***This was an interview I did for Notorious magazine.
Mark Jenkins is a street artist. He wasn’t always a street artist…he sort of fell into it through imagination, boredom and fate. He started with using clear tape and covering objects, staplers at first and then plastic baby dolls. He would then slice through the tape and take out the object, creating a clear plastic doll. Then he took it to the next level and took those clear plastic dolls and placed them in public. He would secretly wait for passersby to recognize the babies and note their reactions. After all, the true beauty of street art is the reaction of the viewer. Art, in unexpected places.
Babies then evolved into full adult torsos, placed in compromising positions. If you were to come across his art (placed worldwide on the sly) you couldn’t help but stop, be shocked and walk away with a grin.
Mark Jenkins just happens to be my friend……and he was kind enough to let me interview him.
First of all…it’s always funny to think back to the days when we were in our twenties in DC…hitting the nightclubs, and drinking WAY too much. If someone had told you way back when, that some day you would be a renowned street artist…would you EVER have believed it?
I suppose I wouldn’t even know what that really was…and that people would take any heavy interest in that sort of thing. I wasn’t into graffiti either. I was into music and playing in bands.(Mark played saxophone). Art didn’t seem important.
Okay, let’s talk about the tape people. How many rolls of tape does it take to make just one person? I can’t even begin to imagine how sore your fingers must get manipulating that tape all the time.
About 12 rolls, but it’s not so much my fingers, They only get knicked by the razor sometimes. It’s more my wrists from doing a lot of repetitive tasks. My doctor said I have to be careful or I will need a surgery. Yikes…
When you place your art in public, is it done in a stealth manor in the dark of the wee morning hours..and have you ever been stopped by the Police?
It’s better to do this stuff during the day. Carrying around bodies in the night would be more dangerous I think. But when we install (I do this with my friend Sandra Fernandez) we try to do it fairly quickly and always if anyone comes up I say it’s a photography project. That way the worst case scenario is that we’d have to take it down. But normally I just take a few photos and then sort of slip away. If it’s video I have a friend do this. I’ve only been stopped by the police a couple times: One officer asked me how many rolls of tape it takes. (This question always makes me feel like the Tootsie Pop Owl). Some officers in London said they liked it a lot but couldn’t protect it, and one of them said he hoped it lasted because he wanted to come back once he was off work and take some photos. The last was in Palestine. A small angry mob formed around Sandra and I after we installed a guy in a trash bin in an open air market. They didn’t find this sort of absurdist humor funny in the least. I suppose because it’s a culture where there are more violent things happening with all of the conflict with Israel. In fact some got the idea that we were with the Israeli media trying to make them look apathetic to the plight of their fellow man. Interesting stuff really.
I know you try to watch the reactions to your art from afar what’s the best reaction that you can remember?
One of the figures got rescued by a rescue diver. It was pretty intense. I thought to go say something, but it was too late and it seemed also like the installation had taken on a life of it own with the theatrical aspect playing out this way.
I was very fortunate to catch the Hell’s Half Acre show with your work in the tunnels under Waterloo station in London. That was by far THE coolest art show I’ve ever been to. The whole atmosphere was amazing and it’s engrained in my memory banks forever. Even the bar down there was cool…it must have been pretty cool installing your human chrysalises down there and meeting all the other artists. I even heard that a certain notorious street artist (Banksy) was interested in meeting you.
Oh, well actually I wasn’t there to install the works. I would have liked to the way you describe it! Too bad. I had another project and so I only saw the photos. But I’d done something similar before in a tree in Winston Salem and this was quite fun but a bit scary to install. But I’ve met most all of these artists represented by Lazarides. All very nice people who drink too much. But I suppose that’s just English culture.
I was in a bookstore in Seattle this summer and came across an anthology of street art and you of course were in it. I was SO impressed how quickly it’s all happened for you. Your piece was at the Kunst Halle Wien(click link to see video)you’re showing in MUSEUMS…and you are now a book author. What’s in the future?
Thanks! Upcoming Sandra and I are doing a residency in Rome in March, a project in Sao Paulo in May and then some other stuff that I’m still trying to work out dates for…it’s always a sort of mess to figure out! But I’d like to continue to do outdoor works…maybe some larger scale stuff..create crowds instead of just one person that crowds stare at.
To see more of Mark’s work check out his website!