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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Phillip Barcio

We caught up with the wonderful Phillip Barcio over email last week to get more of an idea of who he is and what he does. To start you off with his work, if you're unfamiliar, here's his brilliant and uplifting collaboration in New York City called 'I Love You'

Check out his website here. This is what he had to say:

PB: These interview questions are so thoughtful. It's simultaneously uplifting and humbling to be called an artist. I hope my answers are alright.

PG: When we started looking through your website it seemed to act like an immense cavern full of twists and turns to unexpected places- did you design it yourself and how do you choose what artwork to go up there?

PB: You have a sweet way of describing what I fear is a hot mess. My hope with my website is that someone might arrive there and stick around long enough to find something inspiring or funny or thoughtful. It's an OPP site (Other People's Pixels). They make WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) sites for artists. You can't sell stuff, it's just to share your work. As far as choosing what to share, I experience the most pleasure while I'm in the process of working through my ideas and turning them into aesthetic phenomena, but sharing the results can be a letdown. I wish sometimes that someone else could go through the mental process with me. Maybe that would be enjoyable, or maybe it would be a nightmare, I don't know. It depends how open that someone could become. The relics I make from my ideas are never as complete or truthful as the ideas that begat them. So they're for other people to find value in. To quote Joseph Beuys, whatever I end up making is usually just "the waste product, a demonstration."

PG: If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

PB: Work in progress.

PG: You're a multidisciplinary artist; are there any mediums that you want to try but have never gotten around to doing yet?

PB: I've never had an idea that manifested as sculptural. Something tells me I'm too much of a klutz. I've also never produced a full-length scripted film. I dream of it constantly. I hope it's in my future.

PG: Your interview with Fēlan is beautiful, especially the final question, how did you get involved with that particular zine?

PB: It was serendipity. But wait. First, thank you for telling me something I was associated with is beautiful. That's such an important thing for us to tell each other. You have no idea how much it meant to me just now to read that. That last question was meaningful to me, too. Anyway, one week a couple of months ago I received about 10 rejections for a short story I had submitted to 14 journals. I was feeling sorry for myself so I Web-Crawled the word melancholy. Fēlan came up in the search results because they happened to have a call for submissions out with that theme. The deadline was that day, and I didn't have any fiction or poetry that fit the theme. All I had was this photo I had taken of a sad-looking balloon huddled against the nut milk cooler at the grocery. It was quite melancholy, so I submitted it. When they accepted it, that really turned my mood around. It was the little push I needed to get going again.

PG: Have you got any projects in the pipelines that you can tell us about?

PB: I'm applying for the Warhol Grant for art writers. The money would pay for a survey I'd like to make of the abstract ways artists invent to share their work outside of the usual exhibition models. Paper Girl is a perfect example. So are Art Parades.

PG: How did the I Love You film come about?  Was it your idea initially, and did you end up writing a love letter yourself?

PB: Here's how that project came about:
In 2012 I lived in San Francisco. I ran a bar. My boss approached one night and said she was part of the "Secret Society of Creative Philanthropists." She gave me $100 and told me to give it away in any manner I saw fit. Then she invited me to a late night gathering in an old hotel where I would be asked to tell her group about how I gave the money away.

I accepted the $100 and had the idea to buy stamps and envelopes and paper and pens and to set up a table downtown next to a mail box and encourage people to write love letters. I went ahead and wrote "I Love You" on all the sheets of paper ahead of time.

Not many people stopped to write a letter, and many who did were homeless or destitute. They wrote letters mostly to their moms. After I finished up, it occurred to me that maybe I could do the project again in a place where there are a lot more people and get better results. I also thought that since some of the letter writers had asked if I wanted to hear their letters that maybe if I did the project again I could offer them the chance to read their letters on camera.

Years later I was living in New York and thought that Washington Square Park would be the ideal location to try the project again and to film it. Hundreds of thousands of people come through that park every day, from all over the world. Through serendipity I happened to meet a great indie producer, a photographer, an editor and two amazing hospitality workers who we're great at attracting people to themselves. That team volunteered to work on the film for free. I made it for $480 in between bartending shifts. The two days in the park brought us all to tears several times and cracked us up a lot, too. 100 or so people wrote letters. 60 or so read them on camera. I think it's radical proof of something universal in us all, that we care about each other. I'm really thrilled whenever someone watches the film, and I hope people copy the idea.


  1. The humility of this multi-talented artists is inspiring. I feel confident his several areas of work are destined for even more recognition and appreciation.

  2. Great interview! And really loved the pureness of this film when I first saw it - so uplifting, heartfelt and a very meaningful project.