Double Negative Humour: Meeting Cam Scott

Surfing vs. Satire - So It Goes meets Bondi-based artist 'NotNotCamScott'

Born and raised on the beaches of Sydney, street artist Notnotcamscott is making waves on the Australian art scene. A graduate of UNSW, he has taken his printmaking degree and applied it in a subversive new direction. His work appears around the suburbs of Sydney in the form of satirical silkscreen stencils on walls, electrical boxes, and other public spaces, executed with a trademark wit and style. Georgia Graham meets the man behind the moniker.

You operate under the name "Notnotcamscott". Where did that come from?

My friends insisting that if I wanted to keep doing this and don't want to go to jail, I had to come up with a pseudonym. I feel like a pseudonym is kind of a cop out in some ways, in that if you're completely hiding your identity, then there's no real danger in it for you, there's no real connection to that person in reality. So "Notnot" kind of offers a trail of breadcrumbs.

Would you consider yourself a "street artist"?

I didn't come from a big graffiti community background, which has often got me in trouble with the graffiti kids. There is Cam Scott, which is the gallery artist who went to university and enjoys a gallery context. But getting out there, putting work up on the uninteresting walls around Sydney is where I get the most satisfaction.

How important is it to you to make a political statement with your work?

I used to actually steer clear of that, and then my friend invited me to a street exhibition focused on political art making. Now if anyone upsets me in a political context, I kind of feel compelled to take them down a notch! That evolved into the Gronk series, which is just a lighthearted poke at people who are doing terrible things on the political scene i.e. Pauline Hanson, Donald Trump. 

In person, you're a pretty happy and chilled out guy. Is your work an outlet for your frustrations with the society or more a humorous project to poke fun at contemporary issues?

Both. There definitely was a frustration that led to those political works, but I always try and do it in a lighthearted way because I don't want to be making people's day worse.

With the “Gronk" works, I hope that even if you are a die hard Trump or Pauline Hanson supporter, you'll find something interesting in it. So yes, there is a frustration that creates those works, but mostly it's just about making tired, urban spaces more interesting, whether that be through comedy, or just beautiful aesthetics.

Your work is often critical of societal trends and politics. Do you think people are receptive to the kind of messages you are trying to get across?

I try not to think about audience too much when I'm making the work. In terms of current social trends, I'm very much involved in them. A lot of the social media works are more a reaction to my own daily usage of social media; thinking about my own digital persona and how that's influencing my reality.

Which design do you feel has had the strongest response?

It would definitely be "a digital reality", in which a skeleton prays to an Instagram icon. It’s ironic because it flew around the world and across more screens than anything else I've done.

It taps into the kind of tension of what a lot of people are feeling, that strange uncertainty between digital personas and real life interactions. Feeling that desire for appreciation and acceptance bubble up, even though it's just a photo on a social media platform that has no real bearing on real life.

These works mock our obsession with online affirmation. Nevertheless, your work is very instagram-friendly. How do you feel about social media?

It's funny how the mocking tone that the work has immediately implies a negative relationship to social media. I use Instagram, my work is on Instagram - it wasn't ever meant to be an entirely negative thing. It was just meant to make people think about how they use social media.

Your work conveys serious themes in a humorous way. How important is this to you? Where do you strike the balance between funny and serious?

I guess it's just the way I approach a lot of conflicting points in real life, which has informed the way I make work. Whenever I'm on the verge of getting into a fight I try to make a joke, to diffuse the situation. Although a very serious work might have a more serious reaction, being able to laugh at yourself is really important.

How does exhibiting your work in a gallery space differ from having it in an urban environment?

Greatly. In the public sphere I try to make my work as accessible and obvious as it can be. The reality is that people don't give it the time it might deserve when they're walking by, whereas in galleries people will take the time to read the wall text I've written. The public work needs to be much more self-explanatory.

Photos by Jessica Harris and courtesy of the artist.