Interview: Bryony Kimmings – protest and activism in the art world

With the critically acclaimed ‘Fake It ‘til you Make it’ coming to Warwick Arts Centre on 17 March, I spoke to the self-proclaimed ‘loudmouth’ Bryony Kimmings about how art can take the form of protest and what it means to be an activist in our constricted world.

A woman of many talents: theatre maker, playwright, performance artist, musician, feminist, comedian and activist (in no particular order), Bryony Kimmings’ artistic approach, to put it simply, is a quest to provoke change through tackling the ‘taboos, stigmas, anomalies and social injustices’ head on, all notions of censorship abandoned.

Kimmings has certainly created some pretty outlandish shows by anyone’s standards, admitting that it’s not every-day that you willingly submit yourself to a team of scientists and a gruelling seven day experiment of inebriation or what she calls ‘scientific drunkenness.’ Yet, there is method in her madness. In her 2011 piece ‘7 Day Drunk’ Kimmings analysed the age-old association of alcoholism with creativity, taking inspiration from icons such as Amy Winehouse and Jackson Pollock. She challenged why inebriation is repeatedly excused as part of the creative process that goes hand in hand with art.

Kimmings was adamant to welcome the critics stating that she feels she rather offers something universal

This ‘sobering’ social critique has become a trademark of Kimmings. Her candidly hilarious 2010 piece ‘Sex Idiot’ literally traced back her sexual past in a hunt to find out who she had contracted Chlamydia from. Not one to shy away, Kimmings was intrigued with the lack of discussion around issues that she found many women go through daily, stating that women ‘should be able to be more open about all aspects of sexuality and sexual enjoyment.’

Her multi-platform art shows put a ludicrous spin on issues that are continuously overlooked, challenging the taboos of society in ways that have rarely been seen before. When questioned whether the resolutely fearless autographical nature of her performances could deter the public, Kimmings was adamant to welcome the critics stating that she feels she rather offers something universal, addressing issues which we can all relate to.

‘You always need to be able to accept criticism if you’re talking about something taboo. You need to be willing to be the first to make a stand in order for anything to change.’

Mental illness is all too often given the back burner in today’s society

Her critics have been far and few between, with The Independent fittingly hailing ‘Fake It ‘til You Make It’ as “Bold, brave and very brilliant”.

As the name suggests, Kimmings latest theatrical endeavour unmasks the cheerful cover that ‘1 in 4 of us are hiding under’, through her boyfriend, Tim Grayburn, unveiling his clinical depression. Mental illness is all too often given the back burner in today’s society, as the façade maintained in work and social lives take priority, something Tim experienced working in advertising; ‘Mental illness is not accepted at all. There are the pressures of capitalism that tell us that we must buy things to get away from our problems instead of addressing them head on.’

‘Fake It ‘til you Make it’ is what Kimmings calls their ‘little part in combatting the stigma around men and mental illness’ and the ‘unavoidable shame that men feel that they can’t feel emotions.’

Kimmings believes that we can all be activists in daily life

However, Kimmings also recognises the leaps and bounds our society has made in addressing taboos that would have otherwise been ‘completely neglected five years ago,’ with media giants such as the BBC recently holding a two week exposé on the UK’s increasing awareness of mental illness.

Bryony Kimmings became a limited company in 2014. She has gone from a one-woman show to a somewhat saintly ‘conglomerate’ running educative workshops and projects such as The Boys Project, a ‘three-year multi-platform activist artwork working with young men from council estates across the UK.’

Needless to say, the future has a lot in store for the brand of Bryony Kimmings. Despite being on maternity leave, she plans on writing the book ‘Fake It ‘til you Make it’ with her partner Tim. She will also be directing ‘A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer’ which goes live this autumn at the National Theatre.

A strong advocate of everyday activism, Kimmings believes that we can all be activists in daily life, ‘you don’t need a degree, or to go to university to make a change, you just need to have raw initiative – an urge to do some good in daily life, because ultimately the good must outweigh the evil.’



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