Artist Profile: Jacob Ciocci

AM I EVIL?? (2011)

Back in November you posted a compilation of highlights from 'Armin Only' to your blog. It reminded me of a recent documentary about Anselm Kiefer's 'installation' in an abandoned French silk factory entitled Grass Will Grow Over Your Cities where his now clearly much less limited resources allowed him to expand his practice to an architectural scale and create what reviewers were calling a 'gesamtkunstwerk' ('complete artwork' more or less). With unlimited resources, time, space, and manpower what would be your 'complete artwork' piece at this point in time? Would that sort of thing interest you?

I think there are always constrictions and limitations on any and every project--even projects executed by the most wealthy performers with the most insane budgets, when resources may seem "unlimited". Lil Wayne still has to deal with TV executives who bleep out his curse words on TV. U really think Tyler from Odd Future can do whatever he wants?? Everyone is "just doing their job"--sadly there is no Dr. Evil/Andy Warhol with the ability to manipulate everything absolutely--no one is in charge/we are all in charge, in our own way. What makes things compelling is the complexity involved in all the compromises. If you can show some of that chaos/complexity to your audience in a way that they can understand, perhaps you are getting somewhere  . . . I like to imagine all the people involved in that Armin performance with their various agendas struggling together to make this crazy important thing, all these different people expressing and negotiating with one another's desires . . . but it's not a "Complete Artwork", not sure there ever has or ever will be one . . . doesn't everything just feel like a work in progress?? The first and only gesamtkunstwerk will be "The Singularity".

The "haunted house" is a technique that works for some people--a project that completely encompasses you--Is that something creative action is supposed to do? To awake us from not-seeing, make us see with different perspectives? -THE MATRIX IRL!!  Not perspectives like "new"/"hip"---but reminders of ancient perspectives?? For some people, the more complete a vision is, the easier that sense of transformation is to achieve--why else would we be putting valuable limited resources into making 3-D iMax movies?? But that type of project is not for everyone. Some people need/want/think-they-need/want-to-need things to be wiped away, reduced, taken apart, dismantled, destroyed. For them that kind of thing is more fun. . . I've tried to make 2 different "immersive" Disney Rides----1 time it worked and 1 time it didn't :(

I've seen in your recent work a particular fascination and exploration of 'tween' culture, especially that which is ostensibly for children but maintains an appeal outside of that world. But it is ultimately presented in environments that are largely devoid of that initial audience. Have you ever exposed your work back to this audience of children who "accept things for exactly how they are" and have only seen Katy Perry / Miley Cyrus from an 'official' perspective? Could you see your work as an alternative proposition of media for tweens?

My recent videos are not an alternative proposition for tween edu-tainment . Unless I am really out of touch and actually lots of 11 year olds are secretly subscribed to my twitter/facebook web-rings.  The original Problem Solvers (note: "s" not "z") was a project funded by the Heinz Foundation and was intended to be consumed by young people as well as adults.  Initially it was distributed to an art audience (via a DVD on Picturebox and now and was relatively unknown UNTIL Ben Jones created Problem Solverz with a Z, which is now on Cartoon Network. The new version Ben has created is actually being seen by 1-2 million viewers a week I guess—you would have to ask him what the age breakdown is on that.

I think that mental space you mentioned—the ability to “accept things for exactly how they are” –is something kids sometimes have, and something adults have to work hard to achieve.  But I think art/entertainment can help us get there. Maybe just for a millisecond.

Extreme Animals pulls from many sources and types of music (hip hop, tween electro, techno.) This seems to echo your interest in Dr. Luke who had special success recently combining influences from popular electro music (Justice et al.) production, the tempo and structure of popular dance music and classic pop / r&b tropes and has also jokingly described himself as having the "taste is that of a 13-year-old girl." Are you drawn as much to his production as you are to his position in the market and target audience? Are there other mainstream producers you follow or that seem so uniquely tuned to your work?

YES there are other producers I read about on wikipedia (MOZART) but this past year I heard Dr. Luke A LOT on the radio when driving across the country (I DO IT ALL THE TIME I'M A TRUCK DRIVER).  It's weird because at this point we all know a "sound" barely/does not even have an author, and yet for other purposes it still has to have a name, it needs to be marketed, and Dr. Luke is one of those names right now. I could make up theories about why things are the way they are, but for all I know The Smiths (Morrissey, Will and Jada) could all be just randomly picking the next big thing while Willow is watching I B AREA on her iPad in the background.

