Bryan Lewis Saunders: The Alchemy of Madness

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Bryan Lewis Saunders (c. 1969) is in some ways easier to describe by saying what he isn’t rather than what he is. He is anything but ordinary, boring, or predictable. In 1995 he began drawing and painting self-portraits, vowing to create at least one self-portrait every day until he dies. He has more than kept his word. By his estimation, at present he has actualized somewhere around 12,000 daily-self-portraits using his hands, feet, mouth, penis, and/or even his own asshole. These nakedly honest pictures, in which he filters the world through himself (rather than vice versa), are perhaps most striking or notable for their extreme variety of stylistic approaches, as well as their utilization of drastically different expressive mediums (it’s sometimes difficult to believe that they were all created by the same person). The video artist David Larcher dubbed this work "The Endlessly Reconstructing Auto-Autopsy." In his ceaseless search for experiences that possess the ability to profoundly alter or affect his perception of self, Bryan began a series of self-portraits in 2001 entitled “Under the Influence”, in which he began experimenting with making self-portraits while under the influence of different drugs. The series eventually went viral and brought attention to his myriad of other projects and experiments as an endurance artist (often involving prolonged sensory deprivation), videographer, poet, raconteur, stream of unconsciousness writer, recording artist, exterior decorator (See: “Extreme Makeover ‘Fuck Mattress’ Edition”), museum director (his Johnson City, Tennessee home doubles as the world’s only Steven "Jesse" Bernstein museum), found photography collector, and stand-up tragedy performer (a type of cathartic/traumatic performance he created following a failed attempt to become a famous stand-up comedian in China). On this episode of THE EXILE HOUR we talk with Bryan about a wide range of topics including his time in prison, resisting the entrepreneurial goal and effort to market artistic meaning, how to develop echolocation, Louis Wain, the difference between shock and disgust, processing psychological trauma, irrational fears, and mental disorders through ritualized artistic practice, sociopathy, thought transference, being publicly shamed for a cultural misunderstanding by a mob in the streets of China, his encounters with Chinese secret police, remembering late Industrial music pioneer Z’EV, and what it’s like to experience the process of “breathing sound.” NOTE: Bryan is currently raising funds to have copies of his “Interviews Vol. 1” book sent to currently incarcerated criminals through the Books for Prisoners program. He asked us to include the following link which describes more about the undertaking and how people can support it: https://www.facebook.com/donate/2535660146501033/

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