Today begins a series of "interviews". I have sent the same questions to several people of varying stripes. Each month on the 13th, a new interview will appear here for at least three years of the foreseeable future. Unless people have been sharing/sneaking the questions amongst eachother, no one will see anyone else's answers until they are published. From February 13th to March 13th, numerous people were sent these questions, unbeknownst to eachother. I have stopped collecting answers and scheduling posts on March 13th, 2019.
Bryan Lewis Saunders is an artist (and former performance artist) who is probably best known for his self-portraits that he created while ingesting various different drugs. He's done a self-portrait per day for several years, under various circumstances. He was also known for his "Stand Up Tragedy" performances, where he worked out some particularly traumatic experiences, and in some cases, subjected himself to devices of torture, and "made strangers cry". He has collaborated with Z'ev, Hal McGee, Kommisar Hjuler und Frau, and myself, among others. Particularly notable is his twelve cassette set of dream speech collaborations, The Confessor, featuring his own dream speech, and the involvement of Joke Lanz, Leif Elggren, C.M. Von Hauswolff, Requiem, and many others. More recently, Saunders has done lectures, been the subject of a documentary, and has been doing a series of works under the influence of deafness and blindness. I've also known him to collect found photos from a dumpster behind a foot doctor's office. I think it would be adequate to call him an outsider artist, but also a kind and wildly talented person.
1. What types of things have you been getting into lately?
I’ve been freezing and burning myself in the bathtub. Lol. Seriously though, I’ve been doing extreme temperature drawing experiments and looking into thermoregulation and thermoreception and how these experiences with temperature influence my self perception.
2. What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?
It is not a hobby but I’m not a traditional gallery type of artist either. I guess it depends on your definition of artist.
3. How would you describe what you do?
I draw myself every day and experiment with life and art in order to make knowledge visible. I use art to advance my life, improve my health and gain a better understanding of myself. So for example, I know alcohol thins our blood and an ice bath constricts the blood vessels to conserve heat, so today I’m going to draw half of my body sober in an ice bath in order to compare and contrast that image to yesterday’s half of a drawing from the ice bath where I had a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .16. I’m basically looking for similarities and differences. Patterns and novel perceptions.
4. How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
First I used daily-self-portraiture to increase my drawing skills. Then I used it to counteract boredom and purge unwanted feelings like anger and anxiety. Then I used it to face my fears and to try and grow feelings. Then I discovered even more tools and practical utilitarian uses for it so now I am doing all of those things as needed but I’m also trying to hyper-sensitize myself by using them with sensory experiments.
5. How would you describe your philosophy?
Art is advancement and the way that we advance is by facing challenges and overcoming them. So I’m using art to create challenges and survive and move forward.
6. Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?
No. Not while I’m mentally well.
7. What would you say was your most definitive experience?
Prison, college, mental hospital, group home… These institutional environments all seem to have had a large and somewhat equal influence on the course of my life. Even more than the near death experiences.
8. Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
I have retired from performing to focus on drawing. Did you know that? I started publishing a journal “Just Noticeable Difference” to start sharing my sensory and art experiments. They are kind of like a cross between imaginary exhibition catalogs and my art journal.
Not sure. People can ask me anything.
9. Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?
I think Erratum in Paris is consistently putting out high quality music that heals. If I had to pick only one Erratum release I would go with the “New Crium Delirium Erratum Coyote Circus” LP.
That said, both Dave Philips and L'Autopsie A Révélé Que La Mort Était Due A L'Autopsie consistently release masterpieces as well. If I knew I was going to be on an island I would probably go with L'Autopsie A Révélé because I often use their albums at low volumes to cure my migraine headaches.
10. What is the earliest childhood memory you can recall?
Being a paralyzed infant and seeing a round man’s face going “wa wa wa wa wa wa…” bouncing in and out of my personal space. It is as if I was crying and my father forced me to breathe gasoline in order to stop. I call it the Wa Wa Man. Might just be my imagination though but I’ll never forget it.
11. Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws? To what extent?
We should not be the sum of our worst deeds. I think we should weigh the good along with the bad and go from there individually.
12. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Who are they?
Tehching Hsieh, John Duncan, Morgan O’hara, Carolee Schneemann, Chris Burden and Linda Montano to name a few. And all of the people that dedicate their entire lives to study.
13. What would you like to have on your epitaph? Or what is your favorite quote?
No idea but I thought of a good one yesterday. “Don’t make art for wealthy people. Make art for the youth. It’s the kids and young people that are the most important and valuable audience of all.”