Does the world need 999 more Borats? Armed with his distinct Pop Surrealist style and art making approach, Toronto based artist, Oli Goldsmith, has taken on the daunting task of creating a thousand original portraits of the pop icon.
Audiences worldwide immediately took to the comically controversial antics of Sacha Cohen’s character in the film Borat and the HBO series Da Ali G Show. Cohen’s film was a scathing satire cleverly manipulating reality-based situations that present a foreigner’s view of America turned inside out. Pealing another layer off Borat’s cult of personality, Goldsmith explores our obsession with manufactured celebrity. The project’s gallery is continually added to at 999Borats.com.
With a final deadline of July 1st, Goldsmith will have completed 999 original portraits and unveil the 1000th final piece; a life-sized canvas of Borat. The one portrait that isn’t for sale, Goldsmith will give away the 1000th piece on July 31st. Qualifying for the free contest requires only a name and e-mail.
“999 Borats” reveals a deeper cultural interpretation of Borat’s persona, but Goldsmith also relies on stream of consciousness creation. Just as Cohen’s Borat innocently weaves art, comedy and social commentary, Goldsmith relies on an intuitive creative process, letting the art’s end result speak freely.
Goldsmith relates to Cohen’s work in that, “…he is stirring up meaning without fully explaining or even knowing himself, what precisely his message is.” The creative act happens of its own accord, with more interesting and ultimately meaningful results. This culminates each piece’s conceptual originality, while flowing from Goldsmith’s aesthetic stamp as an artist. He eagerly mixes traditional techniques (paint, pastel, graphite and India ink) with experimental digital manipulation and transfer processes, creating a myriad of unique hybrids.
As a young artist of the digital era, one of Goldsmith’s motivations in undertaking “999 Borats” is enthusiasm for exploring the Internet’s potential as an art platform. Rather than focus on what the net lacks compared to “real world” art venues, Goldsmith wants to explore its unique potentials, “I’m interested in the audience being able to become engaged in the creative process rather than passively observe the end result,” he says.
The project’s site offers a downloadable screensaver that automatically streams new portraits as they are completed. Goldsmith has most recently added the ability for visitors to upload image contributions, adding visual samples and source material to the artist’s palette while remotely involving viewers with the art making process.
Goldsmith is a big advocate of the cultural and technological phenomenon of Web 2.0 (A term that embodies social networking and interactive technologies). Web 2.0 is something Goldsmith foresees changing the relationship of artists and audiences; blurring creative boundaries and enhancing the viewer’s experience.
This evolution is most apparent on websites like Flickr, MySpace or YouTube; but 999Borats.com showcases a highly focused interactivity. Through Web 2.0 advancements, Goldsmith is spearheading a new direction for visual artists to try out ideas that they may have hesitated exploring before.
Fittingly, the larger idea for 999 Borats began as a group on Flickr.com, where enthusiasm from online peers encouraged the project to grow. With posting about it on Saatchi’s ‘Your Gallery Blog’, mixed reactions served to fuel Goldsmith’s imagination. One user comment dismissed Borat as “just a useless bit of pop-culture debris,” capturing the essence of what Goldsmith wanted the project to examine.
He explains, “My earliest art making focused definitively on topics of Mass Media, Consumerism, etc…. Overall, I feel my work has grown to become a more inward reflection of that outer world as a whole; more personally psychological, yet still connected to the role media and celebrity play in all of our lives.”
The original portraits are for sale online exclusively; starting June 3rd for 8 consecutive weeks, 125 portraits will be added each Sunday to those available for purchase. On July 31st Goldsmith will post live the winner of the intentionally audacious, life-sized work on the website.
Having exhibited in galleries since age 16, Goldsmith’s prolific career has landed him acclaim, awards, and numerous projects for major agencies, record labels and entertainment companies. Other recent endeavors include an experimental web video project, popsurrealism.tv; a live feed of motion and sound, where viewers can install the ever-changing montage as an interactive screensaver.
Perhaps Goldsmith is best known for his award-winning music video, “In Repair” for Canada’s Alt-rockers, Our Lady Peace, along with the album art for the corresponding Spiritual Machines album.