John Waters, the legendary actor, comedian, visual artist, and art collector, gave RISD’s graduating class of 2015 one of the most epic of commencement speeches.
Depending on who you ask, Waters is best known for either his controversial film Pink Flamingos (1972) or his mainstream movie Hairspray (1988) – the first of which is a trail blazing cult classic, and the former of which was adapted to a long running Broadway musical.
With a career that spans nearly 50 years (not to mention having his work exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles and the New Museum), there’s no denying the guy most definitely knows what he’s talking about. So when he gives his comical yet wise advice to the newly graduated art students, you can’t help but to aspire to be like him, even just a little bit…
Here are some of the most memorable quotes from his speech:
“In the fine arts, play is work, isn’t it? What other field allows you to deduct as business expenses from your taxes gangster rap, Gaspar Noé’s movies, even vintage porn as long as you use it for research?”
“Keep up with what’s causing chaos in your own field. If you’re a visual artist, go see the shows in the galleries that are frantically competing to find the one bad neighborhood left in Manhattan to open up in.”
“Contemporary art’s job is to wreck what came before. Is there a better job description than that?”
“Don’t hate all rich people. They’re not all awful. Believe me, I know some evil poor people too. We need some rich people – who else is going to back our movies or buy our art?”
“Separatism is for losers. Gay isn’t enough anymore…don’t heterosexual kids actually receive more prejudice in art schools today than the gay ones…things are a changing, it’s a confusing time.”
“I’m rich. I mean, I don’t mean money-wise. I mean that I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich.”
“Hairspray is the only really devious movie I ever made. The musical based on it is now being performed in practically every high school in America. And nobody seems to notice it’s a show with two men singing a love song to each other that also encourages white teen girls to date black guys…Hairspray is a Trojan Horse, it snuck into Middle America and never got caught, you can do the same thing.”
Water’s concludes bluntly, telling the graduating class to “go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully.”
Hats off to you John Waters, hats off to you.