MM3 Artist Interview: Jacob Ciocci
Jacob is futuristic artist writing about net culture and the dark arts. OK! Let's talk!
MM: Have you had any piece of text/creative writing published in print before, and what are your thoughts on being published alongside other people?
JC: I'm very excited!! I have really been inspired by a lot of the people in this publication and I am honored to be contextualized in the same package with them:) I'm not sure if I can remember if I have ever had any mostly text-based work published in print before, partly because I don't really make a distinction in my own head between various formats. Everything feels like "just another project"--- the medium/specifics/output don't really define the project to me. I try to go where the energy seems to be taking me. Last year I wrote this short entry for my blog on a whim about a Rhianna video which turned out to be the most successful project I have done in a while. I didn't really expect it to be successful, but once it happened I realized maybe I should be writing more. This writing project is a result of that writing project I think.
How vital is it for you to have your work published on printed paper in some form or another?
This is a great question. I am teaching a class on Photoshop right now and asked my students this same question: why print something out? The default question perhaps used to be: why put something on a computer? Now the default question is the opposite: why take something off of the computer?
But you know at the same time, I always wonder how long we will be asking this question--despite how fragmented and confusing objects versus data may seem, maybe we live in a world that actually has fully integrated the digital and the non-digital into one experience, or that the distinction doesn't really matter (between the digital and the non-digital, or the physical and the non-physical), and yet we (including myself) talk about and think about it all the time. It's a distraction sometimes to think in this way.
I feel like humans are obsessed with history and time: comics as a form are a perfect example. Trying to turn a piece of paper into a time-based medium is ridiculous (and thus, a beautiful expression of the human spirit). We always want to value things based on the narrative we have told ourselves--how things have changed or stayed the same . . . it's what leads people to say things like "Things were better when I was a kid . . . because things were different than they are now.” . . . What?? If we thought more like animals it wouldn't matter that digital technology was new, the question would just be: "how can I survive in this moment?" (by survive I mean spiritually as well as physically and emotionally). This whole story of "change" we tell ourselves perhaps just holds us back. It doesn't matter whether it was a mistake for Pandora to open the box--the point is: the box is open--deal with it. Pandora radio might not seem as cool as you remember Vinyl being but The Singularity does not care about your memories.
Extreme Animals and I just finished producing a new limited edition VHS tape with an 8-page zine for Thunder Zone Entertainment, available here. It has been about 2 or 3 years since I made something physical like this and it was very satisfying. There was a great feeling that I remembered from the Paper Rad days when all of a sudden I had this giant stack of stuff in my living room--it was really spiritual in a way that Facebook posts are not . . . Facebook posts are spiritual for other reasons and again I don't like to say one is better or more "evolved" than the other--they are just different. In summary: the only rule is: there are no rules!
How do you deal with nostalgia and using old things in your work?
Like I was discussing above, maybe the idea of "history" is a bit of a trap, or that obsessing over how one thing has followed from another thing can slow you down creatively speaking . . . the concept of nostalgia implies a longing for another time--but what is life but this type of longing? How often are we actually living in the present, without a concept of some other time?
In terms of using "old things" in my work: despite the fact that it is very unpopular right now, I still believe in "sampling" . . . LOL. I believe in using "found" materials for intentional, self-imposed creative thriftiness--why re-make something when really everything you want to say is contained in this artifact you "found"? I'm not going to re-make something simply to follow the rules of copyright or because it is trendy to seem "original" or to put in the "artistic labor" of shooting with a camera something that has already been shot. Having to make a bunch of found materials make sense together and stand up next to something that was crafted "from scratch" is an exciting challenge.
Is this self-imposed thriftiness detrimental to my career? Perhaps. Many people have told me that they think collage is too easy. Just because something is easy does not mean it is bad . . . . Others have told me that painting always sells better than collage . . . oh well. And that if I ever want to make money off of music or video I need to get rid of all the un-licensed samples . . . woops. I guess I am playing the long game---the really, really long game. 2000 years from now do you think people will care if this VHS tape I made was made from copyrighted materials or not??? I seriously doubt that concept of copyright or even the concept of “originality” will exist in 2000 years. Will people still be able to watch my VHS tape in 2000 years? YES, because the release also comes with a time machine so you can travel back to 2013 to watch it on your parent’s half-working VCR!!!
Do you think it’s important to make work that is entertaining?
More and more people on the internet are writing about how the wall between art and entertainment, or between the avant garde and popular culture, is finally falling down. Selling Jeff Koons is becoming the same thing as selling Lady Gaga. My theory is that a division between art and entertainment never existed--again I only know my own experience, I was not at The Factory with Warhol . . . but it has certainly (and unfortunately) always been historicized as a division. Obviously people with agendas created this division. I have my own agendas based on my own interests. I am addicted to the internet, addicted to popular culture, and I do not see myself as separate from it in any way. I know that may sound pretentious or fake, seeing as I am not popular or rich (in comparison to Kanye West) but I try, in my own way to be involved. . . this sounds crazy but sometimes I feel like I am actually really having a conversation with Kanye or Britney, that we are influencing one another. It's a conversation that is hard to explain but it feels very real to me at times.
Do you think it’s good to be an artist in USA in 2013?
YES, absolutely. As I mentioned above, it feels like the cracks are opening up wider and light is shining from underneath the dusty floor of the old system. It's all cave-ing in on itself. Does that mean that some people are capitalizing off of these cracks and getting very rich while most people are making less money, because art, music, and “the culture industry” in general have become insanely competitive? YES. Do I question myself and sometimes regret my decision to devote my life to this endlessly confusing path? YES. Do I have any other choice at this point? Not really—as Popeye once said: “I am who I am.” I have a lot invested in this path. Instead of focusing on the crippling self-doubt I try to focus on being more disciplined while still being open to change.
Being open to change seems very important right now, because we are all making things within contexts that are constantly shifting underneath us. Perhaps 50 years ago a creative person could spend their entire life within one field/career/paradigm. A person could call themselves a “painter” or a “musician” for their entire adult life because the context and industry around these terms was relatively stable—the vinyl-based music industry lasted for a long time in comparison to CD’s, which lasted a long time in comparison to mp3s, which lasted a long time in comparison to Pandora . . .
Now a new paradigm is created every 6-months and shifts not only the way creative people make things, but also how they define themselves and how they make money. It is a very fluid, exciting, and scary time to be creative. Who knows if the concept of “fine art” will even exist in 50 years. I predict that by that point that the artistic medium once known as Comics will be thought of as a Religion and the technological device once known as The Computer will just be called New Oxygen. So in my obituary it will say: “Rest In Peace Jacob. He was a pretty cool guy, most known for being one of the earliest Air Priests to ever Surf the Streams in the Cloud.”
(Interviewed by Leon Sadler, Autumn 2013)