Interview with Artist Brad Phillips

This is the third in a series of 11 artist interviews I conducted in 2014 titled “a new space; artists and social media”. You can learn more about this academic research project at Phillips is a visual artist based in Toronto, Canada. Noted for his presence on social media, Phillips participated in my project due to having “definite” opinions on other artists using social media. His presence is tied to his artistic process of documenting his own life autobiographically and problematizes it by manipulation. He presents an idea, a persona of a male artist that emphasizes the cliches and leaves out the “boring shit”.

  • Brad Phillips

    yeah go wild dude
  • Chris Healey

    woo! ok, here we go… (i’ve never done a Facebook chat interview)… Hi Brad, thank you very much agreeing to be interviewed about social media art. You are currently located in Toronto?
  • Brad Phillips

    yeah I’ve been back in Toronto for a year this week, after ten years in vancouver
  • Chris Healey

    Welcome back – you grew up in the east end of the city I gather. First, can you tell me a bit about what kind issues your practice addresses? I’ve been enjoying your paintings very much on your website.
  • Brad Phillips

    I grew up in scarborough and then moved to pickering when I was 12. so from one sort of soulcrushing environment, highrises, concrete, then pickering, very near to the nuclear power plant, cookie cutter suburban homes.
    so for one, i’m pretty averse to the word ”practice’
  • Brad Phillips

    I just spoke about that in a lecutre
    for me it’s my work
    practice is for laywers and doctors to avoid lawsuits
    but my work I guess
    i go mostly on intuition you know
    but has been involved with documenting my own life
    also how that can be manipulated
    how memoir is a kind of fiction
    so I’ve presented an ‘idea’ or a persona of a male artist
    mentally ill
    all the old cliches
    but i am earnestly interested in using paintings to document my life, in the hopes of connecting to other people
    i’m primarily influenced by photography and literature, not art
  • Chris Healey

    the soul crushing burbs of our youth seem to define many artists these days, myself included. your work is then a kind of fictionalized character built on your actual life? (I never used the word “practice” until I worked at CA, and thought I better say that from now cause these people seem really intense and serious about it)
  • Brad Phillips

    well practice is something that’s primarily used by people who want to be able to fail and not be liable (surgeons etc) – whereas bad art isn’t going to kill anyone. i think 12 or 13 years ago when i started showing, my desire to create images that were resonant of my growing up was sincere. disaffected youth etc, the eeriness of the suburbs. but over time of course my life became more complex, my interests became more oblique, and i also, through confessional poetry and certain photographers, realized that all the material i needed was just my own experience. through that i decided that i could fuck with the idea of a autobiographical work. that memoirs/autobiography are synonymous with fiction, in that they’re still highly edited. i leave out the bad parts, people who write memoirs don’t write about the boring shit, they are written to entertain. the truth of my life is more what i don’t paint from photographs, but i became interested in presented an IMAGE of what my life might be, or to enact and participate in a cliché of the life of a male white artist. a lot of it is true, a lot of it is enacted. the lines are very blurry and i like it to be that way. sally mann said ‘if it’s not ambiguous don’t bother’ – and i ascribe to that thinking
  • Chris Healey

    This seems to me as an approach that lends itself to social media. Would this be an accurate statement that this is what you are doing on Facebook as well?
    (that was technically question #2 from my list)
  • Brad Phillips

    yeah i guess – i mean a lot of people are really pretentious about facebook, instagram etc. like it’s a visual CV or a document of their putative important interests. i think that’s bullshit. pretension is pretension no matter what the format. i have a friend who i wont name, who is an artist, and also was a pro skateboarder, so he vacillates between posts from old thrasher mags and links to slavov zisek lectures. he’s obviously trying to keep his legitimacy in both worlds. it’s tiresome to me. i’m interested more in fucking with people ideas of what’s serious, what’s tasteful etc. so i often post art i like, i also post dumb shit, stupid jokes, my friends stuff i try to promote, obscure low hit youtube videos. there’s no information on my page about who i am and what my job is. people who know me, know me, or if they know my name they know what i do. but otherwise i appear to just be a guy with a lot of different obscure interests, which fundamentally is what i am. i don’t take it seriously, social media. it’s a way to fuck with people, and to make my friends laugh. i’m serious about my work, and that’s what matters.
  • Chris Healey

