Millie Brown’s explicit vomit art has caused global controversy in a debate over acceptability and artistic freedom. This discussion has been especially prominent following Lady Gaga’s SXSW performance of Swine, in which the British artist vomited repeatedly over Gaga as she sung. Here, I ask Millie all about her experiences with the pop sensation and find out her personal opinion on the often hateful responses to her work.
You’ve collaborated with Lady Gaga for a film and a live performance- how did these opportunities come about?
LG was introduced to my work through a mutual friend and collaborator Nick Knight back in 2009. She called me up one day and asked me to puke rainbows on her for her Monster Ball interlude. I later met up with her, Nick Knight, Ruth Hogben and Nicola Formichetti to create the ‘vomit interlude’. We stayed in touch and became friends since working together; as we were both on our way to Texas for SXSW, we realized each other were going to be there so we started texting, met up and decided to create a live performance together for her song Swine.
The performance of Swine with Gaga must have been a very sensory experience. How would you describe what you felt?
It was a real bonding moment on stage- both of our performances combined in one. It was very powerful and liberating for both us and the audience.
Does forcing yourself to vomit hurt at all and how do you respond to those who criticise your health?
It doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, I often feel better afterwards. In a sense, it’s a cleanse, both mental and physical. It’s not something I do every day and I’m very health conscious generally so I feel like it balances out in a way.
As your work gets such strong responses, quite often negative, how much time do you spend reading comments and reviews? Does this ever bother you?
The negative responses to my work don’t affect me. In fact, I think it’s great that people feel passionately enough to voice their opinions. Art is meant to make us feel, think, move us. Whether that’s in a positive or negative way it’s equally as important.
What would you say to those who argue that your work sets a poor example to others, that there should be a limit as to what is allowed or that this “isn’t art” at all?
I express myself through my body and through my performance art so I don’t believe that can be censored, nor that there should be a limit to art itself. I think if I’m setting any example, it’s for people to push boundaries, question the meaning of classical beauty and truly be themselves without fear of rejection or being misunderstood.
Have any artists influenced your work?
I feel mostly inspired by the creatives who surround me, my friends.
Can you disclose any exciting ideas for future projects?
I have a week long performance coming up in May, which will be streamed live, and a couple of shows in NYC this summer so listen up for updates on my Facebook page.
How can people interested in your work keep up-to-date?
Facebook >> www.facebook.com/milliebrownofficial
Tumblr >> www.milliebrownofficial.tumblr.com
Instagram >> www.instagram.com/milliebrownofficial
Interview and illustration by Liam R. Findlay