September 2 – October 8, 2011
The first project in the Mezzanine space, Jack Hadley's worry wort explores spirituality in the age of the internet. Appropriating the innocuous drone of a self-help speaker, Hadley's video offers a glimpse into the psyche of the 21st century.
Jack Hadley in conversation with Arron Santry
AS: So, you’ve been reading Hito Steyerl…
JH: Yeah, I found her essay 'In defense of the poor image' really interesting. The vast majority of art I see in on the internet, which I guess is extremely typical, however, I do feel like this is a symptomatic of going to arts school in New Zealand. Its not like I can hop along to MOMA, so I spend a lot of time on Ubu and YouTube. Steyerl kind of validated this kind of online art education for me.
But online versions of artists’ videos are only a portion of what I stream. I have spent the morning watching Youtube videos of Sufi Whirling Dervishes. Despite the pixelated quality, I am entranced. In fact, I am fascinated by the flickering quality of low-res videos. It reminds me of glitter.
AS: Steyerl also talks about poor images as popular images, and there’s a passage in that essay that I think provides a context for the kind of work you’re showing: “poor images present a snapshot of the affective condition of the crowd, its neurosis, paranoia, and fear, as well as its craving for intensity, fun, and distraction.”
JH: Hey yeah, that’s great! I had overlooked that, but yeah, spot on. I wonder what the thousands of online meditation videos on YouTube reflect about the 'condition of the crowd'.
AS: I think a lot of people still tend to see Youtube as merely a distraction, but it seems that millions of people are using it in this pseudo-spiritual kind of way. Do you think it’s possible to have a legitimate ‘virtual’ spiritual experience, or are you a skeptic?
JH: It feels totally absurd, but I really don't want to be skeptical. It is a totally amazing concept and yeah, I do feel like people are having legit spiritual experiences. Its popularity proves that it must be doing something. It is something that I struggle to talk about. The context is ridiculous, but seems wonderfully optimistic or something...
AS: So I guess your work might be seen as a bridge between this sort of ridiculous digital context and a more typical physical experience, especially given the demands the mezzanine space makes of viewers.
JH: Climbing the ladder to the mezzanine requires some form of commitment from the viewer. I hope it encourages some form of active viewing of the work. I feel like once people have made the effort to climb into the space, they are less likely to glance at the work and head back down the ladder. Also, I hope that having the work in a physical space, away from a computer screen, makes the absurdity of online meditation more apparent, maybe. The space is amazing; I like the idea of enacting the role of a nutty artist in the attic.
AS: You mention shifting away from the computer screen, and having seen the work, I think your alternative is far more compelling, especially coupled with the other objects in the space. How did you arrive at that more object-based approach?
JH: The part of making my videos I enjoy the most is the making the props. In the last videos I made, I was annoyed that after spending hours making objects, they appeared in a video for about thirty seconds, and that was it. In fact, I felt much happier with the props than the final product, the video. So I have included a key prop from the video in the space, the kind of blobby golden disco ball.
The way a video work is so contained by a monitor is boring. There is a singular viewing perspective and a set duration. The objects in the space, the lucky cat and the disco ball, are an attempt to make the work more erratic, to break such a strong sense of a beginning to the work and an end. I hope that the cat and the disco ball make the reading of the video more interesting; to allude to some aspects of the video and confuse others.
AS: That’s a pretty Zen approach; no beginning, no end...
Jack Hadley is a third year student at Elam School of Fine Arts. worry wort is his first solo show.
Arron Santry is Artspace’s Curatorial Intern for 2011/12.