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Dustin Yellin on Making Art, Weaving Madness, and Forging Your Own Path on The Tim Ferris Show with Tim Ferris

Check out the Episode Page and Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Some young artists spend too much time looking at what other people are doing instead of finding their own voice
  • Aspiring artists should find out what’s in the bottom of their own brains
  • A good storyteller is curious and fearless, an explorer who describes the things they see or experience
  • Hallucinogens allow your aperture to open up: more light, more color, more sound
  • “Help your community.  Embrace not only your dreams but their dreams.” – Dustin Yellin
  • Pioneer Works is a community of artists and scientists with a goal of making the world a better place
  • Dustin on his psychogeographies: “If I took your brain and smashed it together and made a map of everything inside of it”
  • Dustin said his death obsession urges him on: Your life is almost over – get going!
  • “Get people to accept our differences as the great glue that creates the complexity of our experience. All of us experience the same thing differently, but we’re made of the same stuff” – Dustin Yellin

Intro

Dustin Yellin (I: dustinyellin) is an artist who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the founder and director of Pioneer Works, a multidisciplinary cultural center in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Tell Me About Your Background

  • Dustin dropped out of high school in Colorado and hitchhiked around New Zealand
  • He got into hallucinogens and ended up in Thailand where he took in lots of mushrooms

Getting Started in the Arts

  • At age 17, Dustin decided being an artist was what he wanted to do
  • Art felt like the greatest freedom, you could invent whatever and you were never limited”Dustin Yellin
  • After he met the physicist, he got into science
  • He believed that Art could bring people together
  • He was also obsessed with clean and free energy

Why NYC?

  • He was bored in Colorado where his friends were drinking beer and talking hockey
  • He admits to having visions of grandeur about NYC
  • New York – that’s where artists go, my vision was that anything could happen” – Dustin Yellin

Traits of a Good Story-Teller

  • A good storyteller is curious and fearless and an explorer
  • The infinite detail in our existence is so vast that it makes good fuel
  • A good storyteller describes the things they see or experience
  • Dustin is a fan of Werner Hertzog

How Did You Not Self-Destruct and Become a Successful Artist?

  • “I’ve been extremely lucky, but I’m also cautious – not doing lots of hard drugs” – – Dustin Yellin
  • Be open and curious – that’s how you learn

Are You Anti-Competitive?

  • “I’m inspired by nature and people – help your community.  Embrace not only your dreams but their dreams.” – Dustin Yellin
  • Dustin believes people can all come together and love each other and love this planet
  • The alternative is creating conflict and competition

Unpacking the quote from the New York Times: “I don’t worry as much about inspiration as system overload”?

  • There is so much to learn, so Dustin feels he’s constantly in system overload
  • He is inspired by everything and sees the world as an endless sea of possibility
  • The challenge: how do you moderate system overload so you can focus?

What Helps Calm the Onslaught of Input for you?

  • Dustin likes to draw, be in the middle of nowhere and smoke marijuana
  • He also likes to meditate, swim and watch movies that put you into another world

Any favorite films?

What is Pioneer Works?

  • It’s a place where artists, producers, musicians, filmmakers are together in one place
  • Pioneer Works is also an institute with a mission to build a community of artists and scientists with a goal of making the world a better place
  • Dustin calls it a social experiment that could be a great model as a learning/cultural center in the future
  • The building was originally an ironworks facility built in the 1800s

How Did You Get The Money For This Building Project – What Was Your Pitch?

  • In the beginning, when he sold a sculpture for a couple of thousand dollars, Dustin would ask the buyer for help funding the project saying it was even more important than the artwork
  • Dustin said he almost bankrupted his art studio just to fund the building’s rehab

Managing Operational Responsibilities as an Artist

  • Dustin thinks of Pioneer Works as an artwork but at one point he was giving interested parties five tours a day
  • The key to the project’s success is the people, Yellin said, crediting his Board of Directors
  • “The sooner I can be obsolete, and the thing works well, I know I’ve done my job. The building is nothing, its bullshit, it’s a vessel without these people” – Dustin Yellin

Gaining Commercial Viability

  • It’s cumulative, Dustin said it happened over 25 years, a little at a time
  • At the end of the day it’s the work- the work is the work, it should move someone or the way they see the world” – Dustin Yellin

Describe Your Psycho-Geographies?

  • He spent more than ten years on this installation
  • Dustin’s description: “If I took your brain and smashed it together and made a map of everything inside of it.” – Dustin Yellin
  • Psycho-Geographies are pieces of glass and glue and about 30 layers of collages sandwiched together with more glass at about 3000 pounds each – there are about 120 human forms of this
  • The artist calls it a “trippy” experience that changes depending upon where you stand

How Did the Idea for Psycho-Geographies Start?

  • Dustin says it was an experimentation accident
  • He always loved collages and one day made a dictionary collage, slathered with resin and saw an optical quality to it
  • Next, Dustin started drawing in layers of resin but resin is toxic so he switched to layers of glass
  • “At the end of the day I’m trying to make maps of consciousness, like a microscope slide” – Dustin Yellin

Common Mistakes Aspiring Artists Make

  • Some young artists spend too much time looking at what other people are doing instead of finding their own voice
  • Aspiring artists should find out what’s in the bottom of their own brains
  • Don’t give up and keep learning from the process

How to Embrace the Simple Life of an Artist?

  • You have to be able to die for your art
  • You have to not care about anything but doing the art

What form does your death obsession take?

  • Dustin said his death obsession urges him on: Your life is almost over – get going!
  • He has a hard time thinking of forever
  • At age 25, he lost his best friend/mentor and it affected him for rest of his life – changed the way he saw the world
  • Dustin said he’s been obsessed with death- “I’m not sure what we’re doing here. Energy cannot die.’’ – Dustin Yellin

If You Could Put Something on a Billboard, What Would it Say?

  • Get everyone to be more open, and to love each other
  • Get people to accept our differences as the great glue that creates the complexity of our experience. All of us experience the same thing differently, but we’re made of the same stuff” – Dustin Yellin

How to Increase Awareness of Fossil Fuels?

  • He’s working on a project called “The Bridge” to teach about the history of fossil fuels
  • Dustin is taking an actual supertanker and setting it on its nose, opening it up so that visitors will be able to take an elevator to the bridge of the tanker and learn about how to get away from fossil fuels

Thoughts about Blank Slate

  • “I feel the wonder of our species. The idea between nothing and something – we do have the capacity to create anything all of the time.” – Dustin Yellin
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