    Well that brings up a couple of questions for me – one, I feel like I could not read at all and would still get a very painterly experience looking through what you post. Secondly, I’ve noticed your instagram is not showing any photos any more and I think, as far as I can tell, your Facebook posts are not public. You don’t consider yourself a “social media artist” or that that “social media art” is part of your work?
  • Brad Phillips

    well maybe – my first instagram got banned – so maybe you need to look again it’s @bradphillipsagain – i just switched it to private so people don’t snitch on me – but like on facebook – some of it is my own photography, some of it is shit from the web. my facebook posts are not public? if that’s true, i mean i think I’ve got it set to only be seen by friends – that’s because I’ve been kicked off here before or warned – and if i have it open to the public in general, people who have a problem with me, or people who are anti-sex will get me kicked off again. i don’t really think of myself as a social media artist because for one, i don’t know what that is. also im 40 – i don’t understand a lot of the internet. i don’t know what GIF is. im pretty bad with computers. so i don’t see my instagram or facebook account as being art at all. it’s just something i do to pass the time. however the one way i could see what i do as social media art, is that i just had a show in Vancouver where i showed videos for the first time. and they were all made using the instagram video app, because 15 seconds is the max duration, which is the maximum amount of patience i have for video art. it also allows me to pause and restart. and i’m bad with video, so instagram helps me to make them. i mean on my instagram i make videos that, some of them i do see as art, but i don’t benefit, i don’t make money, they’re only seen there. the video work i showed in Vancouver was 12 mnutes of looped 15 second videos i made on instagram, so some of them may end up being ‘art’ at some point. but no, i don’t relate to what little i know of as social media art. i am aware that i have a reputation as being ‘good at social media’ but i don’t know that i know what that means.
  • Chris Healey

    Yeah, as you know, I found your work through David Balzer’s mention of your social media feeds. But he did not describe you as a social media artist but seemed to echo a lot of your criticisms of it as well, and that your postings are different. I guess a lot of people, for a virtual space, still are very literal about what is posted. I have an ultra boring and even pretentious instagram feed, simply to see what happens, and I admit I was afraid to request to follow you because I was afraid what you would think. I guess that is a thing… so on to question #3: does the idea of “collaboration” apply to you what your doing on social media?
  • Chris Healey

    (Can snitching on art be a collaboration?)
  • Brad Phillips

    just follow me on instagram i’m super easy going and im forgetful so might not look at your page. i honestly don’t even look at the feedi just look at four or five of my best friends. ha – yeah for sure snitching is collaboration! i suppose i am somewhat collaborative in a way – i repost my friends shit, or i modify it – i fuck up their threads by posting stupid photographs of chickens on leashes when their status asks for a sublet…my girlfriend , on here she is Solaris Faith – is hilarious on facebook, in person very shy. so with her we have a comic thing going. my best friend aaron carpenter and i fuck with each other’s facebook – he’s mostly into sharing the updates from KFC in Memphis – and we also have a group here called Classic Brad Phillips and Aaron Carpenter which is basically a who can be the bigger moron contest. so yes it’s collaborative in some ways. my friend jay Isaac’s instagram is an attempt to have the ugliest instagram. i guess honestly and id not thought about it, that by ‘liking’ things, especially if they’re not ordinarily likable, is a way to collaborate
  • Chris Healey

    (I can’t tell you who else I am interviewing, yet, due to those draconian ethics rules but when I can I am looking forward to introducing you to some other artists online I think you will like and vice versa.) Your answer touches on question 4): Are there artists or movements via social media that you feel are important? We can skip that if you want or you can add more to it.
  • Brad Phillips

    i really am not too aware – i’m very insulated and self obsessive and i don’t look at contemporary art because it bums me out – so i really (are there even movements anymore) don’t have any idea what’s going on to be honest.
  • Chris Healey

