Benjamin Aitken is an Australian artist creating highly technical works with a chaotic edge, which have won him acclaim and fame in the Australian and international fine art worlds.
Born in 1991 to a secular father who worked in the army & a religious mother, who exposed Ben and his siblings to fire & brimstone religion via the Pentecostal Church. Ben found escape from his issues as a child through music & skateboarding – Eventually gaining his first experience with art through the world of graffiti; a medium that inspires Ben to this day.
In his late teens, Ben gained his first direct exposure to the world of fine art through working at an auction house. A transformative experience for someone who was not exposed to formal art as a child, which inspired Ben to focus more seriously on his art. Going on to being accepted to study at the Victorian College of the Arts after graduating High School; which he declined to instead turn his hands to factory work making billboards, whilst continuing to work on his practice. With Ben learning skills and an aesthetic understanding from his time in the billboard & advertising world, that he continues to draw from.
From there Ben quickly began traversing and scaling the fine art world due to his immense talent, whilst also developing a serious drug & alcohol habit as a result of undealt with trauma, stemming in part, from abuse he suffered as a child. Addictions which eventually saw Ben spend time behind bars as he turned 30; & becoming more well known as a headline, than a human.
Lately, Ben is out of gaol and reborn. Having undergone a heroic transformation from drug abuser, to someone who now works publicly to shine a light on the perils of the drug war; and the need for a more human and therapeutic approach to the health issue that is drug addiction.
Importantly, Ben is also back creating: Taking photos, curating via his Nicholas Projects non-profit, DJing, working on a book, and dipping his toes back into painting. A triumphant return for a truly talented and lovely human.
Wanting to get to know him better, we sent Ben some questions to answer over email.
Jump into his world, below…
Name & D.O.B?
Benjamin Aitken, 31/05/1991
City, State, and Country you currently call home?
Melbourne city, Victoria, Australia brother.
City, State, and Country you’re from?
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, religion… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
Childhood hey, art, music, friendships, adventures, romance, politics, religion?
Ok! I’ll try touch on it all…
* Your childhood:
I don’t have many memories of my childhood due to sexual abuse, being diagnosed with PTSD, General anxiety disorder, depression and short-term memory loss which has been exacerbated by drug use later in life – If the man who abused me was alive still when I was at an age of accountability and involved in crime I would probably be in jail for murder, so I’m happy he passed when I was young.
I was not the only victim.
These days I do think about paedophilia, and the paedophiles who actively talk to psychologists and psychiatrists about those urges, those feelings, but never act on them. I’d like to give credit to them, understanding it’s a disease. I think I am a lot more empathic now that I am going through therapy.
How’s that first answer for an interview!?
There is some beauty in everything, and I’ll share as honestly as I can.
A memory that is close to my heart though is when I first can remember hearing music…
I grew up with a father who was in the army, so we moved around a lot when I was young, and my mother was a Pentecostal Christian. Being forced to attend a cult like church growing up had a massive impact on my mental health later in life, but there was one morning where I pretended I was too sick for my mother to make me attend. My father, who would never attend with the rest of the family, would always stay home on Sunday morning.
I remember hearing the Commodore with my mother and two sisters in it pulling out of the driveway while I was lying in bed, then suddenly the roar of Black Sabbaths ‘We sold our soul for Rock n Roll’ on vinyl. How ironic. I have that same record from my father, in my collection today.
From then on, I developed a love for music. My parents supported me learning percussion from an early age, and I remember starting lessons at school in grade two all the way through to year 10, taking extracurricular lessons and learning how to read sheet music.
My second memory of music (apart from the rubbish I had to listen to at church) was D12’s ‘Devil’s Night’ – again, ironic considering my circumstances. That was the second half of grade four. I think ‘Purple Pills’ was played so much on the radio is how I knew what it was. Back then the radio edit was ‘Purple Hills.’
That is what developed my love for hip hop early on. Not being allowed to listen to this music considered by my mum ‘secular’, which to be fair – is fair enough – that is a fucking wild album lyrically for an eleven-year-old.
I think Xzibit’s ‘Man Vs Machine’ came out when I was in grade 6. This is when iMesh and Limewire became a thing, so I was typing in ‘rap’ in the search engine and downloading 90’s rap music and burning them to CD’s and tapes, and I’d sneak the car keys from the kitchen bench and sit in the car in the garage and listen to hardcore rap.
