About Brian Behm and No_System

No_System is the working name for Austin, TX-based designer and visual effects artist Brian Behm. Brian’s work grows out of a nostalgia for 80s culture, 90s hip-hop, streetwear, and propaganda. There’s a tongue-firmly-implanted-in-cheek in everything he creates, and he tries to infuse both irony and humor to bring a biting edge to his creations.

As a designer for broadcast and film, his professional work is often about creating systems and order—branding to give communities symbols they can own. No_System is Brian’s way to apply all of the lessons he’s learned as a designer and apply them (in an ironic way) to a brand of his own. The brand is itself the art project, and people buying a shirt or a product are participating in creating the art. Everyone can be in on the joke, and there can be an irony that having everyone being in on the gag makes it less of a joke. 

The same duality of seriousness and humor also applies to the name No_System. On the surface, it’s an anti-authority statement. There Is No_System, but the term also grows out of the Greek word for knowledge: gnosis. The gnostics were some of the original existentialists, wrestling with ideas of why we exist and our role in the world. They were also outsiders to the system, so maybe they were some of the world’s first punks as well. 

Brian's daughters and dog, Asta.  Brian has two daughters that have inspired the designs for the project. They’re creative and energetic little girls. He started to imagine the types of things they would want to own and wear when they got into their twenties, and the work continues to flow out of that. One of the projects he’s excited about in 2021 is starting to make art videos with them and turning those illustration projects into t-shirts.

No_System’s design inspirations come from a mixture of the zine and remix culture, rock posters, cult cinema, punk rock and early art band new wave, and the world of indie music and film. There’s a love for things like the illustration work of Jamie Hewlett on Tank Girl, Gary Baseman’s grotesques, and 80s cinema; films like Escape From New York, The Stuff, and They Live.

John Carpenter’s movie They Live was also the inspiration for Shepard Fairey’s OBEY GIANT. The film, a mid-1980s rant against Reagan and consumerism, was about a man (Rowdy Roddy Piper) who discovers his sunglasses show him that aliens have invaded the world. Whenever he wears his glasses, he can see that there’s hidden propaganda everywhere. Billboards, televisions, signs, they all have propaganda and instruct people to OBEY.

The first single, Art Thief, wrestles with not being seen as just rehashing what others have done and the struggle to be unique. 

One of the things that Fairey couldn’t appropriate when he first started OBEY was that aspect of hiding something under the surface. As Brian was beginning to explore the project, he realized there was an opportunity to use Augmented Reality to hide things in plain sight.

No_System’s augmented reality work creates the opportunity for designs to turn into secret mantras. The Smart GRRL design comes to life and says, “I don’t need to prove myself to you.” When you wear the design, you wear the message, and you get the value of the statement without needing to share with someone what it says.

Sometimes, statements need to be loud, visible, and outwardly focused, so some of the No_System designs feature text. But there will always be a meaning or sense of humor or intentionality behind the released designs. The first design like this is the dual-sided See Beneath the Surface.

A core value of No_System is that we lift and don’t put down. We might afflict authority because people in power deserve to be challenged and provoked. But the challenges that we issue are always focused on building people up. Cliques suck; feeling like you don’t belong sucks. A brand on its own can’t make the world a better place, but paying attention to the social good and doing what we can to make life better is essential. Even if it’s as small as making someone laugh, that’s leaving the world in a better place than it was.

In 2020, Brian’s music for the augmented reality portion of No_System expanded out into full songs. His first album, There Is No_System, deals with the significant life changes that transpired over the past decade. Over those 10-years, he had kids, lost both of his parents, found a career that he loved, and made the decision to leave it, then discovered in his early 40s undiagnosed ADHD.

The first single, Art Thief, wrestles with not being seen as just rehashing what others have done and the struggle to be unique. 

Well, Brian, It’s not like you went to RISD.

(this is a little nod to Shepard Fairey went to Rhode Island's Design School. It's one of the best known design schools in the country)

Art Thief, the ideas are in the ether, and you gotta rearrange them
so you’re not called into question as an
Art Thief
I said I was a prole but am I really just a plebe and doomed to always just repeat like an
Art Thief?
Not cool enough for AIGA, but I still come out and play.
I really don’t want you to say
I’m just an art thief.
And I get that you’re a straw man, and my flames are roaring out.
I’m not an art thief.
Always fighting for the new and saving things I think are cool.
I’m not an art thief.

You probably think I’m old as rust
but I got tricks to show you that
will make you think I’m new and fresh,
old dogs learn tricks and don’t just trip,
not just an art thief

no_system · Art Thief
    

  ADHD talks about Brian's experience with discovering he was neurodiverse at 41. 

 

no_system · ADHD

 

We never want No_System to be seen as art thieves. Our goal is to bring art into the world that makes lives better and maybe creates some small positive changes. We’ll always push to make that happen.

Wear your truth, even if you don't show it.

 

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