Self-educated Parisian artist, Ben Elliot, has a particular fascination with human interaction. Being born in 1994, he's part of an age group that increasingly doesn't remember what life without high-speed internet looked like, which obviously shapes how he and his peers interact with each other as well as those that fall outside their digi-literate demographic.
His latest work, tbh i dunno if i have feelings 2, explores promotion, a particular form of interaction. His process involved throwing a party, which he framed as an artwork. 500 or so hyped Parisian millennials from the vaguely defined "creative fields" and their friends were invited to this party, and photographed as they interacted.
This may look no different to the photos your friends upload to Facebook from their nights out, and some may question the artistic merit of the project, so we spoke to Ben Elliot to find out more about it.
Talk us through your reasoning behind this project. What inspired it? Why this form?
I did this party as an artwork to highlight something called "promotion." I wanted to promote and share myself and my ideas and directly without using any object. Promotion for promotion, as an art form in itself.
I had to gather people from different areas and a party was the ideal point. I am inspired by all kind of interactions: social media, reality TV, artificial intelligence, brain and body, technology, robot etc. They are all linked to the dematerialized and interactive world that we live in.
And how are you going to display them?
The pictures were done for press purposes. I like to think that I can use the media as an exhibition space, instead of regular galleries. The media can choose the way that they like to make the images match with their platform. In the end the images can look so different depending on the identity of the magazine. You can do your own selection, related to what your audience wants. No rules. Feel free. And that is basically what viral means. You have no control over where and how your images will end up looking.
Was there a process behind choosing which photos you are going to use or display? Did you look for certain visual qualities or are you going to use all the photos taken?
No process. The only quality I was looking for was HD. Again, I have no control over that, that was a part of the plan: no limit of display, no visual rules, some on Snapchat, some on Instagram, others on an online magazine, others in print.
You've said that "this experience aims at displaying the importance of partying, networking, and more generally socializing, within the millennial context" – what makes these things so important to millennials, in your opinion?
People from my generation are always balancing between the online and offline life, we are a new kind of human, socializing in a fresh new way. With the word "importance" I am more talking about something that is obvious to show, to be conscious that these issues that you think are from tomorrow already exist. I mean, my iPhone is a part of my body and my soul and I want to celebrate this naturalness.
Maybe my interpretation is incorrect, and correct me if it is, but does that mean you think that all of these things matter to millennials more than other generations?
Not at all. I was just focusing on my generation who is socializing differently than others, closer to the A.I. pattern. Of course everybody is partying, networking, socializing, interacting at their own level. This is one of the major characteristics of the human being or any kind of body.
Networking within "creative" fields is no doubt important, but going from my own experiences I find that a lot of people that might lack in talent hide behind this as a way of making a name for themselves within the arts – getting by on favors and likability rather than the quality of their work, and ultimately bringing the standard of culture down as a whole. Would you agree or disagree?
I guess both, agree and disagree. Most people have no talent, some have skills and others have the talent of making a name, which is itself a talent. What is interesting here is the fact that people seem to have a big issue with people making themselves a name out of "nothing." This was one basis of the project.
If you look at Gucci Gang [a group of four girls with a large amount of followers in Paris], a lot of people criticize them as if they aren't doing anything. But they are 15 years old, they do interviews, shoots, they did their first DJ set at my party, they organize and take care of their social media accounts and friendship group like few do. While they're doing all this, other people are just passing comment and not doing anything themselves.
But on another level, some people think that the Kardashians are bringing the standard of culture down, but actually they are the culture.
What is, in your opinion, the difference between these photos and ones people would take in a club on a night out? Is there something in yours that makes them intrinsically more artistic or are all club Instagram videos worthy of being considered art?
Three's no difference except that they are from my party and inherent to the person who took it. These photos are a part of the artwork and all other pictures or videos made by the people who attended that night are a part of it too. It just deepens depending on how you interpret it. If you are saying it's art then no doubt it is.
For more of Ben's work, check out his official site.