You ask about friendships, and it reminds me of a kid who was my best mate in primary school. We both loved rap. His brother was 19, and I would call him up on a landline telephone, and he would play me this Cypress Hill CD he had and just put the phone receiver against the CD player.
What a strange way to experience hip hop!
After year 10, it was then I moved schools to do year 11 and 12 at a school that had a strong focus on visual art and music. This was when I started art classes and felt encouraged by my teachers in this period – resulting in a decision to stop playing music completely and focus 100% on learning how to draw and paint.
Hmm, that is a funny question.
I did not have any teen romances; I was too busy being self-destructive. When I did lose my virginity at a young age I had no idea the concept of taking a condom off. I pulled that motherfucker lying down from the tip and it flicked back towards me so I ended up coming on my own face.
That was romantic.
* Your teenage years:
I had a normal teenagerhood, like most, although I am sure there would be a cohort of students, teachers and police that would argue I was a little bit more misbehaved than most.
I skated every day from about the age of 13 ‘til I was 17.
When I was born, I had a rare disease in my hip (Perthes disease), which resulted in lots of pain that I cannot remember, only recalled by my mother – and during high school I had all the cartilage in my right knee removed.
I continued skating which is why I now have a slight limp and need a hip replacement at some point. Sometimes I will use a wheelchair if visiting a massive museum.
A lot of people do not know that about me.
I did all the classic naughty boy shit, wagging school to skate, hanging around the local mall, doing graffiti.
I ended up getting pretty involved in the graffiti scene. It was one of my art teachers mentioned earlier in year 11, who was a wrote SIZER in the infamous CR (Causin Ruckus) crew that encouraged me to take my art more seriously.
I wrote SNIFL in the crew TMP’s, a crew that still exists and writes today. I have remained friends with some and had falling outs with some others. I may or may not drop a tag here and there. I may or may not still write SNIFL.
I was charged for tagging a police car semi recently, but I am not actively involved in the scene anymore.
* Your 20s:
I started using heroin late in year 12 and did unmarked VCE.
I applied to study fine art at the VCA and was accepted. I do not really remember why at the time, but I ended up choosing to do factory work making billboards. This is something that has influenced my practice to this day. Scale, text, etc.
I was dealing ice at the same time, age 20, and took myself to rehab for heroin use when I was 22. I stayed clean from drugs for about 5 years after that but became a very heavy alcoholic.
I had two long term relationships during my 20’s, both of which were invaluable in my growth in maturing. These two women helped me learn about communication, unfortunately in hindsight. But these are the things that we go through and help us grow. They have made me a better person, and I hope I had a positive impact on them also, even though we are not in contact.
Since my last break up and some therapy I have explored myself sexually, and have been described as queer, which is an identity I accept and can identify with, but I do not take it on to be a role model or anything. I am just some dude figuring out what I enjoy.
I understand labels can help people feel accepted and part of a community, which can be healing.
But I personally don’t fuck with labels. Everyone is curious, these manmade constructs have just made it more difficult for some people to figure that out.
* Your 30s so far:
My 30’s so far have consisted of me spending a couple of months in maximum security prison for multiple trafficking (methylamphetamine in a commercial quantity dropped simpliciter due to quality as it was cut to the shit house to be sold as whip) ketamine, MDMA, cocaine; and 15 possession charges; including dealing with the proceeds of crime and having a bill counter, and firearms charges – A stolen sawn off shotgun from NSW which was cut down so I got a more serious charge, being possession of a handgun.
I spent my birthday on bail in a residential rehab.
I have been out for nearly two years now in which I have had one solo exhibition at PRODUCE – a gallery run by friends who supported me in my resurfacing, some work at the Aotearoa Art Fair with Scott Lawrie Gallery, and a solo show with him later on (with works going to collectors who worked in prison reform and a psychiatrist who specializing in addiction); and started working on a project with my itinerant not-for-profit foundation ‘Nicholas Projects’ which aims to work with artists at all levels of their careers.
The current project I am working on under Nicholas Projects is called ‘INTOMISSION’ which right across Victoria, at public sites visible to hundreds of thousands of viewers, presents the work of twelve Australian artists. Contemporary art will occupy large format digital and static billboard infrastructure, engaging new audiences and offering artists new platforms.
This non-profit project playfully integrates images of paintings, photographs, drawings, and new media art at high-visibility locations, asserting art’s value in our everyday experience.
