Photographer Kelsey Bennett and conceptual artist B. Thom Stevenson recently came together for a collaborative body of work entitled BOREGASM at Fig 19 Gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The two first teamed up as art directors for the psychedelic music video “Schemers.” With BOREGASM, they’ve created colorful and mind-bending collages using 35 mm photos taken by Bennett, which were then layered with mixed media from Stevenson. Here they are on their creative partnership, their influences, and the true meaning of a boregasm.
Can you walk me through the process of how you guys started working together? What do you think it is about this collaboration that works so well?
Kelsey Bennett: So, basically, we’ve worked together before. We met two years ago. What makes it work is more about our process. [We] have similar work ethics.
B. Thom Stevenson: We both look for other challenges outside our comfort zone. We’re always looking to do something different and new that we haven’t done before. I have trouble continuing to do the same thing over and over again.
KB: Which is great because everything moves so fast with the Internet. I feel like you have to be on your toes when creating. You can only push something as far as you can. For me, I try to push things as much as possible to try and get as much exposure as possible, but you never feel like you’ve done enough.
What’s your process for working together like?
BTS: I think working together we’ve learned about our process.
KB: Yeah. It’s nothing we’ve ever sat down and talked about. Like, ‘Oh, how do our styles make sense together?’ We’ve just done it and it’s worked out, so we keep doing it. I feel like both of us draw from this childhood aesthetic. There’s this resurgence of kids from the 90s. I’m so happy because there was a time where I was like, “Shit. I’m so stuck in the nineties.” But then it came back, and I’m like, “Yes!” There’s something very nostalgic about our art because we’re holding on this Never Never Land, this never grow up mentality. I’m so happy to be a part of that because that’s what art is. It keeps you young. It keeps you alive.
So, how did this project begin?
BTS: Well, like we said, we do love working together. I came to Kelsey and was like, ‘Let’s do a show together.’ We didn’t really have an idea and I personally like to use something that already has a life as a basis for what I do. I use a lot of found objects and things like that. Kelsey had been doing at the same time — completely unrelated — these visual mashups.
KB: Usually what I do is straight-forward portraits. Working on Brian with this project, I was really able to segway back into fine art. I was taking a break from doing the straight up portraits and taking a lot of 35 mm snapshots. There was something missing for me, so I started making these collages in Photoshop of two photos combined. When Brian came to me, I sent him the photo collages and we came up with the idea to do screen printing.
BTS: It’s such a liberating process to use someone else’s photograph. It was this push and pull. I’m not going to cover the full canvas with my stuff because it’s this collaborative effort. This definitely opened up my eyes to a different way of doing my art.
KB: And when I gave over my shots to Brian, there was something liberating and freeing about being like, ‘Just do what you’re going to do.’ I feel like both of us, with how we do our work, promotion, surrounding it, how its handled, we’re so meticulous. When I gave it over, I said to myself, ‘Just give it.’ It’s a great working relationship. I’ve never done something like this before, but it’s the best possible thing. You’re taking what you’ve done, giving it over to someone, and making it better.
BTS: Once I got the images, there was a lot of pressure on me. I shoot from the hip when I paint. I try to be expressive.
KB: And it’s always experimental.
Let’s talk a bit about the name Boregasm. What is a boregasm?
BTS: Boredom is a form of depression. Boregasm is about being bored with the monotony of every day life and the desire to make it more interesting, and to stack on your own ideals to the world around you like. Like when you see a shadow that looks like a funny face and it actually makes you laugh a little bit. Those type of things are what a boregasm is. Just being excited about this thing that isn’t actually there, but you see because you were bored.
KB: The reason why you get bored isn’t because you’re not thriving on what the world has to offer. It’s because you feel stuck and your brain gives you this alternate world if you’re a creative person. Being a creative person feels like a privilege that you get to go to this alternate space and it saves you from boredom. A boregasm is this explosive mental thing where you’re inspired from boredom.
BTS: We created this thing together. It was a sybiodic creation. It was like our art cells divided, and came together and created this other entity. I think that’s what boregasm is. It’s this build up, build up, build up to your head trying to put these ideas into a concrete thing. It’s being bored with — well, not the world because that sounds negative — but being used to it. Like, it’s become normal, and creating something abnormal that’s also inspiring for other people, as well.
KB: It’s like the development of a brain, too. Your brain thinks differently than how you’re being graded in school. It’s not a matter of “Can these pieces fit?” It’s, “Put these pieces together in a way that you think looks cool.” And that’s what we’re doing.
BTS: When I was a kid, I had a lot of problems with patterns. They were trying to teach be ‘red, green, red, green, red, green,’ but I would just stack all these different colors together, and I didn’t understand. Patterns of every day life…we’re fully capable of doing it, but Kelsey and I like to add a little bit something more on to it.
What do you have planned for the future, both separately and together?
KB: I’ve had three solo shows in New York and now I’m having my first show in L.A (taking place at the Darkroom Gallery until June 1). I’ve always loved L.A. and I just decided, I’m going to go out to L.A., I’m going to try and establish connections out there. I was husting and trying to set up meetings, and I was saying with my best friend from childhood’s aunt and she said she knew the curator of the Darkroom Gallery. So, she emails him, and I was only going to be in L.A. for one more day. I came by the gallery, showed them everything, and he was like, ‘I love this. Let’s do a show.’ It’s my first show in L.A. How John, the curator, was like, ‘I want this to be a mini retrospective of your work and also your introduction to L.A.”
I’m working on another series called HAGS, which I photographed Brian and his brother for. HAGS being “Have A Great Summer.” In high school I never felt like I related to the majority of people, so I’m basically rounding up my dream high school. In the next year, my goal is to photograph as many people that I’m like, ‘I wish you were in high school with me.’ In the L.A. show, I’m showing four of those portraits.
We’ve talked about showing BOREGASM somewhere else, maybe expanding it. Maybe adding t-shirts, prints. Maybe showing it different parts of the country, or out of the country.
BTS: We’re definitely interested in showing it. We have more work that we didn’t put in the show that we’d like to show, too. Some of this stuff needs to be seen by more people.
Can you speak a bit about your influences?
KB: We’ve never talked about influences.
BTS: I think her influences are completely different than mine, but there are a lot of parallels, a lot of crossovers. I was influenced by the format because it almost feels like a flat screen TV. That’s why I used the static and the repetition of patters. You don’t see static on television anymore. But I think my inspiration were her photographers.
KB: It was cool thinking about “Oh, Brian might like this or that.” I feel like it was…it’s hard talking about what I was influenced by because it was so from the hip. I just wanted to create because I wanted to create. The photos I used are from all different places. From the east, from the west, form the south. Everywehre. There’s no one theme. The theme is me. What fascinates me. Everything is from a short period of time, but I can combine a picture that’s from Mississippi with L.A., but they can make sense together because they’re me. It’s all these different layers of memories.