Jim Mahfood & Lisa Hanawalt Create Work For Audi’s Crowd-Sourced Live Art Experience [Video]
"Uncompromised" is the theme Audi has attached to its new A3 vehicle. Sure, it's the kind of lofty, poetic thing you'd expect a luxury car manufacturer to say about its latest model, but when it comes to expressing that theme in appropriately uncompromising ways, you have to hand it to Audi, who put on quite the show last week in an event that gathered eclectic talents from all around the creative arts for an interactive, live art installation fueled by crowd-sourced stories of perseverance, hard work and success.
As part of the event, comic book artists and illustrators Jim Mahfood (Everybody Loves Tank Girl, D.I.S.CO. Destroyer) and Lisa Hanawalt (My Dumb Dirty Eyes) were on hand to interpret tweets submitted with the hashtag #paidmydues into original pieces of art -- live and on site. Fans of both artists would agree their work reflects a truly uncompromising vision of personal expression, and it was cool to see such wildly different talents represent comics and the illustrative arts alongside similarly idiosyncratic luminaries from across the creative spectrum.
Among those artists: producer Money Mark; rapper Oddisee; chiptune musician Ben Landis; improv troop the Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company; graffiti artist Madsteez; letterpress illustrators Church of Type; chef Jordan Kahn, illustrators Sumi Ink Club; filmmaker Gui Marcondes; animators Oh Yeah Wow, designer Alex Turvey; a d DJ Dam-Funk.
Each creator occupied their own area of a massive multimedia studio created inside an airplane hanger in Santa Monica, where they worked diligently for hours creating work inspired by around 2,000 tweet-length stories of working hard to achieve a lifelong dream or some other measure of success. The hanging, multi-faced twitter display featured a live feed of all the #paidmydues submissions -- and there were some amusing joke tweets, to be sure. But most were in the style of this one: "Started breaking when in 2000 when I was years old. It's now 2014 and I'm 26 years old. Crazy that I've been dancing for more than half my life now."
Submissions were curated by the event organizers and assigned to different artists to process into new work. One of my favorite things was watching Money Mark turn a few words into songs he created on the spot with a bank of keyboards and software synths. Another highlight was the Upright Citizens Brigade, who took various tweets as scenarios around which to build improvised comedy sketches. All of it was broadcast online as it happened, so participants could see their tweets come to life not long after sending them in.
Most germane to our interests of course was the work of Mahfood and Hanawalt, whose storytelling disciplines obviously lend themselves to more literal interpretations of submitted scenarios, but who nevertheless impressed with extremely creative work, non-sequential work that dramatized the crowd-sourced text in high style. Hanawalt went way abstract with her interpretations, adapting tweets about subjects ranging from the challenge of oversleeping to serious dream fulfillment in the form of mural-sized scenes of anthropomorphic animals skateboarding, ballet dancing and graduating from school. Hanawalt's work was later laid across a half-pipe for skateboarders to ride on, which in another context might have seemed... rude?... but in the context of this extravagant multimedia art jam, seemed to make sense.
Mahfood kept himself busy at a drafting table equipped with an overhead camera to capture the artist's graffiti-styled interpretations of people's personal stories of accomplishment. The personal scenario I described to Mahfood dealt with growing up as an American overseas and using comic books and music to help find my cultural identity, leading to studying art and my present status as an entertainment media professional working on this site and elsewhere (the tweet seen in the video above was truncated by an event staffer for the purposes of the clip, so it's not quite accurate but whatever). Unsurprisingly Mahfood nailed the drawing, as he did dozens of other stories submitted throughout the day. The pieces he created that day will be auctioned off at a later date.
Initially I was skeptical of the corporate intentions of the event, but surprisingly there was extremely little Audi iconography to be found in the multimedia salon they created -- there wasn't even a car on site. The effect of this was of course to convey a specific kind of idiom to future Audi customers, but it also gave the attending observer and those watching the live feed from home a fairly unobstructed view of how different creative disciplines can be employed to express identical themes. It was a fascinating and cool artistic experience, and one that reinforced how our own beloved comics and illustration professionals can indeed share the stage with -- and arguably steal the show from -- representatives from the other popular arts.