Featuring: Jeremy Bailey,
Canadian artist Jeremy Bailey recently completed a five week residency at Furtherfield.org which culminated with his first UK exhibition, The Jeremy Bailey Show at HTTP Gallery, in North London (Sept 19th - Oct 19th 2008). The centrepiece of this exhibition is 'WarMail' commissioned by HTTP/Furtherfield.org and completed during his residency.
As part of the residency experience Jeremy was invited to take part in an interview on the Netbehaviour list. We discussed the works in the exhibition and the critical approaches and contemporary contexts that inspire him to create his art work. We also discussed 'WarMail' which was performed with a participating audience at the HTTP Gallery at the opening night.
A warm welcome to Netbehaviour Jeremy, I want to begin by discussing 'WarMail' which will be performed with a participating audience at the HTTP Gallery next Friday the 19th.
I am intrigued by the image that you are using to represent this project. It looks as if it might be referring to a Star Wars film poster, but I am sure that this is not the case. Could you enlighten us on how this image came about?
Hi Marc, everyone,
The Logo is inspired by diverse sources, the primary purpose is for it to look and feel a lot like the contents of next Friday's performance.
I work a lot in graphic arts and advertising and I often try and reflect current cultural trends/aesthetics in my own artwork work to discuss the interplay between the way information is designed and the way it is received. In other words, the way things look right now have a lot to do with the way things are right now and vice versa. I'm currently very interested in recent revivals in 80s aesthetics, especially the use of airbrushed 3d Wireframe models and the
combination of certain colours like the teal and red pictured in the logo. This look is obviously apparent in a lot of early videogames, and computer visualizations. I suppose it originally existed as a limitation of graphics power but evolved into an aesthetic that represents something else. I've also been looking at a lot of Op art and cold war computer interfaces.
For those more visual, below is a list of links to inspired sources.
I like the poster image as well.
I find Tron fascinating because its striking aesthetic is the product of computers being mythologised by people with a limited technological understanding of computers but a keen understanding of how they were affecting popular culture.
Also of possible interest:
It is interesting how well the main image that you have designed for 'WarMail', relates to the references you have posted. This shows an attention to fine detail, not just with respect to the colour used, but also the form and composition. The triangle used in 'WarMail' symbolically could be associated to the American One Dollar Bill (I'm using a shorter link here just to be practical for the list) http://tinyurl.com/6paf9x - it also seems fitting that the latin words 'Novus ordo seclorum' when translated mean 'New Order of the Ages'. Scary stuff, almost Star Wars rhetoric.
"The phrase Novus ordo seclorum (Latin for "New Order of the Ages") appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, first designed in 1782 and printed on the back of the American dollar bill since 1935..."
"The phrase is often mistranslated as "New World Order," but the Latin for that phrase would be Novus Ordo Mundi." Wikipedia - http://tinyurl.com/5jqgcs
So, I have two questions. The first is whether you were conscious of these connections?
The other is asking if you could share with us the context and processes of the 'WarMail' performance at the Gallery next Friday?
1. Absolutely conscious. As I hinted the perception of some kind of order, some truth in everything that can be revealed is both interesting and hilarious to me. Mostly because the process involves a tremendous amount of abstraction, and therefore an acceptable amount of error. This error, or this incompleteness reflects strongly on my thoughts concerning artist ego. As in, the artist ego is a very precarious and fragile instrument that should likely never be played. Of course the audience's willingness to accept a temporary fantasy is also integral. The whole situation just makes me smile. It's so cute.
