|Photo By Shahram Farshadfar|
Ten Questions For Uber-Artist Brother Andy
Illustrious luminary, Brother Andy, answers ten questions most frequently posed to him. The provocative film-maker, fine artist, photographer, interior designer, outrageous fashionista and leading figure in the Intriguism Art Movement is sure to shock and surprise. As always, expect the unexpected…
1. Why are you referred to as “Brother”?
A. A few years ago, several artists gathered at a home for an informal salon. A woman said to me, “Isn’t it a shame so many artists feel competitive toward one another, when we really should be sharing our experiences as a group, which would make the individuals of the union stronger?” I immediately remembered Marcel Duchamp referring to “the religion of art” and the “group-think” he fought against. I replied to the woman in a snarky manner, “Artists – Intriguists in particular -- could call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ as a reminder to stay humble and to tag who is ‘in the know’.” The off-handed suggestion was a way for artists to be separatists and elitists at once – a concept the art world loves. From that moment on, the nickname “Brother” stuck, especially to someone (me) who doesn’t have tattoos, no piercings, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t take drugs, or even eats red meat, although I do continually swear like a sex-obsessed sailor on shore leave.
Shortly thereafter, Lady Gaga came on to the world scene, billing herself as a performance artist, which gave credibility in my choice of a “brand” name. I also loved the nickname because of reverence for the legendary performance artist Brother Theodore, who deserves homage for his ground-breaking contributions. The name made sense in context of other performed fictional characters like Dame Edna, played by Barry Humphries, who is no lady and who isn’t sanctified for the title, but who is an internationally multi-media “star” on the character’s own terms, as is Pee Wee Herman or Elvira. Comedian Roseann’s “Domestic Goddess” routine was of the same genre, as was “Father Guido Sarducci”. Whoopi Goldberg’s real name is Karen Johnson. Creating personas is primarily social commentary and social satire -- a joke -- and either you get it or you don’t. Characters are a specific high concept art form. Labeling helps streamline memorable packaging which, in turn, helps get the message across.
There are those who are now taking the notion further by referring to me as “Your Grace”.
2. Aren’t you afraid of repercussions from “devout followers of religious faith” who may be offended by the controversial religious intonations of your personae and the provocative themes of your art?
A: I can’t second-guess who will be offended by what. That’s not my job. If I weren’t offending someone, a majority of time, I’d be more afraid I wasn’t saying anything of value. There’s an old adage: if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. As an artist, I deal in fear, doubt, guilt and shame – within myself and in others. There would be something amiss if the reaction wasn’t repulsion to parts of my work because a percentage of it is -- by definition and by intent -- revolting, particularly to anyone with any kind of normal sensitivity, even within myself. In that vein, nervous laughter or an insult or anger is a valid reaction, as are awe or fascination or intrigue in other situations. Francis Bacon made really beautiful ugly art. Picasso and Mapplethorpe and Arbus and Allen Ginsberg -- all made gorgeous pornography. Both Michelangelo and Da Vinci were considered heretics within their time. Today’s “smut” is tomorrow’s “genius”. I can’t pay any more attention to “hate” than to the disproportionate about of “love” bestowed every day, every hour.
When you push buttons, you’ll get responses. The result is controversy, a discussion, risk-taking, living with the consequences of an honest life, but hopefully in a dignified manner. Every great artist in history, with any insight whatsoever, was considered anti-social, their work viewed as pornographic or deranged, at one point or another, and the greatness comes from rising above the fray, keeping an eye toward the commonality in human experiences. Apathy is the kiss of death to an artist and their work. I work too hard at revelation to be dismissed or ignored as a fringe lunatic or a flashy wanna-be. I would hope to be just as sacrilegious, strange, and dirty as the best of them, not simply contrary for the sake of being contrary.
I believe many contemporary artists – like Baldasari and Banksy -- are con-artists, perhaps clever at best but not intellectual whatsoever. Their work seems to say, “You’re an idiot and I’m going to take advantage of your lacking knowledge of art…” When I do comedy, I don’t work “blue” as much as I could because crude vulgarity doesn’t spark the imagination and it is empty anger to no real end. The effect wears thin quickly. Yet confrontation is a necessary tool of the trade, especially to authority like politics and religion. Remember: ideas don’t kill people – ignorance kills people. Knowing how far to go is always a matter of going too far. You know when you’ve pissed off the right people when you find yourself in jail. George Carlin knew. Lenny Bruce knew.
We also live in a time when any publicity is considered good publicity, principally if negative in theme on “social media”. Howard Stern has made a lucrative career of being hated, yet, he dares to do what many in media do not do – chew on a kind of personal truth, which is a respectful endeavor, no matter how difficult to digest. What he does is “anti-art performance art” – an “unpopular populist”, so to speak, the opposite of Oprah and Ellen, who are commercial artists telling people what they want to hear, what they already know. There’s a place for both approaches, opposite ends of a spectrum.
