The Art of the Party: Michael Walker and #LIVINGROOMTODAY

Sebastian Gladstone
 Fuckwalker aka Michael Walker at work. 

Fuckwalker aka Michael Walker at work. 

If you found yourself in New York on a Saturday night two weeks ago, chances are you might have been one of the 800 plus people at Livingroom at China Chalet. What may initially come off as a run of the mill party of the young, hip, and inebriated is actually an international collaboration between artists, musicians, and performers to create a fully immersive party experience. I connected with creator Michael Walker aka Fuckwalker over gchat about skpe, video art, and beyond. 

SG: I find that it's hard to really explain what #LivingRoomToday is to people without them seeing it. In your own words, what is Living Room?

MW: I enjoy being asked that given the nature of Livingroom being a simple concept, however when translating it into words, it becomes difficult to express. The more I explain it, the more ways I discover about how to talk about it. The way I see it, Living room is an exploration on collaboration, community and connection by creating a portal into a virtual room that anyone can exist in -- people from anywhere, talking about anything, sharing the same audio/visual experience while being able to communicate between each other be it publicly or privately.

We at Livingroom curate the experience of performance giving opportunities to those we deem will provoke and instigate thought and conversation between those connected online and present at the actual venue or venues the performances are being presented in. We create a line-up of performance that is accessed either virtually through our online platform, or on the night of the performances we host a physical space where in real time, we project the virtual Living room. We stream the performances that are happening live in our physical space to our virtual space. The interesting thing about the evolution from the online platform to actually hosting these spaces is that if we are streaming a live performance in LA and in NYC in the same night, we can host two physical spaces where those in the NYC space will be present at the live performance but then will see the LA performance being streamed and vice versa for those present in LA. 

SG: How did the idea evolve from having a live feed chat room of your life?

MW: Originally Livingroom was a 24 hour feed into my studio, which was an invitation for anyone to come in and talk to me at anytime about anything. I put no constraints in the conversation. I find myself using the Internet a substantial amount as a personal platform to grow and collaborate with artists across the world. I enjoy the separation that the internet provides, the distance from your collaborators instigates the variable of the unknown as well as that of creative freedom as there is no external tampering with one’s creative process. I meet with collaborators through my work and through their work. There is nothing else affecting the connection besides the work. Collaborating together through ideas and freedom was the basis of the original project.

Because of the nature of my art, it became a work about being together with others whilst stuck to a computer. I agree that to an extent, the portal reiterates the state of isolation however, it allows me be everywhere at once.

If one were to intellectualize the piece in the context of contemporary art, I could mention Bruce Nauman’s “Mapping the Studio” as a present-day of this work.

SG: This also brings to mind the voyeuristic quality of Living Room, why do you think people like to join the chat room, and watch the party from their computer screen.

 Online viewer logged into the #LIVINGROOMTODAY chatroom

Online viewer logged into the #LIVINGROOMTODAY chatroom

MW: Well, I think that this exact question is one of the most interesting parts about the Internet in general! Like in Oscar Wilde, “give the man a mask and he’ll tell you anything”, or something among these lines, people here are hidden behind their masks. They can create any type of mask they want, people are free to be. Whether that be a good or a bad thing, that is up to the person’s consciousness and understanding of their own masks.

The idea of #LivingRoomToday restates that concept, as we don’t want people to come as they are rather than we want them to come as how they want to be. Here is a space for reinventing the self – recycling. That is what the Internet is all about, we use different platforms for the manifestation of different ‘selves’ – whether people know this or not. Each platform on the Internet provides an opportunity to put forward a persona – different from how you present yourself in say another social media platform. You cater to what people are looking for given each platform – you hide that of which is not appropriate or you don’t like about yourself and you put forward those things that you think are highlights, that you may think may gain you followers, that you may gain something being that certain person within a certain platform.

The online community feels the energy from the party because we strive for connection in any and every way possible. If one is online during the performances, they can see the party and those connected, they can hear in real time the live performances, talk to people that are also connected -- it is truly an all encompassing experience even behind the computer screen. One is present at the party, there is no separation, it is simply another dimension.

The interesting thing about coming to the party through the online platform is that you can be a performer yourself, as your face will be projected on the screens in real time at the physical parties, at the physical spaces that we host. We invite everyone to be part of this collaboration – everyone is a performer.

SG: Are there any major influences you can think of that shaped what the project has become?

One of the big things that made me realize the importance of Livingroom was talking to my niece on FaceTime, as we do once a week, and in one of my talks, my phone died. Once I got my phone up and running, there were millions of messages from both my sister and my mother as my niece had thought I disappeared. You see to her, in her understanding, I was there; the moment we were abruptly disconnected, it meant to her in a certain way, the death of me, the disappearance of an entity she loves so much. I realized then that these Internet connections are real. In my nieces mind I was there. Livingroom reiterates the reality of the online self. If you are connected virtually at one of our parties, you too are there. We see no disparity in being.

 #LIVINGROOMTODAY at China Chalet. Photo by @londoncut

#LIVINGROOMTODAY at China Chalet. Photo by @londoncut

The major influence, as redundant as it may sound, is the Internet in itself. I am the first generation that had and conceptually understood this connection and at that point, it was unrestricted waters. My innate curiosity made me use it as not only a social exploration but also that of an intellectual one. This project is based on my obsession and my non-stop exploration of the Internet. I see it as a giant brain, the world is connected instantly and messages and most importantly, cultural, social and any type of information really are carried through it.

Livingroom is about providing a space where people are private in public. Its about experience and discourse, about learning and growing. We are a brain now.

SG: Aside from curating, you are also a collaborative artist in the project, and in your own video work there's a mixture of 3-d modeling, complex editing, and your own music to create an experience. Can you expand a little on your working process?