2. On Friday I will present a new performance called WarMail. It evolved from HTTP's request for a piece that took collaboration into concern. I frankly have little tolerance for collaboration and it's uber inclusive oxymoronic brother audience participation. My thought is, whatever version of collaboration you subscribe to, the outcome is usually the result of whatever interface you chose to work under. A jam band is a good example. A terrible interface that results in vomit inducing tedium for the audience. SO! with that in mind, I have written a new piece of software that I will demo with the help of the audience. The software is a "thin" email client. As in limited. It's all interface and it plays a bit like a game of asteroids. Think war/office hybrid. It also takes most of the direct control away from me, the author, and puts me in the role of conductor, which is a nice way of thinking about what an interface actually does. As a group we will attempt to write an email to my mother, whom I haven't seen in a while due to overseas travel. The interface is controlled by the groups voice and body movements. Of course, the audience could overthrow this decision, and herein lies the opportunity to examine our primal desire for conflict. Every collaboration is fraught with it, the project just tries to make this as direct and obvious as possible. So, on friday, using our collective shrieking and some dance moves we will decide to either get along and celebrate the woman who brought me into this world, or we will engage in a messy incoherent curse word peppered battle that leaves my mother wondering why she ever starting using the Internet. Either way, I think we're going to have fun and we're going to feel something strange.
Rewinding back into the Star Wars theme just for a moment. I have just found out that the UK's first Jedi course is on offer at Queen's University Belfast in November. It "hopes to attract Star Wars fans and introduce them to the joys of continuing their education through open learning."
It also claims to examine the "wider issues behind the Star Wars universe, like balance, destiny, dualism, fatherhood and fascism".
Perhaps they would be interested in being part of the WarMail performance next Friday.
Will get back regarding your recent post very soon :-)
To answer 1.
Many on here (of course) would agree that the artist ego is a fragile instrument. There has been much explored around the artist ego and Sigmund Freud himself felt a personal connection to the artist Michelangelo.
In 'Formulations regarding the Two Principles in Mental Functioning' (1911), Freud writes that art "... brings about a reconciliation of the two principles [pleasure and reality] in a peculiar way. An artist is originally a man who turns away from reality because he cannot come to terms with the renunciation of instinctual satisfaction which it at first demands, and who allows his erotic and ambitious wishes full play in the life of phantasy. He finds the way back to reality, however, from this world of phantasy by making use of his special gifts to mould his phantasies into truths of a new kind, which are valued by men as precious reflections of reality. Thus in a certain fashion he actually becomes the hero, the king, the creator, or the favourite he desired to be, without following the long, roundabout path of making real alterations in the external world. But he can only achieve this because other men feel the same dissatisfaction as he does with the renunciation demanded by reality, and because that dissatisfaction, which results from the replacement of the pleasure-principle by the reality principle, is itself part of reality."
The above rings true in some respect, yet it also informs us how a contemporary culture's dominant values, play a large part in influencing perceptions and conclusions. Another thing I find interesting regarding the artist and ego, is that (personal) romanticism is an essential ingredient. This notion of the artist being a hero is a fascinating theme which I have personally experienced when I was much younger. Some of these moments are just too embarrassing and too tense to dwell on. It's funny when reading older writings, because of the language, especially the (unconscious) masculine dominated, mannerisms. For instance, 'he' comes up may times in the article. Even though such concepts around the artist and ego are from long ago, I think that these psychological elements still remain.
>that should likely never be played...
...'this incompleteness reflects strongly on my thoughts concerning artist ego'.
I can definatley see this in some of your works, but one particular piece that springs to mind is 'Srongest Man' where you try to hold a camera at arms length.
http://www.jeremybailey.net/podcasts/strongestman.m4v - I will not explain anything about the video, I think it explains itself. Lets just say that there is plenty of angst in it ;-)
As mentioned, I will post a response to the rest of the text later...
kickn' it up a notch with the Freud! great stuff.
The truth is, I started art school in the 90s and all of my profs taught identity politics work. Actually my first EVER studio class was called women in art (I was the only man in the course). So starting out I always felt as though I wasn't allowed to make art. I wasn't a victim of any societal prejudices or discrimination, I was a very happy privileged white man with very few cares. The type of work I make now, the type that casts me as an ignorant/naive modern artist playing with technology, was developed to try and create some justification for myself in an ocean of those more deserving than I. A friend of mine once commented in critique, "The more you win Jeremy, the more we lose." I've always thought that was a nice statement.