Media regurgitates cultural mythology in an endless loop. Freedom of speech, expressions outside the boundaries of “good taste”, is essential for evolution, yet “bad taste” is not always easy to swallow. Accepting diversity, which is necessary for adaptation, counters the core of natural selection which eliminates what doesn’t work, meaning: the field of conceptualists is self-regulating by timing and pragmatic application. There should be no shame in being disliked, although most people intrinsically fear being shunned. I’ve experienced standing ovations and being booed off stage by a thousand people. The struggle for acceptance and understanding of the positive and negative reactions to being cast as an uncensored celebrity is easier for me than for those who are the closest to me. It’s my job and not theirs’. Who wouldn’t be concerned for their well-being?
Like Stern, I wear the badges of “outsider” and “provocateur” with pride. The pervasive irony of my personae is being iconoclastic while simultaneously playing the role of an icon, reminiscent of the late David Bowie.
The question is laced with an unspoken truth about religion: it’s irrational. “Faith” is antiquated and the sooner we move on to ration and reason, the sooner we can deliver food, water and shelter to everyone on the planet, move on to meaningful education, and stop hanging responsibility of our destiny on an invisible fairy-tale being. Hoping, wishing, dreaming and praying doesn’t make things happen. Action does. The saying, “religion is Pablum for the masses”, pretty much sums it up. People stupid enough to believe bull crap “spirituality” mumbo-jumbo aren’t clever enough to stop me and killing me will not stop the message. The obvious example of how killing to stop ideas doesn’t work is the story of Jesus Himself, not to mention Martin Luther King or even imprisoning the Marquis De Sade.
The time to turn “political correctness” around on oppressors is long over-due, since most cultural mythology is “tradition” which hinders growth as well. End empowering ignorance by turning a blind eye, take responsibility, and no longer tolerate the intolerant, those who insist religious belief has value, when, in fact, religion is bad for the economy (cease tax exemptions), segregates communities, stands in the way of much-needed intellectual progress, and is opposite in behavior everything it pretends to be in principle (i.e. hypocritical, judgmental, exclusionary, bigoted and vindictive, to name just a few). There is a difference between amoral and immoral and organized religion (as is politics) is dangerous by design by confusing the two. Nothing good has ever come from doing anything in the name of the Lord.
The current Pope has the right idea. Put religion back into “The People Business” or, better yet, get out of the business altogether. Just to be clear: yes, I am anti-religious and my agenda is to promote the alternative to religion, which is common sense. If logic is offensive, then color me obnoxious.
3. Why do you wear skirts and odd outfits?
A: It’s a graphic statement, a visual warning sign to others that I am most assuredly not “traditional”. I don’t waste time with people who don’t “get me”, trying to communicate when the discussion is over before it begins. The skirts service to instantly weed out those who are profound haters. The affront from those who “protest too much” has more to do with them than it does with me, as a person or as an artist. My “act” is not for everyone and I’m okay with that. You don’t like me? Fine. Ignore me. Assume whatever you’d like about me and it’s probably at least partially true. I’ll own it. As far as I know, a skirt has never hurt anyone. Get a sense of humor, already. Guess what? Any minute I might choose to wear nothing at all. Deal with it. I’m an educator but, ultimately, I’m an entertainer and dress the part.
As an educator, I push through cultural resistance to reconfirm what wise Martin Luther King suggested: judging people on their character -- not race, gender, age, sexual orientation, financial accomplishments or lack thereof. My identity isn’t contingent on one hair style or one hair color, fashion trends, as sundry success or failure models. I am myself – rich or poor, clothed or naked, popular or not, and, contrary to the opinion of some, I’m perfectly happy not having expectations of being happy. Righteous indignation works best for me, not passive contentment with life as an “as is” proposition.
I am offended as a feminist when someone suggests that a man being “woman-like” or womanly or effeminate is somehow a detriment or anti-man or anti-Creationism or “gay-ish”. Clothing does not make the man, at least, not in this case, yet, pants on a woman certainly brought women into the fold. We should rejoice in diversity and full-spectrum expression of self as part of human evolution, casting off the tyranny of prejudice. An article of clothing – or lack of clothing – shouldn’t represent anything other than minor, minimal face value.
The on-going, absurd, repressive, Victorian fear of “debauchery” leading to another fall of the Roman Empire is groundless, not to mention historically inaccurate. Machismo, sexism, and misogyny aren’t fun and, furthermore, they are impractical attitudes in a global economy wherein codifying diversity is a coveted asset. Sticking to rigid gender roles is simply too boring to be taken seriously. Life is too short.
