Meet your monster: TEDxConcordiaUPortland speaker makes art designed to turn monsters into joy

TEDxConcordiaUPortland
speaker Gary Hirsch has learned from his monsters. In fact, he’s grown quite close to them — so close that he now draws them.

Growing up with chronic nightmares, Gary soon learned that art was a way to take control of his feelings, ideas, and aspirations. [When I had a nightmare], I’d waddle over into my parents’ room and I’d wake up my father,” he says in his talk, “[and he] would pick me up and take me downstairs to the kitchen and put me up on a stool … and that’s when he said to me, ‘Well, why don’t you draw these [monsters]?’ … I started drawing and doodling and as I was doing it … one night [he]  just said, 'You know, if you make these, you can also make them disappear. You can just erase them.'”

Transforming monsters into art continued to be a pattern in Gary’s life, and helped him get through many hard times.

Now, Gary is the creator of Bot Joy, an art project for which he transforms blank dominoes into “bots” — small, smiley, hand-painted robots designed to serve as reminders that even though life is hard, and monsters come and go, taking note of the good and letting go of the bad can be extremely helpful.

With names like Joy Bots, Brave Bots, Listening Bots, Blame Bots, and Time Bots, each bot is designed to serve a different purpose: whether  that’s a reminder that you don’t always have to take the blame, you have the capability to be brave, or that someone is always willing to listen — even if that listener is just you.

In his talk, Gary explains how he came up with these bots, and the efforts he has taken to share them with his community. "What Brings Portland Joy?" was one of these efforts, an interactive art project for which Gary left 200 Joy Bots in various locations throughout the city, with a message taped to each bots asking their discoverers to photograph the bot with something that brings them joy, send it to Gary, and leave the bot in another location to keep the project going.

Photos came back with pictures of all sorts of things, from Harry Potter books to skateboards to beer to furry friends.

For more on Gary’s bots, ideas on collaboration, art, and letting go of unproductive feelings, check out his entire talk below:

(Above, photos of Gary’s bots, and advice for successful collaborative art from his talk.)

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