    Who is your audience? (The idea of snitches and prudes and puritans on social media fucking with art is very interesting btw, did not think of this before…)
    oh, and i guess i should clarify – online audience
  • Brad Phillips

    well it’s funny because when i first got kicked off both facebook and instagram, i noticed that people i didn’t know had added me that day or recently, then boom i was kicked off. so certain people, and this is not unusual, just want to knock you off some pedestal they think you’re on, even if you have no interest in being on that pedestal, or don’t see a pedestal to be on in the first place. i posted an image of a john currin sex painting and got in shit, and had this huge debate about how paintings of sex are not images of sex, and how that’s also irrelevant because sex is what keeps us all going. society is both utterly debauched and puritanical at the same time right now
  • Brad Phillips

    my audience though is just myself, and like four or five friends
    they’re all i think about
    and with my own actual artwork, it’s basically the same audience
  • Chris Healey

    (yeah, the local artist run centre here is Hamilton actually put up curtains in front of a show of nude photos. +1 to your assessment of “debauched and puritanical”). I’ve wondered if “artist” is a label that is more something that is applied than self-declared, and I very much am suspecting “social media artist” is something not many would self-identify as.. finally, are there any other aspects of artistic practice on social media you would like to bring up? i.e. advantages or disadvantages
  • Brad Phillips

    k well i’ll just address one at a time
    that’s fucked about Hamilton and ridiculous
    l’origin du monde is still censored in some place, on book covers etc
    I don’t now about artists being self declared or applied, I suppose people do tell people they are artists
    for me
    it’s not something I had a say in
    i was just born this way
    and one thing that art schools wouldn’t want to hear
    and why i’d be a bad professor
    is that i think you’re either born this way or not
    and if you’re not, you’re not going to be able to pull it off, and if you are, all that school can do is guide you
    as far as the advantages/disadvantages
    it’s advantageous in that / well not a lot of people… i don’t have my website on here
    but certainly I’ve been noticed and put in shows and contacted simply through facebook
    so this is only positive
    also other platforms, my friend tim barber had a site called tiny vices
    that led to a lot of things for me
    the disadvantages though are multiform
    I’ve had people just save images off my facebook page and post them on their own websites
    this is okay for me when the original image is something from the public sphere that I’ve already appopriated
    but I’ve had my own photographs, things I’ve shot, suddenly appear on someone elses fucking tumblr – without credit or any caveats, so that it looks as if it’s their own work
    so in this way it creates mashups, and lets a lot of lazy artists just pick and choose
    it’s too much sampling
    the trade off with social media is we give up the rights to our imagery and our posts
    so there’s always a sacrifice
  • Chris Healey

    so an advantage of social media for you is to limit your scope of viewers, which you can’t do with your website?
  • Brad Phillips

    yeah it limits who can see what i’m doing
    although i honestly let almost anyone add me
    but with my website as with here, the images are easily stolen
    I’ve had paintings of mine show up in books and magazines
    with no payment or even notification to me
    simply because they can right click and save them
    that’s bad
    but also,
    if i look at the other side
    all presss is good press
  • Chris Healey

    i cringe when i think of those water marks some people but on their images, but honestly i can’t think of another way to address lazy stealing of images. is this something you though of?
  • Brad Phillips

    i thought of it for like a second , but its’ problematic in a twofold way, for one you look precious and secondarily you can’t see the image properly. so it’s a risk that you take. i’d say over the course of my time having images online, more good than bad has come from it
  • Chris Healey

    Brad, thank you very much for chatting with me on Facebook today about social media and art. That was a lot of hard work, and I appreciate it. Some really valuable insights into this whole online mess I think. And please remember, you have till April 30th to withdraw should you feel you are in danger
  • Brad Phillips

    oh dude
    no sweat
  • Chris Healey

    feel free to follow up with any more comments or questions too eh.
  • Brad Phillips

    what the fuck danger can i be in/
    glad i could be of help
    was good for me
    made me think of some shit
  • Chris Healey

    i tell you, those forms are doing more harm than good…
  • Brad Phillips

    and now you follow me on instagram
    yeah makes it sound lik ethe attica prison experiments
  • Chris Healey

    it’s way easier to ask questions than answer them
  • Brad Phillips

    all in all i didn’t feel lik ei needed a safety word
    im okay with it
  • Brad Phillips

    gonna have a shower and fuck my girl
    talk to you later
  • Chris Healey

    chhers brad
Sent from Toronto, Ontario brad_featured_image

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