This is a tricky question as the process is always evolving, as is the work for the past two decades. If we are referring to Saint Michael, Rebranding in Process, Officer Murphy, Fuckwalker, the process in the work is based on the idea of disorder, of free flow. My filmmaking background, of which is all about planning and pre-production taught me that something unanticipated will happen, and it is in that moment that something real happens. When something real is captured in film, its impossible to emulate. What I think I’m trying to say is that I try to create an infrastructure where, yes, I am prepared to create while still giving life to the creation in itself, to the flow. The Murphy videos for instance are shot in one take – this reiterates the idea of allowing things to happen organically. I am not wallowing in theory. Chomsky comes to mind as in we should take a step back from theory; we need to tell people empirically what is going on. I guess this may be taking it too far into concept but that is, in other words, what I am doing. I am giving people my truth, my experience, empirically.

I don't make songs I make tracks. If one were to analyze the structure of my tracks they would find very little to none. I am putting out a feeling, an experience. These are my truths and I am sharing them, I am putting them out. The visuals are not only complementary to my music; it is essential; it is part of my music. I make music as I make videos, I have this idea, this one liner from a Whitney Houston song or something that speaks to me in an overwhelming way, I tell my band mate Wargo (@wargogh) and NYC was created. Now with f33lings (new fuckwalker/Saint Michael audio/visual film) I used the #livingroomtoday philosophy where I used people I met in that interface to be my collaborators for the videos. Not knowing my collaborators only enhanced the idea of the unknown for me, the lack of which to expect. The end result is a product of discourse and sharing ideas. The direction is based on conversation.

SG: How has curating and presenting Living Room informed your own work?

MW: I created Livingroom as a digital collaboration hub that exists and we curate.

Its become my work –  As an installation, that is the cradle for my creative process now. It compliments my work as in, making music in one take, shooting that of which I see and experience. My projects such as Officer Murphy, my career in filmmaking and especially f33lings, fuckwalker and Saint Michael where I was collaborating with people across the world through virtual platforms -- these projects were paving the road to get to Livingroom. I made something that makes art. I am using my process to allow other people to make their own art.

SG: You also employ to artists contribute video, performance, and installation sets, similar to a dj set. What effect do you think that has on the work presented?

MW: If we are talking about myself asking artists to break from their usual creative process to explore something different in their work, well then, I hope they indeed find something new in themselves or further explore concepts that without my asking, they wouldn’t have the ventured into. 

People, in every area, are averse, or better, wary of change. To instigate the artist to experiment and quote on quote do it the “LivingRoom way” we are inviting them into exploring their ideas to create something new. We are about creating together, collaboration. We make organic art, art that is alive. Livingroom is an invitation to make art, that makes art.

SG: And are there any artists you really want to work with?

MW: Yes, they are all dead. I’m joking. Of course, I mean, the big thing here is to give shine to people who no one can see. You see, some people aren’t trendy enough or are stuck in their mom’s basement but are really revolutionizing thought in their own way. Here, there is a sense of giving artists a chance to have people understand, interact with and be exposed to their work.

I would love to work with literally anyone who is into innovation. Thom Yorke is an artist that is constantly reinventing himself and evolving, Aphex Twin, Bjork...Not only musicians but writers, painters, those that inspires collaboration, innovation. We are all about that. Bernie Sanders even… we are into it because he is innovating public speaking… I mean…

SG: Is there anything that has organically evolved out of Living Room that was surprising to you?

 Flyers for past #LIVINGROOMTODAY events.

Flyers for past #LIVINGROOMTODAY events.

MW: Absolutely. That’s my favorite part, and it really came as a surprise. I watch people that I don’t know, ‘in real life’ per se, that come back in virtually every show (see what I did there) anyway, so these people are now part of LivingRoom. They come back each time more performative. The evolution of the performance of the self is truly amazing to watch. They create personas, characters -- sometimes there is a self-aware element to it where they literally dress up or even, more subtly, creating an aesthetic of themselves whether they know it or not. Agency and subjectivity are distinguished - one can project only into one’s own image, into the internal object representation of him or herself. Therefore, this platform is a physical manifestation of the projection of one’s psyche – there is no definition of a situation so the unconscious manifests itself through performing itself.

SG: There is also this sentiment of life and art as one entity in Living Room, and the feeling that you aim to break down the border completely. How does this relate to the overall concept of the project?

MW: The performance of the self; putting ‘people’ in the same scope of the ‘artist’ make them artists as well. Its all about the people in LivingRoom that makes it a space for collaboration, creation and progression of be what it may.

SG: What do you hope for the viewer/partygoer who visits Living Room to come out with?

MW: I want them to come back. I want them to feel like I feel –  I finally found a community that provides masks for me to explore within myself. I would like this to be inspiring; I want people to cam up and share him or herself or whomever they have created. I want people to feel good. No barriers. It’s a portal – I want it to be a place of connection and creation. I want people to meet and flock away from Livingroom to create their own shit.

SG: Lastly, what does the future hold for the project?

MW: The best thing about this project is that I am organically seeing it grow. Every time we present a show, I see people connect, I see people getting LivingRoom. I honestly think that even though this is an installation, an art project on connection and connectivity, I personally have the feeling that we will be able to be everywhere at anytime.

We are being showcased at Perform Chinatown Saturday August 15th, and from there who knows!

Also, I'd like to thank my #LIVINGROOMTODAY team. Since the second show David Donald Sutherland and Kyle Keese have Produced and curated with me me on everything, team 33. Also to all the collaborators and admins, thank you all so much, Jammy, Gabriella, Wargo, Martina & Sadie theres too many to name, thank you all so much. <33

For more information on #LIVINGROOMTODAY visit their website here