The third episode of the new Red Bull TV series “Diplo Presents: @Large Creators at Work” features Millie Brown and her outlandish performance art. Made famous for vomiting colored soy milk on Lady Gaga during her performance at SXSW in 2014, Brown’s next project has her upside down and naked, swinging from the rafters of an abandoned warehouse by her feet, paint streaming down her body onto a canvas below. Brought up by artist parents and spending most of her youth in an artist community in the UK, Brown’s medium has always been her body. We caught up with her to talk about the show and get behind the scenes on what inspired this unique project.
How did the idea to do this come about?
Ever since I was a young kid I’ve used pendulums to make big decisions in my life and for guidance. I really love the idea of turning my body into a pendulum itself and to kind of channel that energy. I wanted to incorporate something permanent and beautiful, which is why I incorporated the painting element to it.
How did you prepare for the grueling physical and mental aspects of the performance?
When I met with the incredible shibari rope master, Master K, he was like ‘I think you are completely crazy, there is no way you can do this. People train their entire lives to be able to pull something like this off.’ But I knew there was nothing that was going to hold me back, so I went to his studio and he put me upside down to see how my body reacted. And he was completely in awe; he really didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. The meditation preparing for the performance was really inspiring and giving into that different head space, it was a performance in itself. The preparations for my performances are equally as important as the performance itself. Once you achieve that mental state, then your mind can explore a higher level that feeds my creativity and inspiration.
You were hanging upside down for a while - what did that feel like?
When I did the performance itself it was a good 4 hours. It wasn’t the actual sensation of being upside down and restricted by these ropes that was uncomfortable, it was the fact that this cold paint was pouring onto my body. It sent my body into a panic attack. The first color that hit my body, I went into panic and couldn’t breathe. I had to push through that because otherwise there was no way I could have pulled off the performance. It was about finding comfort within that uncomfortable state. And finding pleasure within that.
Do the different colors signify anything to you?
In most of my work I incorporate the rainbow and the elements of going from light to darkness. They are the colors that I’m drawn to. When I did the performance I kind of chose each color as I went along so it wasn’t planned in advance, I wanted it to be sporadic, to flow freely. When I was up there I would chose the color that I felt should be next.
What draws you to performance art?
I love creating something where I can connect with an audience on such a personal level for just a moment of time. Having them be right there and experience the moment with you. Everyone has such mixed reactions. And seeing how I affected them and how it affected me is just really fascinating.