Interview by Charlie Peters – Feature Writer – Outlook Newspapers – January 27, 2015 by Email
CP. First off, I love your bio on your website: the language you use, the style and tone, and the storyline of your life. It‚ provided me with quite a few pertinent details and probably saved me from asking a dumb question or two, but here‚’s one anyway: Why art? What is it that draws you to creating art? And what gets you going artistically? Is it the final result, the process or an appreciation of others work? Or something else entirely?
A. I don’t have a strict delineation between art making and other pursuits – so i’ve always made art, I mean always. The impulse to research, collect, arrange, modify, document, archive is actually typical of everyone I know. You understand, at 53 I know I’m an artist, what that means exactly is unclear, but at this point it’s not really up for debate.
I would think like an artist inadvertently anyway.
What gets me going is a combination of triggers.
Definitely a work might jump out and say ‘make me: here’s how!’- and I usually go with it because those works are usually right !
Or maybe i’ll see something I either love or hate or sense an area that I think hasn’t been properly explored, so i’ll go look at it to experiment in it – but that’s dicey: low ratio of success.
As to the final result: once I satisfy my curiosity and display some degree of mastery, maybe take A souvenir or two just to remember it by, I’m eager to move on.
This doesn’t work well if I have to do the horrible work of the ‘artist’ : titling, cataloging, printing, selecting for shows…. Pimping the shows, this brings me little joy, especially in my state.
Of course I pretty much wouldn’t have it any other way, but that’s the stressful part for me.
CP. I found myself really considering/deeply studying your Occubot series, I love the idea/approach with Soul Prisoner and my favorite — artistically speaking ‚ as a collection online was Dust Devil. I know that these collections are just a sampling of what you‚have accomplished. This may be an impossible question, but which work of art is your favorite and why?
A. All of them are my favorite, while i’m working on them – you just have to take my word for it, I really do seldom think about them after I’ve made them: they’re on their own. I do however have an awareness of which ones are good – and why.
So i like the Dust Devils, that was one that just whispered in my ear: ”Map the color to angle, map the shape to color, we’re… waiting…”
And in the morning there they were spectacular, and inscrutable, so I have a real affection for them.
occupy_online was a big fat unwieldy project, it too asked to be done, but it demanded huge parameters of freedom (as well it might) and massive triage and pruning, I never really got a firm grip on it – some amazing images though.
Soul Prisoners I had this conceptual fantasy/idea that my computer (Ngyn-10000) could, without any guidance, reveal the true inner soul of all these people trapped in these mugshots, so I really gave her the rope, I didn’t impose ANY guidelines except a heavy dollop of chaos, to attract destiny.
So i was horrified at what came out, I was vindicated, you could see the facade stripped off these people, for better or for worse.
I feel some ambivalence towards that show, it’s Ngyn’s show really, I just gave her the idea, and edited it. Is that weird?… And the bizarre backstory of how – unbeknownst to us, the police have been capturing people’s souls in mugshots since Geronimo.
And the woman who served as my model while I was writing… I feel very close to that story. @_@
CP. On its own, your work is remarkable, just looking at your list of exhibitions and published work is so impressive. So when considering how it was made, I find myself even more amazed. In fact, after appreciating it on its own merits, I become drawn in by the process of which it took to create. This is not only because of how you create art with unique methods, I’m fascinated with the process of art creation in many forms. From an artist’s perspective (and one who has created art more ‘traditionally’ in the past and creating art with software now), do you attach any extra importance to your audience understanding how it was created?
A. It’s an interesting subject which takes right into conceptual art, like Kaprow’s happenings that often consisted solely of instructions for completing the piece, i often write the instructions for the creation of my series and hang them in the gallery space.
Every piece of artwork has a story and sometimes it illuminates the work into an interesting piece instead of a mediocre thingie.
I am in a unique position that begs the stories – not only as an eye/sales magnet – but I mean, it’s sort of well informed freak/outsider art, and because I use so many psychic majik tricknologies in it’s production – the backstory is irresistible, so I use it whenever called for.
