Havas Gets a Pepsi Tattoo

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Some bromantic folk carve each other’s initials into trees, or get each other’s names inked, but these cats totally play by their own goddam rules. Sydneysider Daniel Havas decided to have the Pepsi logo tattooed on his forearm at Jesse Willesee’s Product Placement Show and Something You Said’s Oliver Heath was there to see it happen:

Apparently Daniel has always wanted this done. Fuck knows why he wanted it in the first place. I know he really likes Pepsi, but maybe he’s worried that no one will take him seriously as a skater if he doesn’t have a bad tattoo.

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I always have a good time at Jesse Willesee’s art shows. At Seven Hundred Photos he curated room installations that others took pictures of. There’s something brilliant about setting up an event that results in an army of photogs, who turn up but are busily blagging the Jesse Willessee brand the next day.

For his 21 Girls Smoking Weed show there was much less art than fanfare, and even less weed, but the cops came and shut it down anyway. Needlessly shutting down a party that was about a needlessly banned drug is poetry. The buzz about the Weed art show being shutdown is Jesse’s poem; the event and the chaos surrounding it is the artwork. You may call him a hipster scene kid, but I’d call him a scenius – the bratty spirit of our disposable age. The more exposure and the bigger the event is, and the smaller the amount of what could be deemed art objects, the louder I’ll applaud. He’s wagging the dog. Hate away – you’re just making it funnier for me.

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At his recent show, Product Placement, the crowd were split between people who were there to angrily tell anyone that was sober enough to listen that there’s no art here, and complete camera whores that think the only way to improve an artwork is to have themselves in it. Both parties were there for the drinks. I think this show is the best so far, because it was the show with the least art. If anything, there was too much art. Maybe the next one could just be one selfie of Jesse on a plinth.

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Jesse’s alien PJs were surprisingly good camouflage in a room full of hipster rockers and sea punk unicorns. Jesse knew this, he’s such a trickster.

It’s common to go to a sponsored art show, drink the free booze and barely glance at the walls, Jesse Willessee is holding a mirror to false propriety and getting rid of the need to even pretend to be there for anything other than the freebies.

I recall seeing a Del Katherine Barton show at Kaliman Gallery a few years ago. There was a beautiful triptych that was bound for the Gallery of New South Wales’ display. I spent an hour looking at it and was dumbfounded, I was unable to get people who were busy drinking, smoking and looking at each other outside to throw more than a sideways glance at it.

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Havas spotted him. “BFFs forever” they exclaimed in unison. And we all know that’s more than just best friends forever. It’s best friends forever ever!! Jesse gave his bro the thumbs up and exclaimed the words of a great sage “You only YOLO once”

It’s a show called Product Placement, and the main event was Jesse throwing prizes out to the crowd. Bravo, you’re dancing for him. Maybe you and yours are different, you know deep and shit, and this is just a circle jerk where superficial people applaud each others superficiality. Then ignore it. Stop reading. If you keep paying heed you’re just going to spend your whole life angry, age quickly, and die of stress-induced stroke yelling at kids about moral decay. Sponsorship of public events is a fact of our society. Jesse’s ripping it back to its raw elements: some pictures nobody pays attention to, and some free shit. Here’s a hint that I’m not making this all up – the work isn’t even available for sale. If the point was just the artworks, then you’d be able to buy them. That’s how it works. Jesse is being a punk, we were all part of the show.

It’s impossible to tell if Jesse is criticizing corporate consumerism or celebrating free shit, and that’s what I think really infuriates people. They can tell it’s a joke but they’re not sure if he or they are at the butt of it. So they get angry rather than risk laughing at themselves. As for anyone at the other end of the spectrum who thinks the artworks themselves are genius, Bahaha c’mon, we can all see the emperors wang. His photos are promos for the event. Don’t get me wrong, they’re artworks, they’re just not the most interesting part of the artwork, if that’s all he did we wouldn’t be talking about him at all.

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Jesse made art while Kurt Cobain’s moustached spirit of friendship smiled.

It’s troubling that people are so quick to declare that he isn’t an artist, or that he isn’t making art. Surely that’s a primary school level debate. It’s art if he says it is- that’s what makes you an artist, declaring something art. It’s up to the audience to decide if they like it. If they think it’s affective, emotive, derivative, topical, irrelevant, half-arsed, original. If they want to buy in.

But whether or not if it’s ‘art’ is a really boring question. But carry on, your indignation is part of his circus. I’ll just drink a free drink, enjoy the lulz, and watch Jesse having a really good time. Idiot, idiot savant, genius. I don’t know. But I like the result. The less time I spend pondering him, his motivation, and his photos, the better. It takes the fun out of laughing at the circus, and it rots your teeth.

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I’ve been to many great shows that are empty rooms. Jesse demonstrates you can have a show without art and people will come, but in the long run you can’t have art without people seeing it, you can’t really have art without the show. If you’re an artist I hope you make the art you want to make, but I hope you take a lesson from Jesse and put on a show. Keep it strange Jesse.

Keep up to date with Jesse Willesee on his website and all that Havas is up to here

oliver heath
Words and pictures by Oliver Heath.