Tina Schönheit, Master Jeweler, Designer and multi-medium Artist interviews Tom the Guy, performance artist, activist and alter ego.
Tina: Many people have tried to explain what art is, and I think everyone has their own explanation for what art is. When we look at the word art, we find it in artificial, artifact, articulation, artistic… just to name a few. We tend to often call things art, things we can’t really explain. Some people even talk about the ‘art of nature’. And nature can be explained by science. Therefore art can be very scientific as well. Art is manmade, some say artificial, and often shows a very deep side of the person creating it.
What is art for you?
Tom: I AM ART! Walking and talking art. Art is the reason for my existence! I breathe art. I speak art. I make Art. I show Art. I perform: Art! This interview: ART! When I leave the house: Art! Most of the art I produce is just for me. Some art I want you to see, or to feel, or to smell, or to taste. Or just to experience.
I can only talk for me. Art is a very personal business. I’m an artist and therefore, for me Art is everything. Someone who is, maybe a nanker, for them banking might be everything. Or they only do it because its their job an then it is not everything for them. But when you do something with all your heart: it is everything! That’s why we say, when we really really love someone: you are my everything!
And for myself I can say: I’m in love with art. Art is love and love is art.
Tina: When I talked to other artist, some admitted that they are trying to communicate, or even translate what they see, feel and observe in their everyday life into art. To make it visible and maybe understandable for other people.
How do you see it with your art?
Tom: When I leave the house I [can] put on clothes. Fine feathers make fine birds.
Clothes vary and can let me appear a certain way. I can chose cloth that make me look like a nobleman, or a bum. Some cloth make me appear I belong to a subculture, there are HipHop, Punk and metal-head typical clothes.
I can even go further and use makeup to change my appearance so that even my friends don’t recognize me. Or I dress up like a lady. My cloth can be seen as just a shell representing someone that I am, or someone or something people see in me, like a uniform.
Clothes can also protect. Some protect you physically, for example protective work gear. Some clothes also protect you mentally. Some girls prefer wearing baggy jeans and sweaters when they go out so as not to be recognized as a girl when they take a taxi on their own.
Tina: Are you trying to say our world is artificial? and your art is commenting on the socially constructed reality?
Tom: I say nothing. With my art I question. Who are we? Who are you? and most of all: Who am I? Who and also what do we represent? with the way we give and show our self out there to the world.
Tina: That is very philosophical, then.
Tina: Now back to my first question: What does your art stand for?
I perform. The moment I leave the house. The moment I interact with people. Some would call it theatre. I call it performance art. Because, when you go, to watch a play, you go there to be entertained. With my performance art I come to you, I chose to perform for you. You are free to turn around and leave.
Tina: How do people react when they are forced to interact with you?
Tom: It’s different every time. Some don’t get me. Some don’t get it. Which is fine.
Once, one of my friends nearly hit me, he didn’t recognize me because he had never seen me dressed that manly before, in a suit, with hat, neatly trimmed mustache, visible chest-hair…I play with with peoples perceptions. And their reactions vary. Some get really uncomfortable, others open up, are very interested and even begin to reflect on how they see things or how they used to see things. Some even thank me for showing them another perspective.
Interesting. And how about your poetry? You’ve been on stage for ‘Spoken Word Nam’ and also presented a piece at Nambowa’s exhibition opening at JoJo’s in January. Can you tell us about about that?
Tom: Some of my poems, especially the ones created on a certain subject or the ones that are made for a special occasion, are founded on the idea that plagiarism can be art. I chose lines or paragraphs of dictionaries or from wikipedia entries. I sort them in a certain way, add some of my own words take some words out and reassemble them to be presented as a poem.
Then sometimes ‘normal’ poems happen to me. They are often short, and try to explain as much as possible, with as little words as possible. When I give you a poem, I only give you words. These words act like a skeleton and you have the freedom to take this skeleton and your own feelings and experiences to build a body around it. Your body. I want to give you the freedom to use your imagination.
We often use too many words to explain so little.
Tina: Well said. May we have a poem of yours as a last word for this interview?
Tom: Of course:
You taught me.
You taught me,
to be strong,
to be tough,
to be able to survive,
to be conscious,
You didn’t teach me.
You didn’t teach me to be..
To be me.
Is the one thing, I —
had to teach myself.
You have many faces.
But most of all: