i let people tear up my art

All through the Summer I let people tear bits of my artwork off and take it with them. I actually invited them to do this, which was kind of odd, even for me.


This was part of a project called “ 12 Truths ”, whose aim was to inspire more self-awareness and spread good karma. Aka positive vibes. Aka feel-good hormones. So it was all part of a my highly confidential plan to take over the world and kill people with kindness (woo ha ha).

No, seriously, it all began at a time during which I felt kind of dazed & confused. In a nutshell: I was doubting the sustainability of my artwork, the purpose of my life and living in fear of public failure and imminent poverty. Hey, I could dress this up nicely and say I felt a little 'down' but I would be lying if I did.

The [12] truth [s] is, making a living from art ain't easy. It still isn't. Despite Saatchi Art Online, despite social media, despite any terms starting with a 'V' (think Vlogs, viral, venture capitalism, vigor, blinding ignorance, I could go on). There are highs (usually around the buy-buy-buy craze before Christmas) and there are lows (don't get me started).

The highs are pretty good. There's nothing like two handfuls of happy customers and being able to pay for your health insurance. It's the lows which can get scary, and my deep-and-dark foreboding at the start of Spring was one of them.

I felt a strong need for some, what's the word, motivation , and then I somehow stumbled upon one of Katie North's "Take What You Need" signs.

Great! , I thought, That's it! So, I made one of my own. I listed everything I desired and put it out into the world. Only to find that practically all the tags were taken within 48 hours.


Right from the start this one, small sign seemed to evoke a strong response indeed. People loved it, they loved it , and life once again felt good. So I made another one, and another one, and... then I got a message from an artisan ice cream store, True & 12, inviting me to make a sign for them. 

photo credit: Barry Kewt

Long story short, we embarked on a collaboration.

Every week, for 12 weeks, I hung a "12 Truths" sign on their store window. Each sign had a different theme and twelve tags relating to that theme. These tags were meant to be torn off by passers-by. They could be taken home and treasured, they could given away as gifts, they could be repurposed... what people did with the tags was entirely up to them. However, everyone was encouraged to make a photo of it and share it online, using the hashtag: #12truths.

Sweet! , I hear you think, but how exactly did this inspire self-awareness whilst spreading good karma, aka positive vibes, aka feel-good hormones?

Good question. Well, for instance, by asking a question like “How do you want to feel?”, any passer-by is invited to consider for a moment: How exactly do they want to feel, and more importantly, are they feeling like that right now? If they also decide to tear off a tag (e.g. "I want to feel respected"), this tag can be a motivation to dig deeper into that feeling whilst, at the same time, serve as a reminder to pursue it.


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The theme and corresponding tags differed week by week, but I made sure that they always had a universal reach (ie. something a large amount of people can relate to). For instance, the sign “How do you see yourself?” included the following tags:

I'm Loving,
I'm Irreplaceable,
I'm just okay (the back of the tag says: You're Amazing),
I Am Brave,
I'm Mysterious,
I'm Openminded,
I'm Not Enough (the back of the tag says: You Are Whole),
I'm Beautiful,
I'm Valuable,
I'm Insecure (the back of the tag says: You Are Loved),
I'm Talented,
I Am Authentic.


An important part of the 12 Truths project was (and still is) its afterlife, meaning: how have people interacted with the work and how have the tags affected their day, or their decisions? This stage is ongoing and visible on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To open up another platform for visibility, I've started to upload time-lapse videos of how the signs are made. These, you can view on my Vimeo page .

photo credit: Stefanie Szillat

This project had everything I could wish for. Creative freedom, positive feedback, a consistent body of juicy visuals, new contacts, feel-good hormones...

You name it, I got it. I'm a little sad it's over, but in a way, it's not over. My wish is that perhaps someone else is inspired to create a loving sign and put it out there. The images travel around on the web, I won't stop talking about it, it's out there and it's killing people, with kindness. We need more of that, don't you agree?

So, be kind and tell me what you think. Leave a comment. Share the love.

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