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← My life as a work of art

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Showing Revision 9 created 06/13/2019 by Oliver Friedman.

  1. My day starts just like yours.
  2. (Laughter)

  3. When I wake up in the morning,

  4. I check my phone,
  5. and then I have a cup of coffee.
  6. But then my day truly starts.
  7. It may not be like yours,
    because I live my life as an artwork.
  8. Picture yourself in a giant jewelry box
  9. with all the beautiful things
    that you have ever seen in your life.
  10. Then imagine that your body is a canvas.
  11. And on that canvas,
  12. you have a mission to create a masterpiece
  13. using the contents
    of your giant jewelry box.
  14. Once you've created your masterpiece,
  15. you might think, "Wow, I created that.
  16. This is who I am today."
  17. Then you would pick up your house keys,
  18. walk out the door into the real world,
  19. maybe take public transport
    to the center of the town ...
  20. Possibly walk along the streets
    or even go shopping.
  21. That's my life, every day.

  22. When I walk out the door,
  23. these artworks are me.
  24. I am art.
  25. I have lived as art my entire adult life.
  26. Living as art is how I became myself.
  27. I was brought up in a small village
    called Fillongley, in England,

  28. and it was last mentioned
    in the "Domesday Book,"
  29. so that's the mentality.
  30. (Laughter)

  31. I was raised by my grandparents,

  32. and they were antiques dealers,
  33. so I grew up surrounded
    by history and beautiful things.
  34. I had the most amazing dress-up box.
  35. So as you can imagine, it started then.
  36. I moved to London when I was 17
    to become a model.
  37. And then I went to study photography.
  38. I wasn't really happy
    with myself at the time,
  39. so I was always looking for escapism.
  40. I studied the works of David LaChapelle
  41. and Steven Arnold,
  42. photographers who both curated
    and created worlds
  43. that were mind-blowing to me.
  44. So I decided one day to cross over
    from the superficial fashion world
  45. to the superficial art world.
  46. (Laughter)

  47. I decided to live my life
    as a work of art.

  48. I spend hours, sometimes
    months, making things.
  49. My go-to tool is a safety pin,
    like this --
  50. (Laughter)

  51. They're never big enough.

  52. (Laughter)

  53. And I use my fabrics time and time again,

  54. so I recycle everything that I use.
  55. When I get dressed I'm guided
    by color, texture and shape.
  56. I rarely have a theme.
  57. I find beautiful objects
    from all over the world,
  58. and I curate them into 3-D tapestries
  59. over a base layer that covers
    my whole body shape ...
  60. because I'm not very happy with my body.
  61. (Laughs)

  62. I ask myself, "Should I take something off

  63. or should I put something on?
  64. 100 pieces, maybe?"
  65. And sometimes, I do that.
  66. I promise you it's not
    too uncomfortable --
  67. well, just a little --
  68. (Laughter)

  69. I might have a safety pin
    poking at me sometimes

  70. when I'm having a conversation with you,
  71. so I'll kind of go off --
  72. (Laughter)

  73. It usually takes me
    about 20 minutes to get ready,

  74. which nobody ever believes.
  75. It's true --
  76. sometimes.
  77. So, it's my version
    of a t-shirt and jeans.
  78. (Laughter)

  79. When I get dressed,
    I build like an architect.

  80. I carefully place things
    till I feel they belong.
  81. Then, I get a lot of my ideas
    from lucid dreaming.
  82. I actually go to sleep
    to come up with my ideas,
  83. and I've taught myself to wake up
    to write them down.
  84. I wear things till they fall apart,
  85. and then, I give them a new life.
  86. The gold outfit, for example --
  87. it was the outfit that I wore
    to the Houses of Parliament in London.
  88. It's made of armor,
    sequins and broken jewelry,
  89. and I was the first person
    to wear armor to Parliament
  90. since Oliver Cromwell
    banned it in the 17th century.
  91. Things don't need
    to be expensive to be beautiful.
  92. Try making outfits out of bin liners
    or trash you found out on the streets.
  93. You never know,
  94. they might end up on the pages of "Vogue."
  95. There's over 6,000 pieces
    in my collection,

  96. ranging from 2,000-year-old Roman rings
    to ancient Buddhist artifacts.
  97. I believe in sharing what I do
    and what I have with others,
  98. so I decided to create an art exhibition,
  99. which is currently traveling
    to museums around the world.
  100. It contains an army of me --
  101. life-size sculptures
    as you can see behind me,
  102. they're here --
  103. they are my life, really.
  104. They're kind of like 3-D tapestries
    of my existence as living as art.
  105. They contain plastic crystals
    mixed with diamonds,
  106. beer cans and royal silks all in one look.
  107. I like the fact that the viewer
    can never make the assumption
  108. about what's real and what's fake.
  109. I find it important to explore and share
    cultures through my works.
  110. I use clothing as a means to investigate
  111. and appreciate people
    from all over the world.
  112. Sometimes, people think
    I'm a performer or a drag queen.

  113. I'm not.
  114. Although my life appears
    to be a performance,
  115. it's not.
  116. It's very real.
  117. People respond to me as they would
    any other type of artwork.
  118. Many people are fascinated and engaged.
  119. Some people walk around me,
    staring, shy at first.
  120. Then they come up to me and they say
    they love or absolutely hate what I do.
  121. I sometimes respond, and other times
    I let the art talk for itself.
  122. The most annoying thing in the world
    is when people want to touch the artwork.
  123. But I understand.
  124. But like a lot of contemporary art,
  125. many people are dismissive.
  126. Some people are critical,
  127. others are abusive.
  128. I think it comes from
    the fear of the different --
  129. the unknown.
  130. There are so many reactions to what I do,
  131. and I've just learned
    not to take them personally.
  132. I've never lived
    as Daniel Lismore, the person.

  133. I've lived as Daniel Lismore, the artwork.
  134. And I've faced every
    obstacle as an artwork.
  135. It can be hard ...
  136. especially if your wardrobe
    takes up a 40-foot container,
  137. three storage units
    and 30 boxes from IKEA --
  138. (Laughter)

  139. and sometimes, it can be
    very difficult, getting into cars,

  140. and sometimes --
  141. well, this morning I didn't fit
    through my bathroom door,
  142. so that was a problem.
  143. (Laughter)

  144. What does it mean to be yourself?

  145. People say it all the time,
  146. but what does it truly mean,
  147. and why does it matter?
  148. How does life change when you choose
    to be unapologetically yourself?
  149. I've had to face struggles
    and triumphs whilst living my life as art.

  150. I've been put on private jets
  151. and flown around the world.
  152. My work's been displayed
    in prestigious museums,
  153. and I've had the opportunity --
  154. that is my grandparents, by the way,
  155. they're the people that raised me,
  156. and there I am --
  157. (Laughs)

  158. (Applause)

  159. So I've been put on private jets,
    flown around the world,

  160. and yet, it's not been that easy
  161. because at times, I've been homeless,
  162. I've been spat at,
  163. I've been abused, sometimes daily,
  164. bullied my entire life,
  165. rejected by countless individuals,
  166. and I've been stabbed.
  167. But what hurt the most
  168. was being put on the "Worst Dressed" list.
  169. (Laughter)

  170. It can be hard, being yourself,

  171. but I've found it's the best way.
  172. There's the "Worst Dressed."

  173. (Laughs)

  174. As the quote goes,
    "Everyone else is already taken."

  175. I've come to realize that confidence
    is a concept you can choose.
  176. I've come to realize that authenticity
    is necessary, and it's powerful.
  177. I've tried to spend time
    being like other people.
  178. It didn't work.
  179. It's a lot of hard work,
    not being yourself.
  180. I have a few questions for you all.

  181. Who are you?
  182. How many versions of you are there?
  183. And I have one final question:
  184. Are you using them all to your advantage?
  185. In reality, everyone is capable
    of creating their own masterpiece.

  186. You should try it sometime.
  187. It's quite fun.
  188. Thank you.

  189. (Applause and cheers)