Artist interview: Charles Mackenzie – Chronographer

Photogray by artist Charles Mackenzie

Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
My name is Charles Mackenzie, I am by definition a writer/poet/photographer/artist. All those labels are extremely specific and extremely superfluous. I’d rather like to refer to myself as a chronographer… because ultimately whatever medium or practice I engage myself in, it is related directly to ‘recording’ life.  My mother tells me I was born on earth… but I seriously doubt that.

How did you get started doing what you do?
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I spent the majority of my life dazed and dreaming, pretending to live out other people’s lives whilst ultimately returning to my own. At first I started writing because I needed an outlet. And then photography… And now anything that immediately allows me to express myself.

Photogray by artist Charles MackenzieWhat’s your inspiration?
Expression. I am most free and inspired, when I am not thinking so much. When I am just ‘doing’. I can and have been inspired by generally anything and everything, but I find it’s more inspiring just to work with what’s immediately affecting you, because that’s where truth of expression lies.

I always slap myself in the mornings, at least 37 times and I drink milk and orange juice(morange juice) upside down. An absolutely fool proof technique for inspiration.

What is art to you?
Jonathan Meese put it better than I ever could. “Art is metabolic. It’s just like breathing, eating and shitting. This is why, any art that isn’t made purely for the sake of expression…isn’t art. Because if the piece isn’t immediately important to your life and your growth and even your understanding of the world(or non-understanding)…then it won’t be true.”

What does your typical day look like?
My typical day looks like a can of deodorant going to work with underpants on it’s head, running towards the office screaming:

“I’m alive! I’m alive! Look at me, I am a talking can of deodorant and I have underpants on my head!”

Photogray by artist Charles MackenzieHow do you keep motivated?
I keep a dream diary that I write in almost every day. It inspires me and keeps me in touch with the absurdity of life. I also read excessively. This whole “no thought is original” thing crops up a lot when I read, but then again one can’t have a thought until one has actually experienced it, so books are a nice way to get there and internalize other peoples thoughts and make them ones own. Especially if they have nothing to do with art, because it’s a nice way to remove myself from my work.

If I would recommend any book to a writer or artist it would have to be “Letters to a young poet.”. It helped me understand the importance and power of solitude, and it applies to every facet of life… completely.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

I want to (with the help of other artists) free people from their own enslavement. I want to show people that life isn’t worth living unless they live it completely. I want to show people that there is no point in living, unless you live the life that you want to. I want to make the world more honest, and although there is no fucking way I can do it myself, I believe in the power of art and the internet, and I believe that we are heading towards an expressive liberation.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Be weird. Then be weirder. Keep dreaming. Dream more. Dream bigger. Trust yourself unequivocally.  You can waste your days half-heartedly pretending to be someone else, or you can be yourself… completely.  Also, “INVEST IN APPLE COMPUTING.”

Photogray by artist Charles MackenziePhotogray by artist Charles MackenzieWhat’s the best advice you’ve been given?
When I bumped into a  fellow ‘dreamer’/friend, and told him about all the epiphanies and revelations I had had about life, death and dreaming, etc, etc… he grabbed me hard by my shoulders and shook me whilst he screamed:

“Charles… there are no answers to life! ONLY MORE MOMENTS.”

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Forget about everything and everybody else. Leave judgements and opinions outside when you enter your work. It’s very easy to believe that other people’s opinions and criticisms matter… they don’t. Art is expression, expressing yourself is all that is required. Once you have created something… regardless of if it is ‘good’ or not…YOU ARE DONE. Move on, and captivate yourself with the next thing. You get to decide who you are and what it is you do. Everything else is white noise, block it all out and you will be totally free to realise your potential. I think that thought process is becoming more prevlalent with regards to art (thanks to the internet)… but writing is still evaluated by an iron clad rule book of bullshit. Just do whatever makes you happy, because if you are serving other peoples’ dreams, ideologies and so forth you will never be able to create and capture your own truths.

What are your thoughts on art school?
I have always been jealous of people who study art, because I only discovered/accepted it into my life so recently, and my university courses have very little to do with it. With that said, the only benefit of art school is networking and technical ability. You can’t teach somebody to be an artist, you can’t even teach somebody to express him or herself…all that stuff comes from within. But if you want to be hired by some shitty restaurant to make some shitty canvases to pay for your shitty apartment, maybe it’s worthwhile. If you want to become an artist… just be one. That’s what I did. I woke up one day and decided: “Today I am an artist.” And if it’s true to you then that’s all that matters. A piece of paper won’t serve as any kind of  proof, and as a matter of fact if that’s what you use to justify the title ‘artist’…. then you may not yet be one.

Photogray by artist Charles MackenzieHave any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I believe in having goals and so forth, but I actually don’t believe in the future (or the past for that matter). It is an unrelenting quicksand that prevents people from being immediately concerned with the present. Ultimately the present is ALL that matters (because it’s all that exists), and it’s all I have the capacity to concern myself with.

If you buy me a beer and some dinner maybe I will talk your ear off about what I think about the past/future.

What’s your dream project?
I want to photograph a bunch of absolute strangers naked in public (without ever meeting/interacting with them). The trust that would be required would be hard to gain, especially if the subjects have never met me… which is a challenge in itself.  But doing such a thing would put so much more power into the role of a photographer. I generally hate that title and all it’s connotations, because in the art world, photographers are generally ‘passive’.  Which makes no sense, because photographs are captured moments of ‘the real thing’. So that would be my first dream project, which is more of a social movement than anything. I just want to show people that the limitations that they oppose on themselves are actually opposed by other people.  I want to show them that complete and unyielding solidarity exists… it just needs a little fire. Basically what I am saying is… I want to start a naked revolution.

What art supplies do you use?
I smoke.
I drink.
I think.

Charles Mackenzie PhotographyPhotogray by artist Charles MackenzieHow could the art industry become better in your opinion?
It should just stop being a fucking industry. People should just create for the sake of creation.  Expression should be free. Art shouldn’t be graded in school.  Children should just be given an hour a day to themselves, to do or say whatever they want. If they spend that time drawing 3 legged horses and large dicks with moustaches and top hats- so be it. The problems start there in school, but they also exist elsewhere. Art shouldn’t be made important because of reputation, or scale… or because it’s placed in a big fancy gallery somewhere, art should be important upon itself- no strings attached.

Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
Two massive inspirations in my life (very recently as well) have been the alt lit poet Steve Roggenbuck and German artist, Jonathan Meese. I gobble up their every word.

Also a good all rounder is Terrence McKenna. His ideas about life…truth… our minds… etc. Every single word is profound and laced with lifetimes of experience and perception condensed into one human being. He helped me understand, that at the end of the day, the only truth you can completely accept is the one that you shape yourself.

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