A Living Work Of Art: a Day in the Life of Daniel Lismore
My day starts just like yours. When I wake up, I have a cup of coffee and check my phone. But then my day truly starts. It may not be like yours, because I live my life as an artwork. Imagine yourself in a giant jewellery box, with all the beautiful things you have seen in your life.
Your body is a canvas, and on that canvas, you have a mission to create a masterpiece using the contents of your giant jewellery box. Once you have created the masterpiece you might think, “Wow. I’ve created that. This is who I am today.” Then you would pick up your house keys and walk out the door into the real world. Maybe take public transport, walk along the street or go to the supermarket.
That’s my life, my everyday life. When I step out the door, these artworks are me. I am art. I have lived as art my entire adult life. Living as art is how I became myself. I was brought up by my grandparents in a small village called Fillongley in the middle of England. They were antiques dealers, so I grew up surrounded by history and beautiful things. I had the most amazing dressing-up box and my grandparents taught me to be creative from a young age.
I moved to London to become a model when I was 17, and then went to study photography at college. I became obsessed with the works of David LaChapelle and often wondered “why can’t life look like his pictures?” That’s when I decided to cross over from the superficial fashion world to the superficial art world! I decided to live my life as art.
I spend hours, sometimes months making things. I never sew my creations. My go-to tool is the safety pin, so that the fabrics can be reused. When I get dressed, I’m guided by colour, texture and shape. There’s rarely a theme: I find beautiful objects from all around the world then curate them into 3D tapestries over a base layer that covers my body shape. I ask myself, “Should I take something off? Or should I add another 100 pieces?” There are more than 6,000 pieces in my collection, ranging from 2,000-year-old Roman rings to ancient Buddhist artefacts.
I promise you I’m not too uncomfortable (just a little bit). It usually takes me about 20 minutes to get ready, which nobody ever believes. When I get dressed, I build like an architect and carefully place pieces till I feel they belong. I get a lot of my ideas from lucid dreaming. I sleep to come up with my ideas and have taught myself to wake up to write them down. I wear things till they fall apart, and then I give them a new life.
I have a gold outfit made of armour, sequins and broken jewellery. It’s what I wore when I was invited to the Houses of Parliament in London. I was the first person to wear armour there since Edward II banned it in the 14th century.
Things don’t need to be expensive to be beautiful. Try making outfits out of bin bags, or trash you found on the street: you never know, it might end up on the pages of Vogue! I believe in sharing what I do with others, so I created an art exhibition which has toured in museums around the world. It contains an army of lifesize sculptures made from the articles I have worn in my everyday life. There can be plastic, crystal mixed with diamonds, beer cans and royal silks all in one look. Viewers could never make assumptions about what’s real and what’s fake. I find it important to explore and share cultures through my work. I use clothing as a means to investigate and appreciate people from all corners of the globe.
Sometimes people think that I’m a performer, or a drag queen. I’m not. Although my life appears to be a performance, it’s not. It’s very real. People respond to me as they would respond to any other type of artwork. Many people are fascinated and engaged. Some people walk around me, staring. They’re shy at first but then they say that they love or absolutely hate what I do. The most annoying thing in the world is when they touch the art, but I understand. But, as with a lot of contemporary art, many people are dismissive, some are critical or abusive, which I think comes from the fear of the different and the unknown. All responses are interesting; I have learned not to take them personally.
I have never lived as Daniel Lismore the person; I have lived as Daniel Lismore the artwork, and faced every obstacle as an artwork. It can be hard, especially if your wardrobe takes up a 40ft container, three storage units and 30 boxes from Ikea! Sometimes I can’t even get into cars or fit through doors. I’ve had to face struggles and triumphs whilst living my life as art.
I’ve been invited to royal palaces, been put on private jets and flown around the world, had my work displayed at prestigious museums and had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest artists of our time. But I’ve also been homeless, spat at, abused sometimes daily, bullied my entire life, rejected by countless individuals and I have even been stabbed. But what hurts me the most is being put on the worst-dressed list.
It can be hard to be yourself, but I have found it’s the best way. As the quote goes, “Everyone else is already taken.” I have come to realise that confidence is a concept you can choose. I have come to realise that authenticity is necessary, and it’s powerful. I have spent time trying to be like other people; it didn’t work. It’s a lot of hard work, not being yourself! In reality, everyone is capable of creating their own masterpiece. You should try it sometime: it’s quite fun!