If only a man putting on a dress could have the power to change the course of human events…
4. Why is there so much nudity and sexuality in your work?
A: I resent the intonation of the question, as if there is something WRONG with being sexual or naked. The question should be: why is what I do, say, feel, want, or need so damned important to others for others to care – whether sexual or naked?
From what I know of life, the conclusion I’ve made: you can’t express yourself until you have self-actualized your own body, meaning stripping away the social confines of clothing which imply restrictive gender roles and ludicrous social status and understand humans are sexual beings. The hippies knew this. Nudists prove it. Look no further than women who are made to wear burkas in Third World countries. Forced clothing subjugates the person, objectifies them. School uniforms negate what school is for – to teach how to think as an individual. “Clothing optional” is about choice and choice is the very essence of freedom.
I’ll go further: until women question why they wear the makeup they do, in that fashion, they will not make the same money as men or be treated with the respect they should inherently have. Why would anyone want glossy blood-red lips – especially in a work place where being “pretty” isn’t in the job description? Simply put: you can’t exemplify self-loathing under the guise of “beauty” (i.e. “breeding material”) and expect to be seen as “who you really are” as an equal to someone else who doesn’t have to spend one second of thought on their appearance. Cast aside double-messages and perhaps your message will be heard clearly. Throw away high-heeled shoes and put your feet on the ground where they belong.
We are sexual beings, each and every person, designed to reproduce. Sexuality is the core to the “human condition” and all cultures (sexual politics) and all philosophy (morality) and all dynamics in all relationships and in all the traditional labels of self which start in the womb with gender assignment. The culture is moving away from sexuality and reproduction being one and the same because technology has separated them, which leads to a paradigm shift in philosophical purpose/meaning. The Farming Age and Industrial Age needed workers – quantity for life. The Information Age requires less people – quality of life.
Even The Bible retreads the tired “Boy Meets Girl” scenario. Nothing is new. The current variation is: “Boy Meets Girl Who Was Born A Boy But Always Knew He/She Was Really A Girl Inside”. That’s progress for ya.
I’ve been a nudist since birth. It’s what I know, as comfortable with nudity and sexuality in my work as Woody Allen is with representations of New York City in his work. I like sex and I like to watch people having sex. Sue me.
5. You are known to be highly-opinionated. Is that a fair description?
A: “Opinionated” is just the beginning. “Opinionated” connotes you are closed off to opposing ideas, that you are dogmatic, obstinate, suffer from a hindering negative personality trait. The word imbues a not-so-hidden distaste for others, as though being judgmental and opinionated are synonymous. The assumption is that being opinionated means you tell others how to live outside your authority (yet, you best teach by example). As an artist of forty-plus years, I will espouse as much authority as one is willing to give me to influence thinking, but, again, to share and inspire is a long way from being a megalomaniac monster.
However, to be a writer, director, actor or artist, one has to start with a committed idea which the artist deduces will achieve envisioned goals, which is then invested with time, money, materials, effort and so forth. If you don’t value your ideas, how can you motivate others into action (and develop trust), specifically when you are alone in your vision unless through the enforcement of sheer will? Good ideas are a statistical phenomenon. Sometimes an idea has to be implemented before discovering it is “bad”. Failure, as Edison said, is as valuable as success in many instances, because you’re developing a criteria. Far better to try and fail, than to keep cycling through what you know and getting the same poor results.
Film is a collaborative effort which requires a division of tasks. Ultimately, someone has to make the decisions, take the bottom-line responsibility, and I am extremely comfortable taking on that role. My opinions are the key to planning and execution. Self-doubt is the enemy. Being labeled “opinionated” is the criticism of those who do not comprehend the thousands of problem-solving edicts which go into making art. Artists do not turn on opinions in the studio and leave them turned off at the entrance before venturing into the world, any more than non-artists would go into a studio and suddenly become open-minded to processes beyond their normal sphere of knowledge.
My world-view comes from decades of self-reflection and study, a life-time of trial-and-error experience. You can’t have it both ways – keeping it to yourself and giving it away to the world. Yet, all of this doesn’t damper the expectation of angry villagers with torches storming through the door at any minute.
6. You’ve done a wide range of projects – interior design, photography, writing, make-up, acting – to name a few. What are you most proud of?
A: “Jesus Chimp” combines both concepts of evolution and Creationism in a historically new digital media format -- a pretty significant accomplish for a simple image. The intense music video “The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” gives an insight into what someone with Asperberger’s Syndrome might experience -- how people with cognitive conditions might see the world. “The Invisibles” conceptual art outlines everything that is both good and bad about the nature of “art” – in quotes -- as we presently understand it. “The Social” short film exemplifies the Intriguism retro-futurism methodology pretty well. Knowing lives have been effected in a positive way by the Intriguism projects, from the work as a whole and from the process of creating the work is an accomplishment of merit. Sometimes asking the right question is more enlightening than assuming/accepting which answer is correct. I’m proud to be a unique critical-thinker, despite the culture I live in, the education system I was subjected to and the up-bring I’ve experienced. I’m most proud of the love given to me from someone who sees me as worthy of that love.