With consideration of region and country, INTOMISSION links artist, idea, and place to inspire a captive audience through surprise and physical impact.
We have a large format billboard media landscape across regional Victoria that lends itself perfectly to bringing outstanding contemporary art to the local communities and greater Victorian populous to experience and enjoy. This is the people’s space and having a small break from the ads with a visual experience from some of the best artists in Australia can only be positive.
Large-scale digital billboards will be co-opted at locations in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepperton, Wangaratta, Traralgon and Horsham thanks to the generosity of Total Outdoor Media (TOM)’s Managing Director, Ged Hart; and programmed throughout the year by myself with digital direction by my friend and photographer Daniel Anderson.
Bringing a mix of styles, approaches, media and profiles, INTOMISSION works to celebrate Australian art by sharing it to vast audiences, while drawing together a network of some of the country’s most interesting artists in one innovative program offering. It’s been a massive undertaking, learning curve and just maybe it will rear its head again in 2024 with a publication.
I am also in conversation with the head chef of Izakaya Den on working on a night of specially made ceramics by a friend and myself and painted to serve food on that color match and tie into a theme that hasn’t been discussed, but surely some good ‘ol crime graffiti (shout outs to cunts bombing) and hip hop will make a great night of impressively displayed dishes.
It’s just a conversation but I’m looking forward to getting something firmed out. We plan to get my mate DMC legend DJ Osyris down from Adelaide for the shenanigans.
I’m also in the process of starting a podcast called ‘inside out’ which will feature comedians, sommeliers, chefs, active criminals, reformed criminals, and people I meet on the street. Whoever. The foundation is based around letters I am writing to people on the inside, while I am on the outside. The final letter to be read out by a guest, and to be the basis of a group conversation about our own mental health (getting things inside, out) – and why we should not judge anyone by their one worst deed.
Why such a crockpot of guests?
How do our careers intersect?
How have we dealt with our own demons, struggled with addictions and how can it relate back to people who are incarcerated? This is something important – to humanize people.
Some people need to be locked up, but what happens inside is not helping them. Some people have done some heinous shit – but are totally reformed and could be a significant role model and help to the community if there was more harm reduction and youth services provided, instead of taxpayers paying $105,000 per year to keep someone behind bars for life when we can benefit from their reformed attitude.
I did not do a lot of time, I call myself a visitor, but I did enough to know now that unless you go into a super max, you will never understand the construct of time the way I do. I do not think people should be locked up forever. The system needs to change – if rehabilitation is not possible, work out a way to stop it before it happens or a way to monitor that person without them having to suffer more than they should.
Port Phillip Prison is hectic.
I’m current co-curating a show with Stefan Dunlop at his gigantic studio in Coolum, near Noosa. I can’t give too much away but I can say some of the artists confirmed are Gareth Sansom, Nara Walker, Colleen Ahern, Jon Cattapan, Sam Leach and more!
Plus some collaborative work between myself and the incredible Michael Charles Vale (who I think is way overdue for a survey show at the Ian Potter Centre. Someone reading this needs to make that happen!)
I’ve just slowly started getting back into my practice, and have been focusing on photography with some success. It’s a great medium that that allows me to make visceral images, without the mark making process of painting.
It’s been tying in to my recent and public advocacy for the overdose prevention service that we need in Melbourne to save lives, reducing the stigma surrounding drug use and drug dealers, awareness around harm reduction and also the conversation around the legalisation of drugs.
Some of this will be a part of a book I am working on in collaboration with photographer who wants to remain anonymous. The idea is a visual recording with supporting texts relating of the war on drugs and crime, negating visual narcotic porn for pleasure, a common book these days, with researched stories on the economy of a world we all take part in, in some capacity known or unbeknownst to each individual. Nobodies identities are revealed, no cases are mentioned.
Photography marks a place in time, history, and generates discourse and dialogue.
With this book I hope to introduce people to the underworld with unprecedented access. Why are drugs illegal and how can their legality minimise death, poverty and inequality? This is for the reader to decide.
There’s a lot to do, there’s a lot I am working on. A lot goes on in my brain.
Sometimes they just remain as notes for years and rear their heads after a long time and seem to be more relevant than the time it was on heart.
You put an ‘S’ in brackets so I’ll give ya five:
1: Never judge someone by there one worst deed.
2: Clear communication and honesty is the key to a strong friendship.
