Written for The Kernel (The Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine)
Published in The Fame Issue, October 18th, 2015
Sitting on a vintage couch in his manager’s apartment in inner-city Sydney, Australia, Jesse Willesee is awkward and patently shy, a stark contrast to his carefully cultivated online persona. As he chops, rolls, and smokes, I’m hoping to avoid a contact high as the rosy-eyed pro-marijuana activist, viral artist, and all-around renegade eases into discussing how he uses online culture and social media to not only challenge the definition of art but to confront your inner prude—and his.
Willesee, a 28-year-old American-Australian, is best recognized for his arrest at Sydney’s Town Hall, in a marijuana legalization protest turned performance-art piece. Following a photo essay of him smoking weed outside five Australian police stations and the Parliament of New South Wales, he arrived at Sydney’s city center on April 20: 420, the counterculture holiday celebrating cannabis.
Plagued by heavy wind and incessant rain, the day was gray, wet, and cold: exactly what Willesee didn’t want. But as a small crowd built up on the steps of Town Hall, and 4:19pm clicked over to 4:20pm, Willesee swung onto the pillars, lit a joint, took a hit, and was promptly arrested. …
Illustration by J. Longo