7. What’s your process as an auteur film-maker?
A: My films are experiments. Each project has a goal – whether lighting, dialogue, toying with narrative or concentrating on acting techniques. Most are satires, overtly or subtly. The films tend to be a diary of where I was at as a person and as an artist at the time. Frankly, I’ve been making films for so long, the process has become a lifestyle, second-nature, and, despite the massive amounts of man-hours, not as much thought goes into it as one might imagine.
Like all artists, I am constantly on the prowl for materials to use, whether it’s a snippet of dialogue from a conversation, the way light plays off leaves on a tree on a windy day, or acquiring equipment which will affect the outcome of the film overall such as when to implement a dolly. My films are an amalgamation of every damned movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve literally seen thousands of them. Bad artists steal and fake invention. Great artists are blatant about their thefts and will give credit to those they have robbed by calling it a “homage” so they don’t get sued.
The bottom line is I play dress-up. Anything to that end is what I will do. The films are just an expensive, complicated, lame excuse.
8. You have so many facets to your character. How would you describe yourself?
A: A paradox… A high-energy visionary conceptualist… An extroverted introvert… I can put on a show in front of thousands or talk one-on-one, but put me in front of seven people at a party and I’ve got nothing to contribute. Small talk is a talent I just don’t have, along with math and window cleaning.
Most people see their identity through what they do, what they have, their friends and family, their appearance. Most people have a self-image which reflects how they feel about themselves, like a fixed place on a map. I don’t have that. My free-form identity isn’t predicated on gender, race, age, appearance. I am more of a psychic vibration that fills spaces, rather than a set of predictable personality traits or physical attributes.
Imagine having a life in which every time you showed up the reaction from others was, “Oh, I didn’t recognize you…” Imagine starring in a movie, being in ninety percent of the scenes, and even your own mother can’t pick you out of the film. Imagine having a photographic mind in which you were the camera, looking out at the world, and not being part of the subject of the image, always once removed.
It took me until I was twenty-five years old to realize the difference between having a sense of humor and sense of humus. I kept looking for collective moisture when I should have been memorizing jokes.
9. What is the biggest misconception others have about you?
Similar to the common myths of most artists – that I’m some kind of “mad genius”, crazy and moody… That I intentionally seek negative attention and feed off of it… That without a striking financial gain (i.e. rich and famous), my work is not valuable.
Artists are often thought of as “childish”, when, in fact, they are more likely to be “child-like”. Maturity is over-rated. …That all this pretty isn’t necessarily natural. That I’m a flagrant, flamboyant cross-dresser. Okay, that one might be true. That I’m a hypocrite and a bigot and self-centered and a chronic liar and… This is why I have a therapist on speed-dial.
10. What is your ultimate goal?
To complete the multi-million dollar multi-media Brother Andy’s Goldshield Castle resident/commercial project in San Diego, California, which will be a historically accurate depiction of life from 1350 to 1550. To build an extensive library of work with some artistic merit and financial value, which can be used as raw materials for future generations. To portray women, gays, blacks and artists in my work in a way that inspires acceptance and compassion. To teach critical thinking, problem-solving. To redefine how we see ourselves, starting with self-actualization (the awareness of the experience we are having) and address the fear, doubt, guilt and shame that enslaves us. The goal of every artist, just as with every human being, is purpose, meaning and relevance.
To make world history is possible and needed as a tool. Again, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Jesus are celebrities, no different than Elvis or Madonna. Santa Clause is treated as though real because the culture needs role models to emulate, even if conceptualized, just as children play with dolls to act out role-playing. By using me as a social experiment, fundamentals can be discovered and worked out in a safe way, then applied to the real-world situations. The goal is to be more like my idol, Marcel Duchamp, who, in my estimation, was more influential on the human race than was Jesus Christ because he changed the way people thought, how people thought, without dictating the subject of what to think about – and he not only did this once, he did it multiple times in multiple ways.
Selfishly, I want to live in a world that is free and peaceful, to seek what there is, and to participate wholly without reservation. The objective is to release the anger of what man has done to himself (the past), forgive myself for the human frailties I have (the present), and pause to think before doing more of the same (the future). I am grateful for the opportunity to know others, to be part of their story, satisfied in having been known.
Another irony: I kind of need to be left alone, steeped in solitary down-time, in order to talk to the whole of the world, to the generations yet to be, and I need staffs of dedicated people to accomplish this.