A Celebration in Neon
Dylan Neuwirth came to prominence with his iconic work “Just Be Your Selfie.” He’s remade it this year with a red line through the last two words to communicate something much more meaningful: what it should have said in the first place. Ahead of a solo exhibition at Bellevue Arts Center, his remixed and revamped version “Just Be” will appear along with two other new works at Bumbershoot Festival, August 31st to September 2nd. We talk to him about his very busy year, making art in the digital age, and the beauty of neon.
Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to in 2018
2018 has been a busy year. I helped launch Western Neon School of Art. in early January with André Lucero and Kelsey Fernkopf, a non-profit institution supporting the investigation of light, space, and interactive technologies located in the SODO neighborhood of Seattle.
In February, I debuted a new body of work titled METANOIA—an autobiographical body of work created from 2016 to 2018 with my mother, sister, and a team of dedicated collaborators including Grant Kirkpatrick, Fritz Rodriguez, Jason Christian, Cold Cube Press, and Oxbow. What began as a 27,000+ word artist statement in 2016 that mined my family’s past and shared addictions eventually morphed into a sculptural installation, performance piece, and virtual reality memoir staged in a self-help meeting.
In early summer, I began working on my most ambitious project to-date for a follow-up residency at Oxbow GENERATIONS. The exhibition is up until August 31 and is a series of simulations taking form, falling apart, and crisscrossing terrains.
Somewhere in here I appeared in Filson’s August 2018 Catalog alongside co-workers from Western Neon (where I’m the Creative Director) and craftsperson from across the PNW. Next up is MMXVIII, a series of outdoor/indoor site-specific works for Bumbershoot and then my first solo museum exhibition in October at Bellevue Arts Museum: OMNIA. I’m also featured in a book titled Lust For Light, edited by Hannah Stouffer, that comes out in October on Ginkgo Press.
None of this would be possible without all the many talented and driven people I collaborate with—I’m truly surrounded by a circle of family and friends who dream, achieve, and continuously support what I set out to do. You can only do the next best right thing and they remind me of this everyday.
You’ve described a love/hate relationship with your (iconic) work, Just Be Your Selfie. What’s been your favorite project or piece, and what’s so special about that one?
All I can say about JUST BE YOUR SELFIE is that we’re remixing it for Bumbershoot and it will be what it should have been all along. The message was relevant when it appeared and now by revisiting it in a public forum, never more important regarding the world we live in. That said, I respect that it’s had an impact but also love knowing it has evolved with me. My work doesn’t change the world but it changes me. If it affects others, that’s all I can hope for.
My favorite work ever is the one I just completed with assistance from Lars Borgeson from Borgeson Special Works and Dani Kaes from Western Neon at Oxbow. Titled SOURCE CODE, this 27-foot tall anti-telecom tower functions as a hate-jammer broadcasting psychic transmissions of strength, energy, union, and transcendence. It took over three years to realize, totally sums up everything I want my work to do, and for the first time I heard people react to the concept and aesthetics with the word, “Beautiful”—something I’ve never experienced. But the point is: this thing is real, it works, it’s a thing in the world doing what it does silently 24/7 without decoration, frills, or unnecessary details.
Your work is often directly conversational, inviting participation by the audience through VR, or containing literal statements on digital culture, or inviting proliferation via social media. With this in mind, who is the intended audience? Do you think of the work as experiential or is the end product of the image always in the back of your mind?
I think my work exists in a constantly updated continuum, at least for me. I do what I do because it’s what I do. I mean, as a former active addict, I’m no stranger to obsession. I work with two brains constantly talks to each other. One is the intuitive side and the other is all analytics but I constantly look for feedback from others to get perspectives on this interior dialogue. It’s like a big group meeting where we’re all trying to decide what all this is, what is life, and how we live it? I think the feedback loop gets created once it hits the airwaves via social media or among the public, but the tipping point is when they collide unexpectedly.
Where else can we see your work? Are there any under-the-radar spots in Seattle we should know about (for art, or Chinese food, or anything else)?
To check out more of my work, visit my gallery SEASON and if you’re in Georgetown, be sure to grab a shot in the dark at All City Coffee, a #3 with fries instead at Square Knot and finish off the night at Bar Ciudad—say hi to Mario.