Yes, I may do this every now and then. Not necessarily with Freud, but with other references, just to open things up but only if it feels relevant. With identity politics being such a primary influence, it sounds like your art education was a complex yet insightful beginning. I can imagine that in order to find a voice for your work, there has been much re-evaluation taking place. Do you think that going through the re-evaluative process of justification has helped or hindered your practice, in regards to your creative-identity and approach to what your artwork could of been?
I think it's healthy to re-evaluate, at least it's healthy for me. It keeps me in check and appreciative of those around me. It has also heightened my critical awareness, not just of myself but of everything in my vicinity, which I think is what every artist should do. Ultimately if you're not critical of yourself, how on earth can you be critical of others?
not sure what things could have been, I used to do a lot of impressionist landscape paintings in high school. I guess I could be in a rocky farmer's field right now, watching the sun set and considering the beauty of the amber light catching the silhouette of a windswept pine.
Thank you for taking part in the dialogue so far, it has been both enjoyable and illuminating.
Much of your work involves a GUI (Graphic User Interface). User interfaces as we generally experience them, provide components for users to communicate with a computer. The interface defines the boundary between software, the hardware device or a user. What is interesting is that you are actually within the interface as well, performing in these environments.
Could you talk about the relationship between you as the software developer and the software itself, within your performances?
It has always been very important for my image or the image of the user to be a part of the interfaces I create. My reason has a lot to do with my historical/theoretical approach. I have been exposed to a lot of 1970s performance video and have developed a very keen interest in the theoretical context of the period. Specifically, for what is termed "Performance for the Camera". A popular term, but for those unfamiliar, it specifically refers to a state as described in Rosalind Krauss' essay, The Aesthetic of Narcissism, in which the artist becomes part of a feedback loop between his or herself and the electronics of the camera. This creates a unique self awareness (reflectivity) that was not present prior to this time. The artist literally watches themselves (on a close circuit monitor) creating the work and responding simultaneously. To put this in perspective, take one step back in time and performances were created for live audiences (less feedback), take one step forward and we land in the digital era and our camera from the 1970s has become a computer (hyper feedback). I like to call what I do Performance for the Computer, and it necessitates a re-evaluation of some of the psychological paramters that artists were working with in the 1970s. There's a lot of shit that happened in between then and now, that's where things get very interesting IMO.
ok, so with this in mind I can answer your question regarding my role as a software developer, I'll have to tell a fable. It's going to be long and poorly written and will repeat some of the above in crude language, I'm tired...
So, it's 1970, you're a performance artist, you've been doing performances all over the place, in studios, outdoors, in concert halls, the back of police vans... you've got little to no documentation... probably some photos, maybe some writing, maybe you're lucky enough to have some super 8 footage and some halfway decent audio recordings. Consumer video comes along, The Porta Pack, wow, this is great! cheap tape, sync audio, live previewing. But shit, the thing is prone to unspooling when jostled, and to see what things look at you need a hefty monitor. Fuck, maybe it's not so great... but wait, you've got a studio, you could setup there and do all kinds of performances, watch them, adjust, finally get an idea of what/who you're working with. Ok, this is strange, if I turn the monitor toward me I can watch myself as if I were the audience. Hmmm... there's something different about this. I can't go on doing the same kinds of performances. Nope. this is brand new. Yay! Video Art is born!!
