Artist & Visionary Reggie Watts

Interview: Maranda Pleasant

MP: What is it that excites you most about your work right now?

RW: I’m just really interested in 3D photography.

MP: I was not expecting that answer. What is it about 3D photography that sets you on fire?

RW: Well, I like it because I like preserving moments with more information. You know, so that when you look at a photo twenty years from now, if you look at a photo of a moment in your life, or some friends, or yourself, you just have a lot more information about what that memory was. That’s exciting to me. It’s like a form of time preservation, I suppose. I have a couple of 3D cameras, and I’ve been taking photographs quite a bit.

MP: When you’re traveling?

RW: Yeah, mostly when I travel. I will at any time, really. But I’ve been taking pictures of wherever I go, or on planes, whatever.

MP: That’d be stellar. What is it that makes you most vulnerable as a human being?

RW: Most vulnerable…

MP: Dudes love this one.

RW: (laughs) Yeah. I guess, being faced with too many options. I mean, it makes me feel as though I’m overwhelmed by too many possibilities; that can be a very vulnerable feeling because it’s hard to make a decision. It’s hard to move on when you can see too many good possibilities or any kind of possibility really. That’s something that always kind of slows me down and can be a bad place to be in.

MP: What do you do with your pain? How do you process pain when it comes in?

RW: Pretty easy. (laughs) No…

MP: (laughs) Light conversation with Reggie Watts.

RW: Yeah. Pain. Well, if it’s physical pain, you just deal with it the best way you can. But if it’s more emotional, I don’t know. I just try my best to feel it, take it in, and just allow myself to go through whatever may actually come from it. And then a certain amount of it, you can use to transform it through art, which is the healthy way of dealing with it, as well. But in the past, I was definitely more apt to storing it away and not worrying about it. But as I get older, it’s really about figuring out how to process it, how to feel it, and then also how to use it in my art.

MP: What drives your work? Where do you pull from? You are one of the geniuses of our times. Do you start channeling on stage? Do you know what’s coming? What is your process?

RW: Usually I just go up on stage and just kind of start doing something.

MP: (laughs)

RW: (laughs) Yeah, that’s usually how it starts. It depends on where the show is going and what pops into my head as I’m going along, how the audience is reacting, or if it feels like a moment where I want it to go very absurd and very psychedelic, or sometimes, things I’ve been thinking about pop into my head, and I’ll talk about that, either in a literal way, in a kind of a more sincere way, or maybe as a character. Basically, it’s like having a wardrobe around you, different costumes and lots of weird gadgets on the floor or whatever, and you just kind of go for it and just put on different things. You’re communicating with the essence of what’s sincere and honest, but you’re presenting it in different ways. Either abstractly, or sincerely, or insincerely, or sarcastically, but they’re all just different approaches to the same thing.

MP: One thing about your work, it’s real and super honest. A couple of words that I’ve heard to describe you is a visionary and a revolutionary. What is at the core of where you pull from? Is there just a place that you pull from that really drives you and motivates you?

RW: Yeah, I guess I’m interested in people and society and what we do collectively in the realm of decisions that shape our world. You know, at least on a human level. Obviously, there’s all sorts of life happening all around us, but on a human level, I’m just interested in people making informed decisions. You know, increasing their awareness. And also, trying to encourage people to be more fascinated with information and science and knowledge of all sorts, instead of, you know, it’s a generalization, but the encouragement by society, the reflections that society gives us, which is media, television, art – anything, really. The things that are reflected back at us, often times, are appealing to a base instinct that’s about response as opposed to reflection. So for me, it’s important to turn on a piece of information that might interest people, you know, that might interest them in pursuing or researching maybe, or even just thinking about it in that moment as I’m performing it. Whatever encourages people to become more interested in who they are and discovering who they are, as opposed to just accepting what people or things are saying what they are. That’s fascinating to me.

MP: Thank you. At the heart, your work has a consciousness underneath it. I founded this magazine based on bringing all these worlds together: design, art, consciousness, yoga, science, humanitarianism, and sustainability, and throwing them all together in one place. To not only support each other and know what everybody’s doing in many fields, but also to bring awareness. It’s a constant evolution.

RW: (laughing) I feel you. I just think that life is a constant experiment. The biggest fear that I have is settling into too many set behavior patterns, where I feel like I’m no longer exploring possibilities anymore. I’ve had the good fortune of being a friend of Brian Eno throughout the years, and he’s an artist who has never stopped his curiosities, his childlike curiosity for the world, and being interested in things and experimentation. And that’s something I feel like I’ve always had and something that I always want to be in connection with. Whether that means completely ditching something and doing a drastic change or just making subtle changes or odd experiments throughout the day, that’s the thing that makes me feel like I’m connected and alive and on the right course. Being able to share that with other like-minded individuals or to be able to have a conversation with a non-like-minded individual and come to commonality is also equally as important. In the scenes of fringe science, or metaphysics, or yoga, or alternative culture lifestyle, people in those types of circles, even though they’re doing amazing things, sometimes don’t communicate their ideas to the person that wouldn’t even think about any of those things. I think it’s important as a performer, no matter where I travel, if I run into someone at the airport or I’m having a conversation on an airplane, run into someone on the sidewalk, or you’re waiting on a long line and you start talking to somebody, who doesn’t really share a lot of your same views, but then you come to commonality, I think that’s very very important as well.

MP: Right. What projects do you have coming up right now? What are you doing?

RW: Well, I have a bunch of live shows that I’m doing, a lot of festival stuff. Project wise, I am doing a residency in San Francisco for the exploratorium, which is kind of an interactive science experience, I guess lab place for general ages, and so I don’t know what I’m going to be doing but I’m doing something there. (laughs) And I’m also going to be giving some kind of talk on experimental comedy in Banff, Canada, with Michael Portnoy who is a performance artist. And I have been renting a space where I can work on some new performance technology stuff. You know, just interesting surround sound stuff. I’ll be working on doing some cool, filmic ideas, as well. So yeah, I’m just kind of interested in focusing on what I’m interested in and just kind of solidifying it, or at least experimenting, or actualizing some of the experiments that I’ve had in my head for years, either filmicly or with audio.

MP: Are there any causes right now or organizations that you support right now?

RW: In general, I’m in support of promoting art and science in public schools. I think music and science are probably the most important factors for the human brain developing. Even more so than any other fields, because music covers mathematics, cognitive reasoning, motor skills, coordination, like, it’s kind of everything. And then science gives you an understanding of the physical world, and it increases the capacity for fascination. I think that for developing mentally and creatively and emotionally, those are the two most important things that are totally fading away. Music and art is regarded as extra and can be the first thing that you cut in a school program, and it’s completely not true. If you want to create really boring, frustrated human beings, then yeah, cut out art and science.

Photo 1: Noah Kalina

Photos 2 & 3: Wendy Lynch Redfer