Published on September 16th, 2013 | by Sara Newton0
The Art of Kazu Livingstone
In the upcoming political season, the localization of our lives sometimes becomes the only thing we focus on, but like everything in the universe, what happens in one place, no matter how small, effects something somewhere and someone not immediately connected to us or our lives. Whether it be dominoes, butterflies, or drops of water, everything has a causal relationship, and when we become so absorbed in our small lives, we tend to forget these things.
On that note, meet Kazu Livingstone, a poet and artist currently living in Malaysia. Livingstone became connected with the Vancouver community through his political activism and the Occupy movement. He became an admirer of Vector Production Manager Bryan Helfrich’s open source graphic illustrations and began a friendship with him.
Livingstone is a graphic artist, poet and vision pursuer – he wishes to make the most of his dreams. In his high perched apartment, on an island, he wrote several books in English, which he waits for the right editor to publish. As a computer artist, he mastered how to draw with a mouse, and fell in love with shaping cartoons and realistic portraits. Fascinated by American politics, he envies the skill to mold the world at his will. He immerses himself in uncharted territories, remote Asian cities, lost kingdoms from ancient civilizations, and having grown up in Europe, he likes to mix East and West in his work.
As a vector artist, Livingstone has exhibited his works in Europe, North America, South-East Asia, and Eastern Europe. He has made flyers and posters for different American events, and has collaborated with various artists all over the world.
Kazu Livingstone: Kazu is a vector artist. A poet. A news-junkie. A problem solver. He is himself, and he is everyone. And at the same time, he is no one. In the real world nobody cares what I really think. But wearing the mask of Slim Panda on the internet, I spread my art through the web, I show a different vision of the world. I say nothing, and say everything. I’m a meaningful person, and absurd in the same time. I’m mean to myself and to the corrupted leaders of our time, but having an Asian way, I do it in such a way that perhaps they will never feel my slap.
KL: They all say, “Don’t think in black and white.” I say, “Thinking will always be in black and white.” We’re never really fair to the world or to ourselves, because we don’t understand how complicated this world can be. The panda represents to me the balance of power, between black and white. Light and darkness. The panda is out of the color map. It is the animal diplomat; it doesn’t judge. It looks at the world from another state of mind than any other animal. It minds its own business. It is everything, and is nothing all at the same time. I chose the panda, because I am good and evil, I am intelligent and so, so stupid at the same time. Antinomies.
VV: Art has been used from its inception to challenge political, religious, and societal structures and norms. Richard Wagner once said that he had the impulse to create artistic terrorism, art that would challenge the institutions in place and turn them on their head. As a political artist, how do you see your art as having the ability to incite political unrest and incite revolution?
KL: I think that Banksy will never save the world. Why? Because hype is running through his name. Hype is killing political-minded artists. It asks us to surrender to certain kinds of established moralities. We are asked to obey a genre. But those within this genre, have all the same ideas, or don’t have the tools to change anything to this world. To me, revolution is perhaps impossible through art. But it’s only because we speak too much about the problems. Our revolutionary spirit is negative in a sense that it doesn’t bring solutions to human problems. Art needs to bring solutions to humans, it must be a map to the consciousness. We need to play within the system, and with the system, but having fun doing it. That’s what I call revolution. Me? I’m just a spectator.
KL: Nobody sees you smile or hears you say, “Do you like it?” when you present your art. Either they like it or hate it, but art has always been about how you present a topic, or yourself. Now, the Internet makes it less of a VIP club than before. Many more artists enter to play, because the Internet lets you hide behind a screen. You don’t have to speak well in public, and to be able to sell yourself with class. So the field is wider. It means more competition. I’m thankful to be able to deal through the Internet though. I’m pretty shy in the real world; it helps me a lot.
VV: How did you become connected with the Vancouver Vector, and subsequently with Vancouver, WA?
KL: By a friend of “mind.” I was looking through political pictures on the web when Occupy was beating their drums. I was absolutely loving a piece called “Occupy your Mind.” Some time later, looking through a designer website, I saw a person who had the picture as his profile picture. I didn’t think he’d done the piece. I checked, and it was the designer himself, [Bryan Helfrich]. I left him a comment or two, and he left me comments, too. We hooked up on the web, from two very far continents in the world. He works at the Vancouver Vector.
KL: Art should be free, and America’s art is good. On the political angle: there are thousands of different dishes in the world. Countries have each their sensibilities, but in every country there is a McDonalds? How come? United States has the [chic] to find the common ground between our tastes. They are the United Tastes. It’s all about a golden mean. But gold is a bit intransigent towards other metals: “You’re either me or not me.” To America, America’s values are golden. There is this difficult mission to understand that even if gold is the pole of the world, as much as Olympically and monetarily, lead, silver, bronze, etc., are as of much importance. Difference is golden. That’s what the world wants. A multi-polar world. That’d be a golden ideal to some, that’s what I hear some say. Me, I’m an artist who loves my mother and my father. I respect every country. There are just individuals who happen to make mistakes. Coming from a wrong education. The true battlefield is in the fields of education. Not anywhere else.
VV: What has your journey been as an artist?
KL: As an artist you can get away with many things. When I was writing my poetry, before I knew how to draw on a computer, my friends called my universe weird and crazy. Now, let’s say, absurdity is much more a norm in art. I can be whoever I want. People love to see with their eyes. Imagination is, and to me too, something very difficult to perceive with our mind.