Ok, so fast forward a decade. It's 1980something, you're an upcoming electronic artist using computers to make amazing things happen in REALTIME! You have one problem, how do you document and show people what you're working on. Oh, of course!!! you record it on a Handycam! You pass the tapes around, copy them, they get copied, you end up representing your country at the Venice Biennial. Happy endings are great! Strange thing is you don't ever notice any of the things your friends noticed in the 70s, nope, you go right on making documentation on video without thinking twice about yourself as a performer. "I'm not a performer, I'm a programmer, my MACHINE is the artist, HE's performing, ask HIM what HE thinks! this shows you what he does, that's all" ... Ok... I'll do that, but don't you think your macho friend is making you look a little meek on tape? "nope, that's the way I like it, I've put all of me into that thing, don't pay attention to me". Ok, I'm going to just say it dude, your machine's got a bigger dick than you and you're a bit of a chauvinist for masculinizing it the way you are. I think you're using your machine in all kinds of weird ways and I think you should think about what it means to give yourself over to an object like that. I mean, seriously dude.
Ok, let's fast forward 2 more decades. This thing called the internet is popular, everyone has a computer, realtime video processing is on every cpu, we video conference with friends and family, augmented reality is a burgeoning field. Ya, we can do anything with our data selves, artists and non artists alike. Yes! I'm going to share this video of me rotating photos and tossing them around using just my flailing arms to everyone in the entire world!! I look like an idiot? why do you keep looking at me??! Are you gay? yah. that's it, I'm gay. Fuck dude, would you realize what the fuck it means to warp your face with that ichat filter? PLEASE!
end of story, guy is increasingly clueless, distractions are increasingly numerous.
so, I've used some colloquial language here to try and get a point across in impossibly high contrast. I play the role of the software developer in performances because I insist on forcing the acknowledgment that the computer is a site for performance and reflectivity. I am trying to use a laptop in 1975. I'm trying to understand what that means I guess.
I hope this response doesn't offend anyone. I was just trying to have some fun with it,
see you all on friday?
Before we wind this interview down - could you explain to those who were not present at the HTTP Gallery for your performance, what you did and how you feel it went, along with any other observations that you feel worth mentioning?
Friday's performance went really really well, great turn out and amazing audience, who of course were integral to the performance...
for those who are just checking in, I wrote a new piece of software called WarMail that lets groups of people work together on an email using an asteroids like interface. The premise being that in the future we will colonize space but will be spread so thin that everyone will have to have a certain military readiness to defend our intergalactic borders. We'll also want to keep in touch with loved ones, WarMail, represents a multitasking approach to this problem. It provides both military training and communication with loved ones. As an added bonus it requires you to do so in public with a group of strangers (collaborative team building!). On friday we composed an email to my mother using glowsticks and our voices to navigate a ship and attack clusters of letters that represented an alien army. The movement of our glowsticks rotated the ship, and our voices(in song) created thrust.
Together we fired at letters to compose a message which, after much effort, read, "goddd". I originally wanted something longer but the group was a bit disorganized and had trouble working together. We started things off by accidentally hitting the letter 'g', this is why we chose to start with god. It then took so long to get 'o' that I decided one word would be sufficient. Hitting the final letter 'd' resulted in much excitement and cheering which caused an accidental misfire and then laughter that triggered a second misfire, and thus the misspelling. I spoke to my mother today and she had received the email but was slightly confused and worried that I she had upset me somehow.
The most interesting part of Friday's performance were the moments when individuals decided to act independently of the group. For instance at one point a lone clapper attempted to fire at the final 'd' as it was drifting past our sights. I was also surprised by the willingness of the audience to sing, in fact it seemed they enjoyed it a little too much, often over thrusting the ship past our target. They also sometimes sang overtop of my voice, missing crucial instructions.
Overall it was really exciting for me to mesh my performance with a live audience and I learned a lot about how groups of drunken strangers interact with each other, for those interested, documentation of the performance (the actual screen capture video of the audience in the interface) can be seen at the gallery now. It's also secretly posted online, but I think I'll wait for the exhibition to expire before I publish the link.
thanks to all those that came out on friday, especially to all the HTTP staff, I really enjoyed my time in London and met so many nice people I might have to consider returning sometime very soon,
Hi Jeremy & all Netbehaviourists,
A warm thank you to Jeremy, for finding the time to take part in the interview on the Netbehaviour list.