Searching for meaningful romance in a digital age, this new publication blurs the lines between real life and fantasy
Arguably it’s no longer enough to be a faceless, brandless contemporary artist. With us equally invested in artists lives and political standpoints as much as the work they create, consumers are increasingly interested in the person behind the portraits as opposed to those within them. Case in point being Clayton Pettet. With his low-res camera roll intertwined via Instagram with project based work, it’s impossible to tell the difference between the staged and the spontaneous. Pettet’s every online move is part of a wider narrative that defines his artistic identity.
“How I see it is, if you package yourself and your work into an ultimate brand you can take over the world. I want people to always consume what I create, I love that my work can be interactive. I want them to always still want more. You are your art, your practise and every fibre inside of you takes shape and becomes a physical form. The most successful artists to date have all had in some way a brand that they create within,” Pettet says.
With that in mind it’s not surprising that Pettet has always put himself front and centre of what he creates. An example of this being his previous performance piece, “Art School Stole My Virginity”, in which Pettet fooled the media into thinking the then 19-year-old Central Saint Martins student would be losing his virginity live. “In my past work with ‘Art School Stole My Virginity’ it was the concept of ‘Virginity’ or my lack of sexual experience, but The Babymorroco Booklet, my newest work, moves beyond that. It captures the idea of sexuality and romance within myself through the story of the fictionalised Babymorocco.”
“I wanted my identity and the ideas of queer Arabness to feature predominantly and unapologetically”– Clayton Pettet
Presented as a 40 page booklet, or zine, delivered with a handwritten message from the artist and a single red rose, The Babymorroco Booklet is a further exploration of Pettet’s infatuation with love and romanticism. “Babymorroco is the part of me that is completely based on sexuality and romance. It isn’t a persona it’s my heart, the most sensitive of my emotions and my dick.”
Set in a make-believe Moroccan city, the booklet chronicles the character's sexual awakening, “in the most intimate way I saw possible”, however that’s not to say there are no echoes of reality within the narrative. “You see a constant stream of white artists making work about who they are and their identity, so I wanted my identity and the ideas of queer Arabness to feature predominantly and unapologetically.”
The result feels full on confessional, with the booklet reading like a secret diary or hand-written romantic exchange. But after exploring these ideas for so long, has Pettet reached any conclusions about what romance really means?
“It can happen when you’ve taken the best pill and are at a peak in your high, when the sea is still, when someone plays with your hair, when someone only confides in you, when you get 5000 notifications, when you lock your door, when the internet is quick, and when the sun pours through the window and all you feel is heat. Romance isn’t just to do with being in love.”
The Babymorroco Booklet is available to pre-order here