Entertainment

Kilo Kish Interviews Millie Brown

Talking "becoming art" with the artist and performer.

by Kilo Kish
Nov 13 2015, 1:55pm

Wilting Point captured by Lauren Dillard

How did you get started with performance art?

I first started exploring performance art when I was 17. I moved in with a group of creatives, an art collective called !WOWOW! where we squatted a huge South London historical building and turned it into a creative utopia of our own. I started collaborating on artworks and performances with the artists around me and when we were invited to do a group show in Berlin in 2005 I decided to explore my own performance art piece and came up with the concept of using my body to paint from the inside out, swallowing colored milk and regurgitating it back up to create a rainbow spectrum. I wanted to leave behind an imprint of my DNA, my metaphysical self as a physical artwork. That first performance made me realize that my body was my voice and I wanted to continue exploring this means of expression.

How do you mentally prepare for a performance?

I feel like I’m always preparing for my performances, every day training to improve and strengthen myself mentally and physically so that I can achieve the performances I conceptualize. I use meditation and visualization as part of my daily ritual and I like to climb the hills and canyons in LA and run in whichever city I’m in to keep myself strong. Each of my performances are challenging in one form or another so these daily rituals are essential for me to continue creating.

Artists who have inspired you?

There are so many great artists I admire and respect throughout history but the ones who truly inspire me are the ones surrounding me in my daily life; my friends and collaborators. The artists who’ve inspired me from the very beginning to explore my own artform and the people who have since come into my life and continue to inspire me through their own determination and love of their art. Creativity attracts creativity and having these artists in my life is so important to me, to have people who understand your path but also push you to explore further through their own aspirations and dreams.

Walk through a day in your life at the studio.

A lot of what I do is conceptualizing of performance ideas so those are generally at home or wherever inspiration strikes. At the studio when I’m creating my performance-based canvas paintings, I’ll wait until I feel in the right place in my mind and energetically before I start. I want each of my paintings to truly represent my purest form of self, as they are a permanent imprint and memory of that feeling and moment in time. I’ll start visualizing what colors and movement within the painting I want to create but often it takes a completely different form to my vision, I love not having full control of what is being created and seeing the work take a new direction of its own is also liberating. Some paintings are made in minutes others in days and months so there is no schedule or typical day in that way.

Day worker or night worker?

Day and night. I find the day is my time to create physical works in a practical way and the night is to dream and visualize of future projects. That moment between awake and drifting off often inspires a lot of my ideas and I’ve always been influenced by my dreams in my work. I believe what we live in our dreams is ultimately as important and what we live in our waking hours.

How do you get inspired to create work?

Inspiration is always such a difficult thing to explain or translate because it truly does come from everywhere and anywhere. But there are some things that blow my mind and inspire me the most, like our infinite galaxies, our connections to the planets and the fact that we are all made of stars. That inspires me to think outside of this world and allow the mind to explore infinite possibilities.

Swine performance with Lady Gaga. Image courtesy the artist.

Are you always proud of the work you make?

I am, but not because I believe that everything I’ve created is perfect but because it’s a documented moment in time of my thoughts, emotions, and reality. It’s something that you can look back on and understand that moment clearer, understand yourself, and the evolution of the work as it continues to transform. Sometimes I’ll create something that I don’t relate to instantly and I’ll continue shaping, adapting, adding to it until it mirrors what’s inside. Or sometimes I’ll wash off my canvas, clear my mind and start again.

What has performing taught you about yourself?

Everything. I think starting to perform as a teenager and that being such a huge part of my life after leaving my home at 17, performance art is really what helped form me as a person and I can’t separate the two. Having that means of expression and learning that we create our own reality and the world we want to live in. I think sometimes we don’t fully understand that we have all the tools to be and do what we want in this world and that we should explore our own mediums of language no matter which form they take.

What are some of the physical and emotional tolls of your work?

Each performance is challenging in its own way and taxing in some form or another but being able to overcome physical discomfort and situations that are emotionally challenging is all part of the performance. Being able to reach a state of pure creativity beyond our bodies without limitation.

Swine performance with Lady Gaga. Image courtesy the artist.

Does the line of performance and reality ever blur for you?

Everyone’s reality is different. Mine's been in this creative world since a child, it’s how I was raised and to me they go hand in hand. I was just talking with my mum about when I was really young; she reminded me that I’d create art out of anything and everything I found, often using the body as the canvas to create that art which most frequently had no durability, it was to be appreciated in that moment and then to be washed away back into the earth.

Views on collaboration?

I love to collaborate with people. I think when you are exploring work together it’s often a lot more revealing of your practice and you can really delve into ideas and concepts further as well as reach conclusions you may not, by working alone.

If you're stuck creatively, what do you do to get unstuck?

I go for a walk, visit art in museums or watch inspiring documentaries about the universe, visionaries, and everything in between. I don’t often feel this way though, it’s hard to run out of inspiration when this world is so full of it, the more I learn about the universe the more I’m inspired to create in it.

Rainbow Body photo by Wade Parkins

Is it ever a struggle to juggle the business side of the art world? and how do you keep yourself free and open to inspiration while tending to your career?

It’s a delicate balance but more an understanding that in order to do what you love doing, you must find a way to make money and be able to support yourself whilst doing so, ideally through what you love. It’s not always easy and often I come out with wildly expensive performance ideas that I have no interest in having anything physical attached to, to create income. But its becoming more of a natural thought pattern to think about a physical element to leave behind and document that moment in time as well as help me to continue living this way. Art is a business and some people do take the magic out of it for themselves but I try to stay away from insensitive business people who don’t have any heart in it.

How much of a role does criticism and critique play in the work you make, and how do you keep your intentions focused amongst people's expectations of you?

I don’t think it really plays a role in my work to be honest. I only make artwork that I believe in and that’s all I can do. If people love it or hate it, it’s really not for me to comment on. Art is very personal and I feel that as long as what I create is true to me, I can respect the work whether others do or not.

If you weren't doing this, and had to get a "day job" where would you see yourself?

I honestly don’t know if I could work a day job and get through a whole day without getting fired, I feel like I’ve lived in this weird world of art for too long to know how to exist outside of it. 

Rainbow Body Performance photo by Miss Lake

What are you working on at the moment? 

I just got back from Europe. I was performing my latest durational performance piece called Rainbow Body which is the performance element to my most recent exhibition in Los Angeles. The concept was inspired by Tibetan Buddhist theology surrounding the rainbow body phenomenon where enlightenment has been observed from a third person perspective, transforming the individual into rainbow light as they reach this state of enlightenment. For the performance I was suspended to the ceiling of the gallery by a harness, dangling from my body and limbs were hundreds of crystal prisms which refracted the light and created rainbow light. I meditated each day in the space, in attempts to elevate body and mind as one for four hours each day throughout the four days of Frieze Art Fair London and then the five days of Art and Fashion Forum in Poland. It was a really interesting experience and each day when I descended it felt like being reborn into the world and starting all over again.

Millie Brown will perform 'Blinded by the Light,' a four-day durational performance piece in collaboration with the Marina Abramovic Institute, at Art Basel in Miami Beach in December. To learn more about the artist click here. To read more Kilo Kish interviews click here

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