Maxwell Barna speaks with PINS about his solo exhibition, #NoFaceLikePhone, opening tomorrow at Gallery Different in London.
Street art is one of the lucky artistic mediums that not only gets to walk the fine line between art and politics, but practically gets to river dance on it. While other mediums tend to shy away from the political spectrum, street artists find inspiration in it.
Shepard Fairey, BANKSY, JR, Blu, KAWS, Nick Walker and a paint-spattered plethora of others have found attentive audiences for their creative prowess, while also using the medium to convey their opinions about politics, humanity, the economy, war and other sometimes frowned upon topics.
PINS is no exception to the rule. While his art frequently deals in the business of whimsy and, well, business (he’s worked with brands/individuals like Urban Outfitters, Mariah Carey, Clarks and Cheryl Cole, to name a quick few), his art frequently makes political statements.
#NoFaceLikePhone, PINS’s third solo exhibition in London but his first ever independent endeavor, opens tomorrow and runs through until October 26 at Gallery Different in London. Its focus will be on our devotion to our phones and the culture of tech obsession, and will aim to answer the question: how honest and real are our social experiences and connections when our attention is so divided?
PINS was kind enough to sit down for a little bit and answer some of my questions about the exhibit, what it means to him and what he learned while putting it all together.
Hey PINS! First of all, congrats on the independent solo exhibition—that’s a pretty incredible step forward for you! Why is this exhibition important to the world and society right now?
Thanks, mate! The exhibition is important to the world and society as we are becoming more and more disconnected from each other on a personal level, from my observation. I feel the uncontrolled overload of information bombarding us on a daily basis through various media channels, emails and messaging services can be overwhelming at times.
I have this saying, “be less available and more able” which basically means find a way to filter out the incoming bullshit and focus more on the positive elements. So, not being responsive to every notification you get every single minute, unless it’s something that’s super important. For me, it’s simply a case of having a mindful balance of how we use our devices.
There’s a careful relationship between art and politics, and I think an exhibition like #NoFaceLikePhone is a perfect example of how the two can intertwine to present something visually engaging and socially provocative.
When creating the work, did you find it difficult to tread the line between one and the other?
Not at all, I simply created what I observed around me, and if that meant reflecting more of the truth, then so be it. That’s why art is so important when delivering your message.
Would you say this is the most political you’ve gone with your work?
Well it’s my first independent show addressing a social objective, yes, but you could say my very first political-artistic statement was in Brixton (a vibrant multicultural borough in south London) with a social media campaign #SaveBrixtonArches, using street art as a means of raising awareness of Network Rails’ (UK train company) eviction of independent traders and small businesses in the Arches, tripling the rents and totally erasing the true character of Brixton.
I managed to rally up various street artists to get involved in the hope of raising awareness for the cause, which gained widespread coverage across media channels, and although may not have totally prevented the shutdown of the Arches, we made some serious noise.
Your art is usually super vibrant and colorful, and it doesn’t look like your stuff for #NoFaceLikePhone is any different. How did you feel about melding such a vibrant, colorful and whimsical style of work with such a serious and even depressing topic? Is it something you considered before you started creating the work for it?
I think it works perfectly. The vibrancy brings you in, and the seriousness keeps you in, making the viewer think and question the real issue, even if they don’t want to.
In a world where grabbing your attention for even one second seems to be crazy difficult, I try to make work that grabs you, holds you and delivers a message. Ultimately, that’s all I’m trying to do—have a real conversation in a cool way.
I read somewhere that since delving into this project, you’ve become more conscious of just how much you use your phone, and that you’ll actually go offline for a while just to regain a sense of control.
Can you talk about what’s going on in your head right before you decide to go offline? Mentally, what’s the threshold you have to reach before you’re like, “Ok yeah, fuck it—I’m tuning out for a bit”?
Self-awareness is key. I’ve reached this point through various personal experiences, so when I feel like I’m at full capacity (which is most of the time being a creative) certain times I just zone out and literally go silent to clear my mind.
The turbulence from the influx of information, people demanding your time or general overthinking on ideas can be a bit much all at once. Balance is key.
You’ve also said you’re hoping this will raise some awareness with people about how much time we’re spending on our phones, but what kind of lesson do you want this exhibition to teach? What do you want people to walk away from this with?
I feel like the aim of the exhibition is not to teach, but more to raise awareness of personal phone use, with an aim to actively reconnect the disconnected, in part.
I’m simply putting out my observations on what I see, in my own way. People can take what they want from it, or just leave it as is, as ultimately we do what we want anyway.
I only have one point of contention here, and it’s that you’re releasing an exhibition that’s trying to raise awareness about how much time people spend looking at their phones, but you’re encouraging people to post about it on social media using the #NoFaceLikePhone hashtag. How do you reconcile the divergence from your exhibition’s message?
I was waiting for this one! OK, so how do you get the attention of the general public to help raise awareness of too much phone use? By using the very thing they’re comfortable using—their phones.
The platform is there, it’s how you use the platform to inform that matters most. By people sharing the hashtag, they’ll actively be using their phones yes, but they would be sharing something which would hopefully question, even in small part, their own phone use and phone culture in general.
For more information on PINS and the #NoFaceLikePhone exhibition, visit the PINSpired homepage.
For more art content, check out our highlights from Frieze 2016.
- Lead image: PINSpired