Ben Elliot is a self-taught artist born and currently based in Paris whose work revolves around contemporary youth culture, technology, and the organic relationship between the two.
Based off of your own commentary on “tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2”, a lot of your work concerns the relationship between millennials and technology (specifically, social media) as natural and, contrary to normative perspectives, something to be celebrated. With social documentation, you absolve the need for a tangible gallery space as the internet is your place to exhibit. Many contemporary artists use social media as their platform to either cultivate their work or showcase it, such as artist Amalia Ulman who is said to have been the “first Instagram artist”. Do you see your own personal social media as part of your artwork, like Ulman, and regarding the internet as an exhibition space, what do you see in the future for brick and mortar galleries?
Sure, my social media is a part of my work, and more than that, I believe it is a perfect actual nexus to make things combine. I am using it for its elementary utility and as an experience more than a platform to share external works; like being in a trip without end, wearing brands and improving myself. My point is that social networks should be used as a medium and as the finality of the artwork itself.
I really feel like we are building a new kind of social and interactive architecture all together without beginning or end or defined structure, time or consciousness so I do not feel convinced with any attempt of using self-roleplays on social networks. Too many old contemporary art habits are used on these amazing on-going-tools. If you have a new instrument, you should start thinking different. It also seems obsolete to systematically need a shift from the virtual-based works to a physical "final" or "real" product. Instagram is not an exhibition space or any extension to serve a physical artwork, and to justify a fake trendy avant-garde. The classic schema of the physical necessity of art is still too present.
How would you label “tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2”? (I.e. Is it photographic work or performance art?)
I would not label it except maybe into a synthesis of the obsessive and multiple researches on the art/life equation in any kind of cultural disciplines for the past decades. Contemporary youth culture is someway the result of it with all the current interactions that I can see in the opened book that the smartphone is.
It would reduce the project and I think today things are beyond one word and everything is literally intermixed. Let’s say it was something different, and I believe that there is a time lapse between the moment you realize something is new, and the time you get to put a definition or simply words on it. On one hand it was just a party, and on the other hand a lot of fields and questions emerged from it, even beyond the limitation of contemporary art. A meeting point both for the layman and the connoisseur.
Ben Elliot Party, tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2. Photo Yulya Shadrinsky. Courtesy Ben Elliot
There is a clear link between “tbh i dunno if i have feelings”, with installment pieces, and “tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2”, the documentation of a party filled with millennial creatives networking. Both focus on interactivity where it be an interaction with the environmental that leads to a physical manifestation of deterioration or a more communicative interaction among people, either offline or in person. How is “tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2” a second installment of the first outside of the commonality of interaction?
I feel like tbh I dunno if I have feelings 2 was the logical opposite of tbh I dunno if I have feelings 1. First one was like playing with the rules of contemporary art in the exhibition space: artworks, walls, texts, opening, event, etc. A perfect embodied screenplay, sort of. Tbh 2 was literally like the consciousness of contemporary art. After what happens during the last decades — as I previously mentioned about the art/life equation — I couldn’t find a better shape than this event: a flown moment of life powered by the youth, uploading the present to download the future, sharing IRL (in real life) and online at the same time, no space, no time limits. And actually, while you are reading these words some new forms are setting up, unattainable.
All your works, whether be it the subjects or titles, emphasize your contemporary youth culture or millennials. Where does this fascination of your peers, particularly with technology, stem from? Any specific inspiration for your works?
Well my inspiration is definitely the future and the start up of trans-humanism, of the after-human thing and further than that the tiny space we occupy without understand the purpose, but only understanding the concept of purpose we created. What could be more interesting than the people who are now living naturally with a phone in the hand, and uploading their life like a primitive gesture of artificial intelligence. This is happening, the beginning of a new era you are already a part of.
Any future work we can look forward to?
Yes, the launch of the debut season of HONESTY, my Snapchat-based reality show on @WeBuyGold snapchat channel, on November 20th and each Sunday until Christmas. You will follow my past months life decisions and ideas since my party, and me going out of my comfort zone, exploring in live new horizons to engage 2017. Then Tbh 3 and another publication/show should be ready in the beginning of 2017 too.