Max Siedentopf’s Buoyant Humor
Want to get in touch with Max Siedentopf? Let your trout shaped cursor nudge the contact button on his website. An email window will pop up with the subject line: “Hi Max, I like you <3”. For most, this suggestive autofill will be portentous, he is—it turns out—exceptionally difficult to dislike.
Born and raised in Windhoek, Namibia, the London-based artist remains unbound to a specific area of the creative world—preferring to bounce between them instead. His projects are united by the blithe intelligence with which they’re executed, their slapstick humor tempered by a basis in serious thought. Whether it’s satire about hoverboards and their users (‘You’re a dickhead on your hoverboard, no matter where you’re from’), pimping people’s rides with cardboard and without their permission (‘Slapdash Supercars’), creating banal but beautiful quarterly print work (Ordinary magazine), or envisioning a publication about sightseeing and slipping on a banana peel (Banana, with JP Bonino), the work of Siedentopf is brilliantly buoyant. In the interview that follows, we spoke to him about his odd choice in eyewear, creative multi-hyphenates and where and when his best ideas come.
You’re originally from Namibia, but studied in Berlin, and lived in LA and Amsterdam before settling in London in 2017—how have these places shaped your work, and which has the best (or worst) sense of humor?
Each place teaches a slightly different way of seeing the world around me but also approaching work in general.
+ Namibia is 99.9% desert landscape, there’s barely anything to entertain you so you need to be creative and think of your own things to do.
+ Berlin taught me to not care too much about what others think of you and just make whatever you want to.
+ Los Angeles taught to think big and be nice to strangers.
+ Amsterdam taught me the most about humor (even though the weather made me miserable). Here I also spent over 3 years learning from my mentor Erik Kessels about approaching work.
+ London, on the other hand, has mainly lowered my life expectancy by at least 13 years thanks to the constant pollution and general speed of life here.
Concept Max Siedentopf
Photographs JP Bonino & Felisa Lacroze
Sticker Collection Kelly Angood / Fruit Stickers
Your work seems intimately bound to fun, have you ever found yourself not taken seriously in a professional sense as a result?
Even though my output usually focuses on fun and finding humor in different situations, most work is usually rooted in a serious back story or thinking, which helps with the “being taken serious” part. However, my glasses on the other hand, don’t always help in meetings.
Your work covers a lot of creative genres—photography, publishing, film, design, advertising, art direction—what would you define yourself as, and why?
With all mediums and genres slowly merging and overlapping, I don’t think there’s real need to put a label on myself.
What are the benefits of being a “multi-hyphenate” in the creative world?
It continuously stays interesting, and with each new venture you learn a lot of new traits. If you’re stuck with one thing you can dive into a different project which opens a whole new world with a fresh perspective. I think it’s also very important to stay open and flexible as the world is quickly changing we need to be able to adapt with the times.
Your latest venture was with JP Bonino, a photographer who you have worked with on previous (hilarious) projects. Could you explain how Banana came about?
JP and I started end of last year with the project. He sent me a mail with a folder full of beautiful photos that he and his girlfriend Felisawere going to travel to and if we should use the opportunity to work on a new project together. Slipping on a banana is probably one of the most classic acts in comedy and I was very curious how it would look like to see it repeat over and over and over again while being in beautiful landscapes.
Your work often utilises this slapstick humour—why?
I don’t know any better.
Finally, where do you have your best ideas?
Always in the shower. It’s my favourite place of meditation.