For those artists – myself included – there is no better time than now to make a unique and large-scale impact with the medium we are working.
When shaving my head 7 years ago and the thought of using it as a canvas for my art, I never would have expected the organic way it developed, inspired people and the wonderful journey and achievements that have happened during that time.
As you can see I now aim to create more art, evolve my performances, keep developing my thoughts about live and performance art via my blog, and offer my services in doing more talks, workshops and consultancy. Enjoy – www.philsays.com
I had the pleasure to perform my art work ‘Crystalize’ at the Roundhouse in Camden Town, London. For you as a reader to explain the interaction of my work and the intimacy I have with each person when we meet, Amanda Palmer’s TedTalk about the ‘Art of Asking‘ might explain some form of what it is like for me when these connections happen and where my art and other artistic mediums are going. My view is ‘selfish art is dead’ and art now is moving into being collaborative and ‘giving back to others’ and society. I am still thinking a lot about this and in some ways still at the beginning of these thoughts. In the meantime find some images from my performance. Photos by the superb Shadow.
I am very much looking forward to performing at The Roundhouse in Camden Town. Having performed both at Somerset House and the Victoria & Albert Museum in recent years it is pleasing to keep developing my art form in such prestigious venues. I will be showing ‘Crystalized’ from 1-4pm on May 11th as part of The Accidental Festival. Here is a recent image of one of the banners displaying down the main high street promoting the event with the Roundhouse underneath. Can you spot a familiar face on the banner?