3: Be honest with yourself.
4. Not a motto but fuck, have some fun. Chill. Be kind to people unless they are cunts.
Even then I guess – my mate’s motto that is a common one, ‘Kill ‘em with kindness’… I’m still learning that one. I’ll get there! You never know what someone is going through.
5. And of course, don’t talk to cops.
Exercise your right as an Australian citizen to a no comment interview. You’ll also get a heroes’ welcome for not being a dog.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Fucked if I know.
I do remember this really tiny plastic pig that gave me this weird phobia of tiny, intricate objects, like a trinket phobia. I don’t like touching weird shit like tiny toys on key rings and 5 cent coins and stuff. I don’t know if there is a name for it. But yeah, keep your mini things away from me. It makes me shiver.
And there was and still is heaps of toy graffiti cunts.
You recently went through some well publicized issues – including spending about 40 days in custody…
What lessons have you taken away from this experience?
… and how have you changed through it all?
I’ll keep the answers to this subject short, as it’s something I want to put behind me, and we’ve just touched on it a bit.
My perspective of what time is has completely changed. How I spend my time, how I work on friendships and value having the liberty of freedom are all much more important to me.
It has made me want to live longer. Before prison I always had this idea of killing myself at the age of 50. I’d often talk about it to friends. I masqueraded it as part of my art practice. Like a performance – as in I just need to make my mark for this amount of time, and I’m in control and this is when I choose to leave my legacy, not cancer, not old age. Unless something happened earlier by accident, ha!
I don’t have that mindset anymore, because of the services provided by Corrections Victoria, which have included me seeing a psychologist, corrections officer who is all about rehabilitation and a drug and alcohol counsellor. I don’t know if I should name them in a public interview, but my Psych and CO are the most amazing women and have made such an impact. They might read this, so I want to formally thank them for changing my life, the role they play in changing other people’s lives and doing such a tough job that requires empathy, dedication, social skills and selflessness.
Care to share some tales from your time in custody?
… and about the people you met there?
Sometimes over some beers some stories will come out, but prison is a sad place, so I try not to glorify the craziness to all the rubberneckers. Sure, I seen some cunts get stabbed up, was in the same unit as some pretty high-profile prisoners I can’t name, played heaps of pool, shot up drugs when I could and made some friends.
I had some fun, was gregarious and did not get into any strife.
It costs $105,000 of taxpayer’s cash as I mentioned previously to keep one adult prisoner inside per annum. Prisons are government owned but run by private companies. Mental health is poor for a lot of people stuck in the system.
I’d like to see fewer beds being made and more money going into youth services and harm reduction in my lifetime. I’m repeating myself here, but let us leave it in the interview when you edit. Because I want to reiterate it to some cunts who just do not understand.
Shout outs to my homie Matt Murphy, Free Rhys Magazanovich and Zac Widdicombe.
How are you doing today, after the dust has settled on it all a bit?
The first few months were pretty hard, I was struggling mentally. I was suicidal. Being in a really controlled environment, almost 8 months all up, and adjusting when I came out was difficult.
I had a co-accused who got mixed up in all my charges. He just happened to be staying the night at my house before the morning the crime squad raided me. He couldn’t have had any idea of what or the quantity of what was scattered around my city apartment. They charged him too, but he made bail before going to mainstream prison.
I felt a lot of guilt, from knowing his pain, the pain I caused his family. It made it hard getting out, knowing he was still waiting to be sentenced. I could not enjoy a movie, a good meal, my exhibition. Those are feelings I am responsible for though.
It was tough because we could not communicate as part of his bail conditions, and for obvious legal reasons I didn’t want to implicate him into anything he had nothing to do with. A lot of people took sides and blamed me for what happened. I lost friends. But it also really strengthened the friendships I had. Including family. People I had neglected over the ten years of being totally out of control. People came out of the woodwork I had not spoken to in a long time and were still there for me. So I know who my real friends are, and who aren’t, as cliché as that saying is.
I hate cliches.
The word “cliché” is a French term dating to the early 19th century that meant “to produce or print in stereotype.” A stereotype was a printing plate used to create abundant versions of the same design. Printers heard a “clicking” sound during this process, which gave birth to the onomatopoeic word “cliché.” So, there is another motto for ya, ‘fuck stereotypes’, It breeds racism, homophobia and all sorts of other rubbish.
In the end, all of my co-accused charges were dropped.