Does it please the clients?
I think it does, we have a secret – and that’s fun !
I have been told I am an inspiration, but I do this to survive.
So that’s always a good story
CP. I’m guessing there are limitations to what you can do with your software, and artists I know either despise or ignore the concepts of limitations on imagination/creation/expression. If there are limitations to what you can do, do you experience frustration with that? If so, how do you deal with it? And related: what challenges does working with your software present?
A. I’m so wrapped up with what i’m doing, I seldom come up against limitations. I kind of planned it that way, i’m not frustrated except by the fact that it’s hard to get my body to put in the hours without clever tricks. There has always been too much to do, far too many ideas, and never enough time, so i’ve adopted a glacier-like, brutal ratchet default mode… There’s always been a horizon i will never reach, so i’m used to limitations, i eat them for breakfast.
CP. What was your initial reaction to using this software? Was it difficult to master?
A. I am in love with my computer, it saved my life – and I liked it before that!
The softwares I use are my dear tools, worn and familiar.
I don’t care about upgrades, i’m lifetimes away from exhausting the possibilities in this box, although it’s now so incredibly old in chip years, I won’t be lured away except by dire catastrophe, i’m buying stuff for it so i’m ready for the great wave of obsolescence.
I use a great many softwares but I suspect you’re referring to my main axe for mystic inexplicable imagework: the mighty synthetik studio artist.
I saw it at a tradeshow and knew we were meant for eachother, problem was, back then I couldn’t afford a computer good enough to run it!
So i’ve been using it forever. And I still don’t know what it is… That’s the mark of a great tool – don’t you think ?
It’s kind of an unnatural-media auto-painting… vector/raster based… visual AI satanic optical printer, and it’s very daunting the first time you look under the hood, but c’mon, i’m not writing code here, it’s just got so many modulating parameters that it’s a flamethrower of image.
CP. How can you describe the feeling when your diagnosis was made/confirmed? How can you explain that to someone who has never heard that type of news? And as it sank in (if it ever has), how did you envision your future?
A. Uh, I was lucky to have a neurologist who suited my character, you know neurologists really have enough on their plate without dealing with you as a human.
That suited me fine, so it was almost as if I was alone – just me and the four inch shrieking electromyography needles.
A detailed emotional account of getting the final word can be found here.
CP. I’m guessing that even with your technological tools, creating art is quite a labor for you. Many other people (if not all) would quit doing something so difficult. Why do you continue? Is there something to prove, or do you just feel the need to keep creating?
A: Oh yes, I have something to prove.
We all come from a line of successful ancestors, who suffered like dogs, unimaginable torments, they would have given their left nut be condemned to a death like mine.
The time has come where I with will – and brute mechanical assist don’t have to die.
The only problem is convincing yourself is why you should live.
Bizarrely – I occurred in just the very age where I don’t have to stare mutely at the ceiling for the rest of my life.
I have eye control: I could fly a drone with these if I had a mind to, so i’m so incredibly lucky : I have a million things I want to do – even if i’m only able to move my eyes. And I live in the exact moment that it’s possible in all of history!
Another thing: i’m not rabid about it, but i would never forgive myself for curling up and dying in the face of our ancestors bravery, terror and sacrifice
I would be the laughingstock of Valhalla.
So what do I want to do? What shall I do with this extra time carved out of death?
Send a signal to the stars? Make a mark, any mark! Embed my thoughts into a ripple that travels forever… (Btw, i’m actually a strict materialist – so i value reality)
I was trained to be an artist since… I can’t remember – so that’s what i’m gonna do, with as much focus and dedication as I am allowed, till death sweeps me away.
Because I am a badass motherfucker, I will show these incredibly soft, 21st Century petty, selfish, myopic extinction bound humans how an artist fights and dies: with dreams intact. Surrounded by his Fearless Krewe.
