Man Bartlett is many things: visual artist, graphic artist, video artist, performance artist and more, and his work has been seen everywhere from Freies Museum in Berlin to a Best Buy store.
But for the next few weeks, he’s in Louisville for the first time, working on a residency project in conjunction with the local IDEAS 40203, New York-based Residency Unlimited and a provider called Thrive365, which hosts an app that helps people with diabetes manage their diets and lifestyles.
Bartlett came here as part of an ongoing initiative to team up creative thinkers such as himself with companies looking for new ways to problem solve or new ways to expand their scope – essentially, bringing a fresh mind brimming with ideas to an application that is chosen by IDEAS 40203 and Residency Unlimited specifically to collaborate with a company or entrepreneur.
As such, Bartlett will be interviewing those with Type II diabetes or who are pre-diabetic in an effort to ultimately make the app more effective for its users. In coordination, he will present a visual exhibit based on diabetes in conjunction with his work.
LEO Weekly sat down with Man on the eve of the survey’s launch to talk about his residency here.
LEO: Before we talk about your project at Zephyr, how does Louisville compare to New York?
Man Bartlett: Aww. I hate comparing cities. So, I think there seems to be a lot of opportunity here for artists and makers, and there’s just a lot of energy here. And it’s a creative and supportive energy, which is very exciting. Now, there is energy in New York but it can sometimes feel very frenetic and very cold. So I’m having a blast here.
LEO: Any favorite restaurants here so far?
MB: Oh, man. I had a really good time at El Camino the other night. And I’ve heard the Mayan [Café] is supposed to be delicious, [but] I haven’t had a chance to get there yet. I’m a big coffee fan, so Please and Thank you is great to have down the street.
LEO: How did you get involved in the Thrive365 project?
MB: I was brought here by Theo Edmonds [of IDEAS 40203], and a curator [Ayelet Aldouby] where I live through a partnership with Residency Unlimited. Theo was familiar with my work from a residency he had done a handful of years ago.
LEO: Tell me a little bit about the research you’ll be doing here.
MB: It’s in a couple different categories. It’s general research about the current state of the diabetes epidemic, particularly with a focus of pre-diabetes and Type II. And then there’s kind of a parallel emphasis on people in Louisville that currently have pre-diabetes or Type II – understanding their needs when it comes to how they track their diet, and just in general their needs, the discovery process. Specifically with Thrive365, they have developed this platform which can tally your diet and score it similar to Weight Watchers. So, what I’m helping to identify is the best way to implement this scoring system In people’s lives and how people can best be served by this system.
LEO: How will your work be specifically applied to Thrive365 and what benefits might it afford end users?
MB: Currently I’m developing an online form. It’s a creative approach using methods that are typically found in popular Internet culture, and applying those to the process of filling out a survey with the hope being to broaden the audience for the platform. I’m trying to spice it up a little bit.
LEO: Can you give me an example?
MB: One of the questions is, “What is your age?” The subtext reads, “We know your spirit is timeless.” Below that is an animated gif of the formation of the universe. Beneath that are options for age ranges. It will be entertaining. But also … it really dances between serious and play and funny and sincere.
LEO: So it’s not like filling out an online job application which is the worst experience imaginable?
MB: Oh, it’s horrible. I started with that and couldn’t get past the fourth question. I am also going to encourage as much feedback as possible to really create a dialogue around what works, what doesn’t work and anything that we may have missed. All of that is tied to what I’m presenting here at the gallery. So, a big component of understanding diabetes is also looking at government activity and corporate activity that are contributing factors to the current state of our diet in this country. That’s part of what I’m looking at, which is on the one hand very impersonal and a massive amount of data, but on the other hand we each individually are impacted by decisions that are made, oftentimes without our awareness.
LEO: What’s your next project once you head back to New York?
MB: I have a very big project I have been working on a couple of years now: a 24-hour audio collage based on Indian Raga and clandestine numbers stations. The piece is going to be presented at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in May. It’s epic. I could talk to you about it for an hour. It will also live online.
LEO: So, this is your first time to Louisville. Do you think you’ll return?
MB: Yes. If at all possible. I mean it, I love what this city is doing, the energy here, the people I’ve met. There are not a lot of other places in this country where things like those that are happening here, are happening.
Check out Man’s creative online diabetes research form HERE.