I don’t want to comment about that anymore, we are on different journeys, and he has his story, it’s not my place to babble on.
It’s funny, I caught up with a friend who did a 4 year stint recently and he said don’t underestimate calling yourself a ‘visitor’. He did his time and came out, his fake friends were gone, he had a chance to start fresh with nobody knowing who he was.
I came out and there was still all this shit in the media, which made it really hard for me to involve myself going to exhibitions again because of the anxiety. I don’t even paint much anymore. Something here and there maybe.
I really am trying.
I can’t get a job, it’s hard to get housing albeit I always find a loophole and am very grateful to have a great house over my head. It does make me feel for some who really just have the odds stacked against them though.
Heavy statement prison stickers on your face don’t go down that well in interviews for anything. I don’t think I’d even get a job putting springs in fucking mattresses. Like the dust hadn’t settled.
I exacerbated this by being a part of a documentary on Australia’s cocaine trade which you can watch on apple, YouTube, ABC iView. It had over a million views. It is interesting because doing all these things are cathartic. I don’t even hold the same views I did when that was recorded.
Ultimately, I do not think drugs are bad, nor is dealing. The government needs to step in an reduce harm and legalize it all.
It’s a Pandora’s box and a complex issue but it’s a start, especially if it means awareness, education and less deaths.
Mahmood Fazal did an excellent job with Four Corners.
It’s taken some arduous work but at this point I’m the healthiest physically and mentally I have ever been in my life. I’m living with my two cats Bernie and Fanta, and just getting through my order of which I have 3 months left.
Then I’d like to do some painting (I hope), I look forward to next year to do some travel with my love.
When and why did you first become interested in art and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
I never went to art museums as a kid. It just was not a thing my family was interested in.
I guess my first memory of ‘contemporary art’ would have been album covers etc.
I got into the graffiti scene early in high school and continued a few years after. It was one my teachers Jules who really encouraged me to stop mucking around and try and ‘make something’, push my art, particularly in a visual communication design class.
I still have all my little A+ letters and notes from him, one saying ‘never throw out your old work’ – sage advice I did not follow unfortunately.
I think when I was bombing I had this idea of being ‘a real artist’. I look back on that now and laugh, because I have so much respect for all the bombers, peicers and crews still currently keeping it real and the new heads getting up like the world is about to end. There is some real art to that culture, in so many different ways.
Alas, I started doing the classic stencil shit on canvas, you know, Monroe’s and Hendrix etc.
I started working in a fine art auction house where I was introduced to Nolans, Whiteleys, Hensons, Fairweathers, Tucksons, Becketts etc. A whole new price bracket. That’s when I realized I didn’t know anything about art.
I went absolutely bananas learning what an ‘artist run initiative’; was, networking, messaging artists I admired and reading books, and the rest is history.
Influences on my work have been/and or are Ian Fairweather, Tony Tuckson, Barbara Kruger, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, Glenn Ligon, Diena Georgetti, Gareth Sansom, Dick Watkins, McLean Edwards, Maurizio Cattelan, Dire Straits, SWANS… just to name a few.
If you had to explain your creative endeavours to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
I would tell them the encouraged trajectory is to go to VCA, then get into a group show at either West Space or TCB before you receive your Gertrude Contemporary Residency, just before being placed in a group show at ACCA, then give up and fly back to whatever wonderful contemporary world they came from which no doubt has a more flippant and fun way of making a name without any nepotism.
Or maybe bring some moon cocaine down from space, start some hectic alien cartel.
Depends how chill they were though.
If they just crashed, are they injured? If they were hurt and couldn’t move I’d just put them out of their misery by reading some of my favorite quotes about my work, these are true by the way:
“I’ve been doing this ridiculous job for nearly 35 years and I’ve had some weird shit happen but this ‘portrait’ of Ben as ‘me’ might actually be the weirdest and that includes having a racing greyhound named after me.”
– Judith Lucy
“Ben’s paintings are fucked.”
– Kate Ceberano
“A Rothko’s painting once prompted a visitor to a museum to comment “I could have done that”. Aitken’s work inspires the prompt “Oh boy I am glad I didn’t do that.”
– Jan van Schaik
‘’Ben Strikes me as the type of artist with the skill to paint beautiful normal pictures but chooses to paint wonky, as opposed to one of those artists who paints wonky because that’s their only option.”
