Interview Series: Ben Frost

Ben Frost‘s current show “See Inside Box For Details” at Shooting Gallery SF (Sept 8-29, 2012) feels a little bit like a subversive childhood dream, presenting the viewer his take on the chaotic, seedy nature of pop culture and our loss of innocence through advertising. Both painter and street artist, his controversial work points out how media-obsessed we are as a society, focusing on what he sees as a pre-packaged lifestyle.

He often paints on found pharmaceutical and food packaging, like cereal boxes, juxtaposing elements like Special K against a drug-dazed rabbit or changing Kellogg’s to Killgod. We met the artist for a quick preview before the show and his view on pop culture definitely parallels his art aesthetic well. Have a read of the interview:

LF: Can you talk about how media and advertising has influenced you personally?

BF: I have a love/hate relationship with advertising and the media.. I love nothing more than wandering aimlessly in the aisles of department stores and supermarkets, admiring the pretty colors and then imagining setting it all on fire.

LF: You present sex and violence atypically, glamorizing it in a way. Why is this important?

BF: Sex and violence is a big part of culture, but I enjoy juxtaposing it with more innocent things like cereal or candy packaging to express a different set of emotions.  The advertising, the colorful mascots and the punchy slogans are often all a facade for the more sinister aspects of corporate oppression.

LF: A lot of your work focuses on American Pop culture though you are from Australia. What’s the schtick on Americana?

BF: My perspective of America is an Australian one – I can observe and express from the outside looking in..  Though Australia is fast becoming another state of America.

LF: You’re work with product packaging exposes satirical meanings to normal everyday products like Hamburger Helper and Cheese Nips that maybe the average person wouldn’t notice, but now that it’s pointed out, it’s so obvious. Can you talk more about this?

BF: I want people to take another look at advertising and to think about the things they’re putting in their mouths.  Painting onto the found packages is a way of taking the power back from a one way system that dictates how we should live and what we should eat. I get a kick out of making fun of the names and the double entendre that a lot of brand names suggest.

LF: How would you describe a “pre-packaged” lifestyle?

BF: Everything is packaged, everything is disposable and none of it has any value. I have a gentle pessimism for the future of our species.. We even get buried in vaccuum sealed plastic bags.

LF: You recently moved to Toronto. Has this effected your work or thought process in any way?

BF: It’s always interesting being in different places and making art in the context of your location. Packaging in Canada is all written in French as well as English, and looking at advertising as a ‘foreigner’ you can make more obtuse observations.

LF: What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?

BF: Inspector Gadget was pretty cool. I never really liked Disney though.. The characters were always a little too scary for me, even then..

LF: Do you eat McDonalds?

BF: Of course. Doesn’t everybody?

LF: What gets you off, literally or figuratively?

BF: My parole terms dictate I can’t discuss these things in public.

LF: How FAST do you live?

BF: Way too fast.

Stop by Shooting Gallery SF from now until Sept 29, 2012 to have a look at Ben’s work. With over 70 paintings, it’s a pop art feast for your eyes.

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