Outside Inspiration: Man Bartlett
People (you know “people”) observe that we are always performing — especially artists . . . especially in this information-overload time in history. With everyone performing and projecting certain images of themselves, it is difficult to know people. The $cary art world establishment often forces an artist to perform and capture a false but marketable narrative of the misunderstood artistic genius. (William Powhida provides an entertaining response to this phenomenon.)
But then there are performance artists that are able to use performance art to engage and to open up to people (even those “people”). Man Bartlett is one of those artists. His performance pieces are staged conversations (often with Twitter) to highlight how we communicate. He is interacting, he is having fun, he is exploring a captivating narrative, and he is avoiding false narratives.
He has archived some of his more successful pieces on his website: http://manbartlett.com/ Man also creates delicate drawings and playful collages, and he is a regular contributor to the art blog Hyperallergic. Needless to say, he is an artistic spirit who we should learn more about.
Thedetroiter: When did you start creating art?
As early as I can remember. My first love was acting. By the time I was 12 I had done a handful of commercials, and my degree is in Theatre Studies. It wasn’t until my mid-20′s when I started making visual art consistently.
Thedetroiter: What or who inspires you?
I try to view everything, equally, as a potential source for inspiration. This saves me from a hierarchical structure of how cultural value is determined. That said, I see a lot of art in galleries, museums and venues. Almost all of it is inspiring. And music is often another driving force.
Thedetroiter: Does beauty play a role in your art?
Yes. I want my work to have a certain internal resolution but I am also seeking a level of cognitive dissonance. I’m a sucker for beauty, but prefer integrity over all.
Thedetroiter: How does social media influence your art?
Sometimes it IS my art. But when it’s not, the connections I’ve made on social media offer a near endless stream of influences. Or even just lists of shows I need to go see. This in turn changes what I think about when the devices are off and I’m thinking and/or creating.
Thedetroiter: What is your process?
I’m a full time artist, and to some degree my process is my life. This takes many forms, of course. One form is remaining as open as I can to new modes of thought. Another is showing gratitude. Lastly its allowing the “expression” to be born in whatever form it needs to be born in. Be it collage, drawing, performance, photograph, etc.
Thedetroiter: What are you working on right now?
A project called “$” (pronounced “Money”). Basically I’m tracking all of my financial transactions in a Google Doc and making them public for anyone to see online: http://bit.ly/OccupyDoc. I’m also working on new collages and drawings.
Thedetroiter: How has your art career changed over the past five years?
Well. I *have* an art career now! Five years ago was my very first show. It was at a little storefront that doubled as a shared studio space, way up on the north side of Chicago. Moving to New York in 2008 was life-changing, but I spent most of 2009 traveling around the world after I was laid off from the job that got me there. When I got back in September 2009 my career took off pretty quickly I suppose. And I haven’t looked back. Except for just then.
Thedetroiter: Do you have any mentors?
At various points in my life I’ve looked up to different people: My dad, my mom, lovers, a small group of other artists. The lovers in particular have taught me invaluable lessons.
Thedetroiter: How do you define success?
Some days it’s material, but more often than not it’s a shifting target that has more to do with an internal satisfaction. This satisfaction is a result of my relationship to desire. When I’m practicing non-attachment to desire, I’m successful. And this is regardless of what I “have” or “don’t have.”
Thedetroiter: How do you juggle your different artistic disciplines?
The disciplines juggle me. Constantly. And I do my best to listen.
Thedetroiter: How is Brooklyn conducive to making a living as an artist?
It’s a combination of numbers (there are a LOT of artists in Brooklyn), and there’s also a certain drive that a lot of artists here have. Some would call it the rat race, others would say we’re just dedicated. And along with the numbers of artists comes galleries, institutions, museums etc. that increase the potential to make a living from it.
Thedetroiter: Why do you write about art?
Usually to help me understand it better, sometimes to keep me busy, sometimes to hear/develop my own voice, occasionally to make a point.
Thedetroiter: What do you look for when viewing new artwork?
I look for art that fills a space inside me that hasn’t been filled before.
Thedetroiter: How can Detroit attract artists like you?
There’s a time and a place for every artist. Nothing against Detroit or any other city, but my hands are currently pretty full in New York. That said if there was a residency program for social-media based performance artists…I’d be there in a heartbeat!