– John Safran
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
I adore Diena Georgetti’s paintings. Like myself, she manipulates, rejects, recombines and arranges.
I laughed when doing a painting in her honor, stealing some of her hard edge abstraction only to find she had pinched it from Lars-Gunnar Nordstrom. She is also very kind to me, and we have shared some beautiful conversations and I know we both feel like kindred spirits. Whether that’s us as people, artists or both I’m unsure. I just know she’s a punk.
Everything is stolen but no painter can rack like Diena and make it otherworldly. I would say she has been one of the very few people in the last two years who has given me that ‘feeling’ of wanting, and needing to paint again.
Thank you Diena.
Writers. Hmmm. I did like Jeffrey Bernard’s ‘Low Life; A sort of Biography’ – just because of how strange he viewed the world, and the way he would describe it in words. Just simple things became so funny and depressing at the same time.
He was a sports columnist for the Spectator, loved horse racing and boxing and frequented the Colonial Club with the likes of Bacon, although the Coach and Horses was his haunt.
Mine is Hell’s Kitchen.
I found Shantaram a fascinating read in high school.
I liked the disdain of Charles Bukowski but don’t condone most of his views, albeit he has said some pretty profound things in all the books I’ve read.
Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck come to mind, both of their travelogues are genius.
I do like reading biographies about famous musicians, sportspeople etc. Regardless if I have an interest in anything they do – the sheer motivation and hard work ethic describe in some biographies is enough to make me want to try harder at my own career.
I like collecting books on graffiti, crime, noise, weird counter culture shit I should probably hide in a box. The world is full of fascinating people, it’s always interesting to read someone’s thoughts.
I think Warwick Thornton is great filmmaker. I’ve had the pleasure of some nights out with him although we may or may not both remember. But surely well behaved.
A great photographer and film-maker is my friend Hayley Millar Baker.
Growing up I liked all the shit a young shit head skater would, like Gummo, Ken Park, La Haine. Violent stuff, drug related things. Stuff I shouldn’t have been watching at that age that probably sent me in a bad direction.
Gaspar Noe is always interesting and disgusting.
Music is a big part of my practice.
I think sitting around doing nothing for six months, people consider a break, or a waste of time. But the amount of imagery I consume, things I read, hear, jot down and forget about, music I listen to – I consider painting. I’m researching. I may not even know it. It all comes out in the end anyway when I decide to do something.
SWANS is an inspiring band due to their extensive catalogue and insane pressure and release, such noisy and interesting climaxes. Even though Michael is a self-professed asshole among other things. I think I touched a lot on what I listen to earlier in this interview so I won’t go to deep but what I listen to is very broad.
In a text art critic Dr. Ashley Crawford wrote on group show I organized (where I claim to be a programmer rather than a curator), he said, “There’s a programmer’ which is more like someone who collected bands for a festival which may have included DMX, Swans, GG Allin, and John Denver. There is no curatorial theme.” Which could give you an idea.
I am currently listening to lot’s of SuicideBoys, Eartheater, Surfbort, Chelsea Wolfe, Townes Van Zandt, Drab Majesty, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Korn, Deftones, Show me the Body, and Nick Cave.
I am excited for the upcoming DMC finals in Melbourne to see DJ Craze; The Blade Runner Score, Interpol, Brian Jonestown Massacre and my friend Leon’s band Voice Imitator – who is for real a person you should interview on the Aither.
If people wanted to check out your art, work with you or buy some of your wares – Where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
Easiest way is to direct message me on Instagram which is @Benjamin_aitken_art – I’m pretty active on that platform.
You can always visit my website too – www.benjaminaitken.com and send an email there, or via my projects page, www.nicholasprojectspresents.com
Odds & Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
Strasbourg in 1518.
There was a dancing plague. Hundreds of citizens danced uncontrollably and apparently unwillingly for days on end, lasting allegedly two months. Ending as oddly as it began.
Sounds way better than COVID lockdown right?
What does “God” mean to you?
‘Grand. Over. Dose.’
Does sex change everything?
Ask those aliens that you had crash land the interview earlier, they probably have a more experienced answer than me…
But I think yes it does, in certain contexts I guess, only speaking from my own experiences. If you are in love but the communication isn’t there, regarding each other’s needs and wants, I don’t think you can fully grow together.
Obviously sex isn’t everything. But it is healthy and important.
