In conversation: Maxim du prodige presents his prodigious talents in the visual arts
The name The Prodigy carries with it awe of the daring mix of bristling electronics of early British EDMs and the aggressiveness of punk rock, with every recording and video of them seeming to have been torn from the group’s collective kidneys. Despite the passing of its sharpest member, singer Keith Flint, in 2019, The Prodigy remains an active and incendiary force – and not just in music and film, with new efforts coming on both fronts (including a documentary scheduled for release later in 2021). No member of Prodigy is busier and more versatile across different genres and aesthetic values than his other singer, Keith “Keeti” Palmer.
Known as Maxim, Palmer’s talents in multimedia art forms, including sculpture, have long been on display to the public across Europe and Britain. Then there’s “Hope,” a new aesthetic project combining mixed media sculptures and an exhibition of installations designed with fellow artist Dan Pearce, and which also includes a new solo EP and a short film coming soon. “Hope” is available worldwide, beyond her first VIP visit to the 99 Projects Gallery and the London Events Space.
Inspired by the ideals of hope that transported the public through the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation in quarantine, there is something fierce about the depictions of children, gas masks and hearts of hand grenade (see below). And while the “Hope” sculptures came with custom memory cards containing the four tracks Hope EP, the project can be fully appreciated online and visually as part of Maxim’s Instagram and his website with music available through streaming services, all at a time when the world is slowly returning to normal.
We spoke to Maxim from his sculpture excavations in London.
The Prodigy was born in 1990, and I think you’re responsible for a lot of its graphic display for the last few days. Have visual art and music always been at work for you at the same time?
I got into art about 18 years ago. I’ve been involved in music for a lot longer than that. When I got into art, I went under the pseudonym Double M, because I thought they had to be separated. It’s a very funny thing in the UK, very different from the US, at least. When you try to do two or three things in the UK people say, ‘Well you can’t do that, you can only be good at one thing. I have deliberately separated them: Maxim and Double M. More recently, however, I have come to think, “You know, it’s just me, and people have to accept that.” That’s what I do. I’m just a creative mind, and I create.
“When you try to do two or three things in the UK people say, ‘Well you can’t do that, you can only be good at one thing. Recently I got to a point where I was like, “You know, it’s just me, and people have to accept that.” That’s what I do. I’m just a creative mind, and I create. ‘”
Do you find that you compartmentalize inspiration, influence and concepts for each medium, or is it a free flow of ideas?
It’s just a free flow of ideas. Once I start the art creation process, I normally stick with that style or genre. Whatever I do, I normally stick to it for a short time until more ideas come up. It’s like planting a tree: you have to plant a seed, then the fruits come out of the tree, and the fruits are each an individual painting in that category. So when I start painting, I don’t know what to start doing. I just like walking into this area. And whatever happens, I let it happen naturally.
Tell me about the use of grenades. This pattern runs through your work like blood and water.
A grenade is used in wars, meaning destruction. I think I was just sitting down one day and I was like, “Why are you throwing a grenade? You throw a grenade to kill, destroy something you don’t like, something you hate and want to get out of your way. So that’s what a grenade does. Then I thought, “You know what, why not take it out of context and put a heart in it?” So when you throw that grenade you are actually spreading love, not destruction. “
How and why “Hope” was born in collaboration with Dan Pearce?
I’ve known Dan for a few years now. I have been to some of his exhibitions. He came over to my house, we just hung out and talked about art and both realized that it would be nice if we did something together, collaborate. There we are, we have just started. Four months later Dan sent me some drawings of some ideas he had for a sculpture. We chatted with different ideas, back and forth, and came up with the idea for this boy concept. I mentioned to him, the pomegranate, that it would be nice if the boy reached out for that pomegranate. Then it really grew organically from there – it wasn’t something forced, the ideas came. Dan knew a friend who he sold a painting to who was a director who then offered to make a movie for it.
The short gives the impression that from the start it moved beyond the concept of hope in a post-pandemic context – that in the process, a kind of universality flourished.
As we filmed it, we realized it touched on so many different aspects of our lives and what was going on around us, from children’s mental health to homelessness and national health services. All of those things were in the movie. And we didn’t even realize how much of an impact this film had, what we had accomplished between the sculpture and the film, how immersive it was. It wasn’t just a work of art, but actually a sculpture with depth, about this boy going through this trip and meeting this bum, a broken down guy. This guy gave this box to the boy, and he seen what’s in that box, it’s a pomegranate.
And all the noise of chaos is going around, sirens, gossip, news about deaths and COVID and so on. And then it’s just pure silence. It says “vaccine” on the box, but the whole concept is that it was a little more love in society – a little more caring for your neighbors, a little more understanding – that greatly helps young children through their predicament.
Why do the documents that you and Dan used for “Hope” speak best about the subject, the emotion?
When you see the sculpture, you understand the relevance of the film. They go hand in hand, really. It’s a really strange thing, this whole work of art. Then there is an EP, which I did for each sculpture. No one else does this in art. Haven’t seen any other artwork in this area where you get a sculpture and a memory card. And there is a four track EP, which is the music for this sculpture. And obviously one of the tracks is the soundtrack of the movie, which is also on the memory card. So it’s totally exclusive to the people who buy the sculptures – these pieces won’t come out for months. The fact that you can actually have something physically, which isn’t just something on your computer, that you can’t download …
I understand the sculptures are of a child holding a pomegranate with a heart inside – can you discuss his training, the idea of building something from real life and instilling an emotion in it like l hope and confidence?
I’m not a potter or something, it’s not me all alone sitting behind a random wheel and molding this thing out of clay. Obviously, with the technology and the current state of affairs, you can put your ideas into practice. It’s almost like you can write a great song, but that doesn’t mean you’re a good singer – so what you do is have someone else sing it while you stick with it. to your strengths, to what you do well. And if you’re not good at singing, all you have to do is bring in some people who are good at that sort of thing.
“As we were filming it, we realized that it touched on so many different aspects of our lives and what was going on around us, from children’s mental health to homelessness and national health services. All of those things were in the movie.
So the sculpture is not actually physically made by us, we have people who did the 3D molding and then we have it molded. But Dan and I put the thing together, spray painted it ourselves. More than anything, I love the experience of the people receiving the goods we produce. I love the whole experience – putting it in a black flight case, cutting the foams that the sculpture is in. You get an experience from the start of the purchase to the end, where you place it on your wall.
the Hope EP and short film address the ramifications of mental health, a necessary part of artistic dialogue today. What can you tell me about the extension of this concept in musical and cinematic form?
The thing with the EP is that I wrote the music, but I didn’t want to make it too dark. And so it’s still entertaining, and still light, and still the listener can bawl without being too sad. But the music is a reflection of the film. And the bonus tracks feature uplifting music, about standing up and looking to the future, so to speak. I think music and sculpture represent a time when people had to overcome adversity. Hopefully people will look back 10 years from now and see that it was a traumatic time, but we lived it – we had hope and we did. Florida