As humans, we suffer a psychology of submission to this society, which tells us what is important and how to be. As we strive for perfection, we can feel hopeless when our reality doesn’t match this teaching of what we should be. This pursuit of perfection can stifle our freedom and make us feel alone, but when we allow ourselves to fall and to be imperfect, we can find strength through vulnerability, and begin opening to one another without judgment.
Matthew Silver is a performance artist. He is trickster and a clown, and while performing on the streets of New York City, he exists in the moment allowing himself to be truly vulnerable in public view. He invites people into his experience while always encouraging openness and connectivity. At first judgmental glance he seems like a messy madman, but this is the exact moment to push through and see that he is coming from a place of love. It is through this process of accepting Mathew, that we are reminded of our morality and encouraged to not take our lives so seriously.
Below is a transcription of a phone conversation with Matthew.
Photo above by Alexander Mechow
Matthew Silver Interview
Who is this?
This is Kean.
I wanted to thank you for doing this.
Yeah, I saw some of the articles. You’re putting out good work.
Thank you. I'm trying to put out articles and talk to people who might be doing something a little more positive. I feel like there's a lot of negativity out there.
Oh yes for sure. You know there's a lot of negativity. I guess people always feel like their negative selves. Which is not true. It's just what we're used to. We have been teaching ourselves to look at the negative all the time unconsciously.
Yeah it's strange. When do you think that started? Photo by Paolo Massimo Testa
Something like, thousands of years ago. It started with the killing of Jesus or something like that. (Laughter) There’s a guy who did like a parody of the history of the world in animation and basically just showing how we slaughter one country so this empire could grow. And in the name of religion we killed thousands of people so that that empire could grow, but then that empire was conquered. And instead of seeing everybody as one we’re still in this way of thinking that we're a divided mind.
Yeah, and that's the reason why I thought what you're doing is interesting. It's all about bringing people together, and accepting our differences or just putting our differences aside and just loving one another.
Yeah. We are one. There are a lot of shitty things going on. And a lot of spiritual gurus think that the thing that's going to save us will be the shift in consciousness, a change in perspective not to see the person outside as a stranger, but as somebody who is connected to you through spiritual energy. I don’t know what to call it. God. The God within.
That seems to me what you are doing on the street with strangers. When I see the footage of your performances, the people’s faces have genuine joy and they're really in
the moment with you. How do you get people to that point because it seems to happen so naturally?
Well, you know if I were to do this twenty years ago, it wouldn’t be as accepted. Because the shift in love, the planets shift to a love consciousness is totally there. It’s just that, so is the end of the world status or the machine or whatever is totally there too. And it’s been there longer than the love consciousness shift.
The shift didn't happen overnight but people have to wake up and realize there's good energy in this world that already exists, and that's what the social experiment is. It’s just like I'm out there and it exists. People wouldn’t interact with me otherwise because I'm in a woman’s bathing suit. And that's a little out there you know. It’s out there, and my lump is just sticking out there too. Maybe that draws a lot of people back?
I mean there is still negativity towards what I'm doing but you know I'm putting myself out there so that's to be expected. A lot of people say I should wear a suit. Because when you wear a suit, people will respect you and your message more. I think I'm not taken seriously a lot of time but then you know, I got lucky and a kid videotaped me and the video went viral. It helped my character and now a lot more people know who I am when I'm out on the street, and they understand that I’m coming from a good place. But then I'm playing the fool card you know.
I study a lot about the sacred clown tribe of The Heyoka. There are spiritual clown whose main thing is to take away the seriousness of it all. The planet has just gotten way too serious about… I don’t know
it’s just this code of thinking and the trickster has lost it purpose in the religion. Like you know, the religion of the old book, Judaism, The Bible, the New Testament and then The Qur'an. It’s all about what's right and what is wrong and there's no trickster, there's no in between. And the trickster has lost his place in spiritually. The truth is, we're all tricksters. Like we don't like this whole idea. How did we come to this level of right and wrong?
The whole idea of binary thinking, right and wrong, it separates us and it gives us a lot of neurological disorders. Because all of the sudden your system can be pointed out and there can be something shown. I mean, in ourselves, we figure out our own moral system of right and wrong. We all have that, but everybody’s is different. And it's up to you in the moment to figure out what's right and wrong. For somebody in one moment is different for somebody else in another moment of existence in time.
Do you think that a lot of those ideas of right and wrong come from this predetermined societal norm that everyone seems to be attached to?
People are attached to what they're born with. I hate to say it, but you know, money is a religion and we were all born with the idea of money. And a mother's like, “money doesn't grow on trees” and the people who loan the money, not the government, the private organizations, they want to make sure [of that]. And the predetermined attachment… Even I’m attached to my old religion. I grew up as a Jew. And I still have the bad habit of thinking that there is a God.
And thinking that I'm doing something right and doing something wrong and basically I'm just perpetuating the neurosis in my brain and I realize that it's not God! It’s me! I’m making myself neurotic! And that’s what everybody on this planet is doing. And when they see me performing in the street they think, “oh that’s wrong or that’s terrible.” It just doesn't make any sense so it shakes the bubble a little you know?
There's this idea of right and wrong and the idea that what's right will come from an angel like figure. It will come from a guy in a white robe with long hair and a nicely trimmed beard or it will come from a holy book. We keep forgetting that spirituality comes from a greasy, nasty looking man who has hair coming out of his nose or something. We totally obstruct the naked body and everybody is the same to have it. Because it’s the law to wear clothing and then everybody is ashamed [of their naked bodies].
You know I grew up ashamed of my naked body. I was pantsed one time in high school and I just lost it, I felt so stupid. And when the guy pantsed me my underwear went down and everybody saw my penis. I just felt so ashamed. Everybody was laughing but it was really a great life lesson because nobody gave a shit too. They laughed at me and I was the butt of the joke but… I just thought showing your naked body is the worst thing you could do and even though I'm all over that, I can show my naked body in front of people and not give a shit, I have this code that’s in my brain. There's nothing I could do with it. I was born with it. I was born with this thing like [frustrated sounds]. There’s something wrong!
There’s something wrong! It’s a chemical reaction. Everybody has this chemical reaction and now it's up to us to not put attachments to it because we should have a different feeling for what's wrong not just feeling like, Oh shit the end of the world is coming. It shouldn't be so extreme. You know, I'm trying to be the trickster and lighten everybody up, then of course I need to lighten myself up. My brain is born with the whole right and wrong concept you know. It's just that we're born with. We live with what we're born with from an early age. Some people don't take it so seriously and some people take it seriously. But I think there's a there's a big shift, there's a big movement toward love because the evilness, it's so big, it's apparent. It’s like right in front of our faces. Like somebody like Trump; It's just like our own President is just rubbing his butt cheeks in front of everybody’s face and we can smell his ass.
In my opinion vulnerability is required for love. And love is required for human connections. So why are so many people afraid of allowing themselves to be vulnerable?
Because we still live in a wrong and right society. People are still being harsh judges of other people, and themselves. And you know I have to admit I thought I was the above it, but then I started to realize that I'm still not above it. I'm still dealing with in my own way.
I might have improved my consciousness a bit, but like, I have been meaning for the last four or five years make a web series. I've been meaning to make videos like once or twice a week because the street thing, I'm starting to get burnt out from doing it. I'm having trouble doing the videos because I want them to be really good you know.
When I'm performing out on the street it's there, and I don't have to think about it, but then in social media, it's a whole new ballgame. You put something on the Internet and somebody writes a [nasty] comment. I get a nasty negative comment once a month or twice a month. Like somebody says oh your act getting really old, you should just give it a rest. You’re not funny anymore. You know I mean I want to be funny. I want to make people laugh but I also realize that I'm not always funny.
So that’s what’s going on in my head and I always had the idea to do stuff on the street for a long time but it took me until like twenty eight or maybe twenty five to start doing it almost every day or something. I just was so concerned like what people would think, or will I get arrested? It was an obsession of way to many thoughts for me. Now I don't have that as much, but what I do have is the chemicals. So I still carry this heavy chemical thing but at the same time. I have taught myself that it is only in my head. I don't have to give a shit. You just do it and you get it out there. But it’s still exhausting.
I thought I would chill out with it by now. It really is the only thing that gets me going. I am finally working with somebody who is editing my content for me and you know I see the edit and I'm judging it because I don't like the way I look, but then we showed it to somebody else outside and then I realized that your ego is your own worst enemy. It doesn't want you to grow and get stuff out there. You have to just give yourself a deadline and get stuff out there. A lot of people don't want to show their vulnerability because they want to show themselves as the novel or that great movie that they aspire to be or that guy in history that they aspire to be. They want to be that person. But I guess why people relate to my work is that that eventually I just go out there and put out my work. I just got to do something and even if it looks bad.
There's a certain beauty in imperfection I think. Everything is so polished and perfect and everyone strives for the same look and ideal and it gets repeated over and over again and becomes sterile.
Yes. Imperfection is perfection. I mean it really is. It's up to me; it's up to you, it's really up to us to put that out there and then of course what we're all dealing with is the wasteland of it, the business aspect of what's worked in the past so it's always going to be harder because unfortunately it needs to fulfill the religion of money right? That's another factor that covers people’s vulnerability because if you don't have a lot of money you feel like incomplete. You know they don’t want to show themselves because they feel bad that there aren’t making a lot of money.
Yeah, It begins to define them who they are. Their job and if they're making a certain amount of money doing that, that becomes who they are and if they don't have that they don't know who they are.
Photo by John David Pittman
Is there a practice or a simple act that people can do or that you do to let go of some of their attachment, and to try to find more freedom in their day-to-day life?
Yeah. I mean it took me a lot longer to get out on the street than it should of, but [for me] I kept hearing the quote, “if you never do it, you'll never see it.” You got to start somewhere, so I would say get in the practice of presenting yourself in groups. Even if you sound like you're foolish and you don't know what you're talking about. We're not even aware; we're so into our own heads that you if you just open your attention and expand your awareness of other people who actually put themselves out there, some of them sound stupid. But you shouldn’t judge them as stupid because they are you! They are actually inspiring.
A lot of people are so into their own heads and are just like, “I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid.” I’ve been like that a big part of my life and it wasn’t until I just started getting out there and doing things that it was no big deal.
That moment that I got recorded by that high school kid and the video went viral. I didn’t know that that was the moment that was going to be shared around the world. I was just in the park giving who ever came to me the best performance that I could. If anything, I did my best and I feel like I sent a good message. Basically you live for a deeper purpose and you're injecting love into the world to heal it and I feel that I have fulfilled that at a giant level. Now not everybody's going to see that, but some people do see it and that makes me feel good
All the thoughts in your head, they're all in illusion. The only thing that's real is the present moment and what you do with it.
I think that is a great place to end. It has been great talking to you Matthew.