I haven’t had great experiences, I’ve had minimal fun experiences – maybe due to inexperience, lack of confidence, people shaming me, childhood trauma. But I can say without giving away too much to speculate on, that since meeting someone who inspires me and accepts all of my flaws, it has completely changed the way I think about love and the effort that is needed to be put in to working on a relationship every day, by both people, and both people working on themselves and being honest and clear about boundaries.
And that obviously includes sexual needs.
There is nothing more that has been so special in feeling that connection with someone, something that I had not experienced since I started this interview like fuckin, how long ago, due to being busy, lazy, whatever.
I guess in short, my answer it CAN change everything, it can ruin everything, and to some people it may not even be necessary – it really depends on the individual, I’m just answering from my own life experience.
What are the top 3 items you own?
… and what is it about each of them that you so love?
My cats Bernie and Fanta – I love them because they love me back. They cuddle me and fulfil my heart.
They are brothers but so cute and unique in different ways. They also love all my friends and guests and show them immediate affection. And unlike dogs they don’t work for the police.
My box full of letters from prison, rehab, notes from my career over the last decade, photos, postcards, invitations, overseas museum stubs, old exhibition flyers.
It’s a box of memories that is close to my heart, and reminds me of all the amazing people in my life and the beautiful memories and opportunities I’ve had.
Owning the right as an Australian Citizen to a ‘no comment’ interview.
In a fight between the following fictional Australians: Crocodile Dundee (from the Crocodile Dundee franchise) Vs Aunty Jack (From the Aunty Jack Show) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
They would both lose.
Because Grimace would come out of the shadows and exterminate them like rodents – possibly even a fois gra type deal, but pumping up their livers with Fanta until they explode. He would be joined by his gang for back up too – Frilled Neck Lizzo, Wolf Greek, HR Sweet Puff, Naomi Watts (She’s an electrician), Bob, Glen, Dyland and Rowan (four brothers from Glen Rowan who love Bob Dylan and love to brawl) and HAFK, another character in my multiverse (Fatas-land) who is an alga mated cyborg of the late Swedish modernist painter Hilma AF Klint, and Michael Klim – called Hilma As Fuck Klim.
Just back up, in case shit went sour.
But I think they would handle it.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I was playing in some punk band and kicked some dude mad hard in the face then I was woken up.
It was pretty anti-climatic.
My brain seems to be more creative when I’m awake.
Of everything you have done so far, what would you most like to be remembered for?
And I hope my art can do good things, bring awareness to things I think are important, help people somehow even if it is indirectly.
I want to learn to love more every day, be kinder, be someone people want to be around – this has to be an extension of my art. I’d like to leave you with something Dr. Ashley Crawford wrote about me a while back. Because if it’s not the above, it may as well be something esoteric but fantastic:
“Ben Aitken takes no prisoners. Or, if he does, they are left scrabbling for a safe shoal of sanity. It’s nigh impossible to know where Aitken’s’ surfeit of strangeness is spawned – there are hints of colourful nightmares, moments of saturated psychological protest, a diabolical Walt Disney on bad, bad lysergic acid. With a juxtaposition of anarchic painterly mayhem and still-birth animation there are hints of a schizophrenic civil war occurring on the canvas, one part writhing and squirming like fly-blown maggots caught in the desert sun, the other side receding into a cutesy cacophony of light-hearted Snow-White fantasy which carries the whiff of desperate escape, try to think of something nice as the drill hits the nerve…
There are vermin here, performing obscene, sadomasochistic acts for the benefit of a masturbatory voyeur while Satan erupts in a scene straight from Fantasia. There are greenish growths that in colour remind one of the infected mucous of a Melbourne flu, so ghastly in their texture that a hint of nausea is the only response. What may be a self-portrait sees the artist peer wide-eyed, innocent in his impending insanity, anime figures in pursuit.
Presented with cacophonous largesse, Aitken’s’ canvases are clearly unafraid of tackling his nightmares on an imperial scale, inviting the viewer to be subsumed in discomfort. If one knows the post-punk cacophony of the band Swans, with their utter embrace of debasement, one has been here/hear. If one has awoken to the result of a late-night vodka binge, mouth chewing on the ghastly aftermath of Cuban cigars and noxious chemicals dripping down the back of the throat and strange discombobulated memories drifting just out of reach like misshapen hallucinations, one has been here.“
Thanks for having me mate.
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All images supplied by Ben or sourced online.