Ok, so admittedly.. i’m on some weird
tekno-shaman/viking/pirate/cowboy/detective/hemingwayesque/braque-like trip and my iconography is out of control , but i’ve learned that our narrative is what keeps us alive – so I don’t mind if I kind of overdo it.
CP. How often per day/week/month are you working on art?
A. Every day and night.
CP. Are you aware of other artists with ALS creating art in the manner that you do? If so, are you in contact with them, and if so, what is the nature of that relationship?
A. Yes, in fact, I sort of collect them… I have an imaginary ‘cohort of disembodied artists’ that I consult for their sheer badassery.
I mostly leave them alone and admire them from afar unless called upon directly.
Who knows what delicate little ecosystem allows them to work, and outlive the death sentence, but i don’t want to disturb or attach myself to them…
But i stalk them regularly
- Francis Tsai
- Lee Abramson
- Becky Tyler
- Patrick Bates
- Brian Fender
- Patrick Sean O’Brien
- Steve Saling
- Steve Dezember II
- Ron Wallace
- Sarah Ezekiel
CP. I’ve already shared what little I know of your story to people in my life, and those who hear it are inspired and have so many questions because they find you and your art so fascinating. Do you feel like, or realize that you’re inspirational?
A. I think you get the picture from the previous rant: modest delusions of grandeur, looseness of association, narcissistic tendencies coupled with magical thinking, confusion of core beliefs all in the service of a defensive complex. The subject is fanciful and evasive, leading to the impression that something’s being hidden in his frantic maximilist work. :-) But seriously, i find the people i listed above to be inspirational, really really!
CP. Does art you make now become more meaningful to you than art you created before your diagnosis?
A. Yes, in a way, I had serious jobs before I got sick – that really broke my concentration for months at a time… I now have about 3000 times more concentration and a way better chance to get in the Superflow…or that’s the way it should be…
CP. What don‚’t people understand about you and your art?
A. I don’t know, I know I must be misunderstood, but none of that enters my mind, really I don’t think about that, frankly i’m shocked that anyone is paying enough attention to misunderstand!
I make images and video and audio that has a tinge of discomfort and puzzling cross messages, but really most people are like ‘oh Yummy – it’s X!’ So I don’t know if there’s really room for misunderstanding.
Certainly they don’t know the full story, but the sense of hidden meanings is what makes a good piece of art in my opinion anyway.
(As an aside, I know people who really hide their motives really deep — do you find it annoying? Or intriguing? It’s such a thin line, but the more experiential and theoretical coding the artist pushes below the surface – while staying true to their intent – the more they’re doing their job. Some people delight in making inexplicable objects, go very far – and the information is lost below the surface like a black hole)
CP. Tell me about your connection to San Marino. Lindsay tells me you are a native of San Marino, and I’m wondering how/if the community has supported you and your work over the years?
A. I can’t say anything about San Marino as a whole, but my local friends have been supportive, generous, kind and understanding.
CP. Tell me about your relationship with Lindsay: how has her love and support inspired you both pre- and post-diagnosis?
A. We’ve been together since we were kids, if not for her I would assuredly have perished. I could not overemphasize her role in my entire life. The incredible support of my family, I mean ‘hands on’, and the network of really quite talented and unparalleled friends is the reason i’m here.
CP. If we were going to print images of one or two of your works, would that be okay? And if so, which ones would you prefer we print?
A. Oh, so this where I lose my mind – I have such an overabundance of work, let me ask Lindsay.
CP. Who would be good contacts for interviews about you and your work? Maybe family, friends, artists, people in the San Marino community?
A. Hmm, anyone who knows me knows my story, let’s ask Lindsay’s opinion again.
CP. Please, if you have any other thoughts/ideas/statements about anything in particular of which I didn’t ask, feel free to just launch away below:
A. Oh, I’m gonna be beta testing some crazy new gear http://goo.gl/WAzfCk
And we could pimp the book I just got an essay/rant in, it’s really good – the book – here’s the info….