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Authentic Lives | Colby Keller

CONTENT

Authentic Lives | Colby Keller

Ben Ashby

Not all creative endeavors involve making a product in the traditional sense. In fact, despite our capitalist mindset distracting us with wanting to know what we will get, sometimes our greatest reward from creatives is a new understanding of something abstract and pervasive. We spend a lot of time talking about things. Things made and things purchased. However, what about things given away and things experienced? For his upcoming artistic endeavor, our friend Colby Keller has decided to give away more than he receives. Giving away all of his earthly possessions in his exploration for a better understanding of something abstract we all share in common: sex. Sure, it’s a taboo concept, but one worth discussing more freely. Hear Colby’s thoughts on sex, earthly possessions, and more in his interview for Colby Does America.

INTERVIEW: HEATH STILTNER | PHOTOGRAPHY: WADLEY WADLEY

I love to travel and I love the United States. As a kid, we would camp at a different state park every weekend. When my former slumlord forced me out of my home in Baltimore last May, I couldn't afford to move to a new apartment. It didn't seem sensible to put my things in storage either. To cope with the emotional trauma I was experiencing at the time, I transformed my eviction into something positive. I decided to give away all of my belongings as part of an art piece. By the end of the project I was stripped bare, quite literally. Eyeglasses. . .shoes. . .clothes. . .computer. . .TV. . .phone. . .I gave everything away. A nod to "Debby Does Dallas", "Colby Does America" is an orgiastic response to the situation I currently find myself in: homeless and horny.

My hope is to learn what it means to truly be an American, from body to body, sea to shining sea. I don't mean to sound flippant. It's far too easy to be negative. I truly want the project to embrace diversity, both in terms of the subjects depicted and the methodology used to produce content. Shared effort and mutual respect are difficult concepts to fold into any creative endeavor. Good sex certainly requires both. I guess I'd like the project to eventually reach some sense of sex as creative metaphor.

I grew up in Texas. While Dubya did a lot of work to destroy the Lone Star State's reputation, it's a much more dynamic, engaging place than many think. It's also true that large parts of the state remain incredibly conservative, more so than I remember growing up. We fail to give credit where credit is due. Let's remember just how thoroughly corporate propaganda assaults us at every turn. It infects nearly all of our social and cultural institutions. The precious states in our fragile union that deserve the most significant change are also often the most stubbornly conservative. A "circle the wagons" mentality for an enemy that doesn't exist pervades all aspects of public life, aided no doubt by ill-intentioned fiscal interests. Fear rules the weak. Traveling the United States can be a sad, devastating experience without the right frame of reference. It's important to remember our history (nearly all of it sad and devastating) and to recognize the potential for good despite the prevalence of bad. It IS possible to work together and think outside the limiting prospect of "self-interest". In reality, it's in all of our self interests to work together and treat each other equally. The struggle to overcome division however, remains immense. There are a lot of interests at work preventing change from happening. Texas is a great example of this ideological stalemate.     

I can't really anticipate where I'll be when. Much of the work happens on the ground, once I reach a particular state. For that reason it's impossible to plan ahead. I think some people who'd like to participate in the project get frustrated with my inability to commit to an established schedule. I hate disappointing the people eager to help me realize this project, but I also enjoy unpredictability. Travel can be exhausting but in a good kind of way. It's exciting. I also have to give myself permission to have as much sex as possible–to get as kinky and creative as I can. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of shame about sex. Occasionally I find myself questioning the intensity of my sexual interest, a propensity that ultimately doesn't help the aim of the project (or my libido). Sex is powerful! Sex is fun! Sex is Good! Every human being is the product of a shared sexual moment, hopefully one that is enjoyed and consensual. The more work we do to promote a positive understanding of sex as mutually beneficial, the further we get in our ability to recognize the potential each of us has to create powerful, shared experiences together–sexual and otherwise.

Ultimately I think money poses the biggest challenge to the project. I would like to finish all 50 states and Canada too. In all honesty however, I'm certain the project will require additional funding to complete. Rest assured, I won't stop until my bank account is bone dry! 

I've experienced quite a few setbacks actually. It's taken me much longer to fulfill my IndyGogo obligations than I'd like. T-shirts are coming, I promise! Recently, a few social media platforms have also deleted my accounts. Instagram alone has deleted my accounts on three separate occasions! It's a sad reminder of how oppressive our culture truly is. We seem to have no problem endorsing violence and mutual destruction, but find it challenging to embrace desire and mutual pleasure. Everybody has genitals!! Is it really that scandalous? 

In terms of how Colby Does America might affect an audience, firstly, I hope that the individuals involved with each state's video enjoy the outcome and the process involved in making it. The project really is a shared endeavor. I hope the project eventually enfolds a diversity of potential viewing options as well: art to some, porn to others, serious at moments, silly and playful at others. I'd like to find as many ways as possible to tackle the question of sex as medium and as metaphor.

So far every state I've completed has presented its own unique rewards. While some state have certainly given me more frustration than others, I can't say I prefer one experience over another. They're all my favorites. That said, some videos might be more entertaining, or sexual, or engaging than others. It's hard to predict how viewers will process the end result but I certainly hope they discover something nearly as rewarding as my experience helping to create it.  

To learn more about Colby Keller and his current project, visit his blog at www.bigshoediaries.blogspot.com or www.colbydoesamerica.com and follow his travels on Instagram @colbydoesamerica.