City: San Francisco, California

Passion: Fun

Website: www.GeorgeZisiadis.com

Twitter: @GeorgeZisiadis

George is an old, wise soul in a 20 something's body. After hearing about George, I closely followed his work and we finally set up a time to meet at the co-ed artist collective where he resides. Walking into this big house, we were transported to Woodstock days: Barefoot, wild haired artists creating around, a gothic video shoot taking place in what looked like a church. George showed up with a big smile and composure, walked us up to the rooftop and while the sun was setting, he shared with us his life story speaking mostly in quotes. He also gave us a sneak peek of his latest book: Urban Imagination project. Since graduating from Harvard with a major in Sociology, George's work has ranged from recreating a lab of happiness Bubbleverse to being commissioned by the city of Boston to install a heart that turns heartbeats into music Pulse of the City. And so much more to come from this young creative genius.

On Passion

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I found out that interactive art was my passion by doing lots of things and realizing that it was the only thing I wanted to keep on doing. It was in May and 4 AM in the morning and I had just tied together about 3,000 balloons with a lot of people; I was exhausted and I had to sleep in my room and it smelled like latex, it was like sleeping in a dentist’s office. It was one of those moments where I was like, WHAT AM I DOING? I couldn’t help but put this event on: Balloonacy. I was under budget, super stressed and wondering why all of this is happening - but then I came in and saw the smiles on peoples’ faces and I saw the smile on my own face and realized how much it spoke to my own heart. I follow my own urge and I want to create these types of experiences for people.

On Mastery

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When I’m dealing with a new brief or concept, I do a lot of free writing, a lot of stream of consciousness. I spend ten minutes a morning free writing, it’s a pretty solid habit. All the answers are in my mind already; the writing brings them out. Meditation is also big part of my life and creative process. Usually, I’ll make lists and I have my share of ‘Aha’ moments. That leads to jumping and yelling! It’s the process, right? Make lists, cultivate everything then try to get into yourself and let things come out. Get rid of your filters.
My talent, I suppose, is, my curiosity. My talent is re-imagining the world, quite literally through installations and experiences. I try and continuously cultivate that through jumping into different realms and mediums, too. The ability to stay fascinated by any aspect of life is crucial to what I do. I set aside one day a week to read a book or go to a cultural institution I’ve never been to before, to constantly cultivate that appreciation for new things. It’s an active process. One of my favorite quotes by Jack London is, ‘you can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’

On Transition

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I never really had a rigid plan for my life – I actively avoided that. Fortunately, my parents didn’t have one for me either. I followed my interests. During college, I studied sociology and was really interested in Couchsurfing. I wrote my thesis on Couchsurfing. Then I thought, how cool would it be to use my thesis to get a job there? I got in touch with them and I was an expert in researching couchsurfing, so they sent me out to San Francisco to become a full-time researcher. That’s what brought me to SF. I did a lot of work there and was doing a lot of work with user experience design. I wanted to do it in a more interactive way: combine my background in sociology and research, with fun.
Balloonacy made me realize that I want to do more of these installations. It was three or four months before I left my job. I spent six months doing project after project: a whole bunch of installations. One of them was Pulse of the City. A few friends and I made it a prototype for about $1,000. It was such a huge hit that the city of Boston wanted to commission it more permanently. Now, I do this full-time. I have fallen into it. Here I am.

On Failure

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In doing sketches for my Urban Imagination project, I started it for the hell of it and it eventually turned into what it is now. After the first 25 drawings, I switched paper to make it easier to draw. Two days ago, when I scanned these images, I realized they were the wrong type of paper, and now I have to redo all of them; that’s an interesting place to be. In a way, I failed but in another sense, it’s kind of awesome because I was doing something so new to me that I had no idea how to approach it. And if I have no idea how to do something, I’m in a good place. I want to have no idea what I’m doing. It’s a very sinister thing, fear, and I think it’s incredibly undetectable sometimes - most often, it’s a whisper. It’s a lack of clarity. Even with the hearts in Boston, there are a thousand little imperfections I can point out but no one has ever made an interactive heart in the world like this, ever! So it’s fine. It’s part of the process, plan for it.

On Fear

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I really don’t experience fear. I mean, here’s what I do have a fear of: I fear missing opportunities. I fear not pushing myself enough honestly. I fear that I’m not making my life and work as epic as it can be – and that’s what keeps me going, I suppose. You’ve got your life, and it’s short and people die, and whatever, what’s the point? I think of that every day and every moment and I am mortally afraid of not taking advantage of everything to the fullest. For me that means, having the most incredible adventures that I can and producing the most incredible work that I can. That fear drives my work.

On Money

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It’s a tough question, man. There’s a big secret I learned – it changed my life. The secret is that no one really knows what they’re doing. Even if people are ‘achieving success,’ I don’t think they really realize why it’s working. It’s a constant game of improv, for me personally. A lot of my work is coming from commissions. And this book, I’ll be selling as well. It will be out before Christmas. I’m making it up, just like everyone else is.
Financial stress and creativity don’t go hand and hand. One practical thing to think about is that it’s a real thing. My creativity is my way of making a living, and when I can’t create because of financial stress, it’s a vicious cycle. If following your passion isn’t within the right context, it can be counter-productive. It’s important to have a financial base for your creativity to flourish. I think that, across the board, trying to turn a passion into a career is a real challenge. I encourage a broader view of engaging in passion beyond trying to make it your career. It’s very tough. I’m hustling all the time. It’s my choice because I want to do this full-time and I can deal with the financial ambiguity.

On Self-Love

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Self-love is everything. We are our own greatest enemies, it’s a lesson I have learned many times and continue to learn. I truly think it blocks people from themselves. I love the quote:
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us’ by Marianne Williamson.
I realized that I deserve to achieve the things I want to achieve. The moment you can truly, truly believe that, the world changes, you know, and for me, it’s – reading the Artist’s Way was a big influence. There’s definitely a lot of guilt in success and difficulty dealing with the ego, wanting to do well but not wanting to be caught in a world of ego and learning how to balance those things. It’s hard to not be unstoppable if you truly believe you’re doing the right things. I want my mission for fun and whimsy to get out there. There’s a human right to joy, I want to bring out the curiosity and playfulness in people. If that’s the case, I deserve to have resources to accomplish that. It’s not about me, it’s about the work I’m doing for people.

On Inspiration

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Everyone and everything inspires me. There are too many figures to name specifically. My work is about people, so in that sense, what I’m inspired by is looking at people in their day to day lives; it’s often them standing on the corner, crossing the street, the way they go about their day – I want to turn these interactions into something fun and interesting. I try to take inspiration from the mundane, the little things in life we take for granted.

On Support

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You become the average of the people you spend the most time around. Living here at the Convent has been really important for me – it’s an arts collective. At any given time, there’s someone painting or playing piano. A couple of my housemates are my collaborators. It’s important to be hooked into a community of similar creative minds. You can never have enough of that. I wanted to make creativity the center of my life, so the place and the people I live around had to nurture that.

Advice to the Community

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I don’t really believe in advice, I believe in helping people help themselves, so my advice is to, every morning for a week, free write for ten minutes and see what comes of that. Use free writing as a way of understanding yourself, that will tell you far more thoroughly and honestly what you should be doing way better than I would ever be able to.
Also, just do. Inertia, momentum – things that keep moving will continue moving. Do anything and just get moving in any direction. You will quickly find if you like it or if you don’t. If you don’t like it, let yourself do something that you do like.

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