Staying Creative in Lockdown with Visual Artist Max Siedentopf

Max Siedentopf is, in short, a genius. The Namibian-German visual artist and creative director (previously with creative agency KesselsKramer) has built a reputation worldwide with his bold provocations and visually captivating work. From his absurdist doppelgänger campaign for Gucci to producing the renowned independent magazine Ordinary and everything in-between – Siedentopf keeps us all on our toes by manipulating the unwritten rules of art and seeking out the extraordinary in the everyday. 

When faced with a life in lockdown, to help fend off the sense of creative restrictions and being deprived of experience while V in self-isolation, Max has been dishing out exhilarating concepts and bizarre briefs from the confines of his London home – remotely pulling community and family members along for the ride. With numerous provocative projects and an appetite for improvisation, he has his dad scribbling ‘SHIT’ on his teeth to remake iconic TOILETPAPER magazine images A for his glorious bootleg publication TOILETPAPA; has crowdsourced a global community of loungers for his site So Far Sofa; and has seen hundreds of followers excavating their kitchen cupboards and slipping their feet into condiments to create makeshift haute couture for his ER interactive Home Alone Survival Guide (now available as a book). BORED

As our worlds are being turned upside down, Max invites you to turn your home inside out and bed upright and to capture it on camera – all in the name of a little thing called art. We spoke to Max to discuss cucumbers, staying creative, and dismantling ideas, simply by doing that very thing: making art. Say goodbye to your creative lull and get ready to be inspired.

Q: Hi, Max! thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. What's your home's best feature?

A: The four walls that keep it all together.

Q: What do you see when you look outside your window?

A: Possibilities.

Q: Why make art?

A: Why make anything?

Q: I feel your work always sets out to challenge perceptions. What do you hope people take away from your work?

A: A slightly irritating itch that you can’t quite reach.

Q: Your work seems to marvel at the everyday. Is inspiration ever hard to find?

A: I think that’s the beauty of it - there's inspiration to be found in even the most mundane object; all you need to do is take a fresh look at it.

Q: Let's talk about the home alone Survival Guide series. Which mundane object sparked that?

A: I think my first reaction when the lockdown started was the fear of not being able to make new work. However, that quickly passed when I just looked around my home and realized there is actually an unlimited amount of things you can do here. The toilet paper so many people stockpiled might be the most important object of the crisis.

Q: Do you find the limits of creating at home liberating or restrictive?

A: It certainly doesn’t compare to shooting at some fancy beach in some exotic country, but I think there are still more than enough possibilities to create exciting work at home.

Q: Cucumbers and toothpaste make a lot of cameos. Are these universal icons for the home-art movement?

A: Definitely, and there are many more. The great thing about these objects is that they’re present in almost every household, which makes them easily relatable and anyone can use them.

Q: Did you expect the series to take off like it has? How many submissions have you received?

A: Not at all. I started the series right at the start at the lockdown, which I think helped - in total I received over a thousand images. Since then, many similar initiatives have been created, which I like. It’s been a good exercise to bring all different kinds of people together.

Q: What’s been the most unexpected and hilarious submission yet?

A: I realized the more absurd instructions where you’d think no one would do them actually made for the best results – like turning your toilet into a Jacuzzi.

Q: How have you surprised yourself since living in lockdown?

A: One morning I woke up with a Spanish accent.

Q: What do you miss the most from your pre-COVID-19 life?

A: I’m quite frustrated that the swimming pools are closed at the moment.

Q: Was it difficult to convince your dad to be your muse/subject for your bootleg publication TOILETPAPA (inspired by the notorious Toiletpaper Magazine by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari)?

A: My dad and I have worked together on a few projects together in the past, each time it gets a little bit easier – I think he has come to terms with the fact that resistance is futile.

Q: The fun you two are having in the photographs is truly contagious. Which image was the most entertaining to recreate?

A: All in all, the shoot was a lot of fun and it’s hard to choose. However, I would probably go with the sausage photo, because what you can’t see is that my mother and sister were holding the sausages, with my dog close by, trying to eat them. I love that my whole family was involved in making this.

Q: Why the long sofa, for your crowdsourced content site So Far Sofa?

A: Most of us spend a lot of time stuck alone at home on our sofas and can’t be together with our loved ones – this is something people all around the world are currently sharing and so I wanted to bring all of these people and their sofas together.

Q: What’s next?

A: Advice for the uninspired?

Q: Advice for the uninspired?

A: Uninspiredness can be inspiring.

Q: Any parting words?

A: Don’t forget to write your mom.