It is absolutely everything about and related to Dr. Luke I find fascinating--his life history, his production style, his collaborators,  and who he is making music for (tweens AND oldz--me). I feel like I can really relate to a lot of the editing/composition and sound engineering decisions he and his crew (no telling how many people are involved) make--I'm not sure if this is because we are of the same age and grew up with similar influences or because the music has just totally penetrated my consciousness to the point that I "think" we have similar sonic interests . . . it doesn't matter.

Many of your videos (as well as those for Extreme Animals) are online but are also part of your live performances. Do you find that they function differently in performances or projected in physical environments? Are you conscious of the way that the different presentations will affect perception of the work when you're producing the work or deciding where and how they'll be shown? Is there an 'ideal' method of presentation?  

My ideal method of presentation would be an HDBoyz brand solid titanium 1080p native device projected onto some 3-story-tall sunglasses while everyone watches the video laying comfortably on top of endangered animals' backs-------just kidding. I make work with the understanding that it will be viewed in many formats, in many contexts--some of which I can try and control and some of which I can not--just try and control how your images are distributed--I dare you!! I wish quicktime files showed the same duplication decay as VHS or Xerox every time they were re-saved, then people would really understand the world we live in :)

If u think about it every time it is projected or played back onto a different device it is a different video--from the file compression-type to the size of the screen to the sound system to the cultural context. If you were a nerd you could call all of these different versions "remixes". Videos that I originally made for an installation are re-made to work in Extreme Animals live shows, and then re-worked again for single-channel screenings, which is different than the versions that may exist online "for free". Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes there are huge changes. I make/remake things to consciously try and work with or against any given context. More recently I have started to add my 2-D collages into the mix. I print out stills from my videos as material for 2-D collages, then re-scan portions of the 2-D collages to use as frames in new videos. Taking an image that has been trapped behind a screen and printing it onto "physical" paper, then re-scanning or re-photographing that image to trap it back onto the screen/projection. I'm trying to make my projects seem "sicker than the remix"--I think a lot of artists working today have similar goals . . .




North Braddock, PA and Brooklyn, New York

How long have you been working creatively with technology?

When I got my first computer at Oberlin College and had access to the computers/network there (1996--the year of the Web)

How did you start?

Macromedia DIRECTOR, HYPERCARD, HTML, Adobe Premiere at 320x240 resolution!!! SoundEdit16!!!! 

Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

Typically I think I wait until a critical mass of other people are using a tool--to see what the major trends/stereotypes/uses of that technology are . . . then I work with/against/along-side those trends--because I'm interested in tools other people can immediately recognize or tools that have some sort of cultural attachment to them. A good example might be how “the dubstep sound” has become so over-used that it has become un-cool,--some people even call it “bro-step” now.  It is at this point that I think things get interesting and I want to get involved—I  guess you could say right nowI am interested in the “bro-ification” of technology and cultureJ

Did you study art in school?

YES—but not a BFA--I got a BA from Oberlin : Major: art Minor: computer science lite

What traditional media do you use, if any?

Let's not try and separate "traditional" from "new" technologies . . . that might be part of the problem. Let's pretend we live in a historical or hierarchical vacuum where a cell phone has the same amount of creative potential as a paintbrush--now open your eyes!!! this is REALITY!!!!

Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

YES!   Perhaps a particular medium’s meaning is due to it’s relation to other mediums.  So when I make a collage I am thinking about the internet and when I upload a youtube video I am thinking about classical music.

Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

Yes! However I really have a hard time distinguishing between these different activities.  I think I just see everything as related—your social decisions effect your political decisions, which effect your creative decisions—the lines between the different sectors of life become blurry.  Ultimately I feel like every moment is simultaneously political, creative, social, spiritual, and technological—especially when in line at Starbucks!

What do you do for a living?

Artist, Musician, sometimes Art Professor, sometimes freelancer (animation, video editing, design)

Do you think your job relates to your art practice in a significant way?

YES--I try and make everything related at all times, this goes back to all the other questions: my inability to create hierarchy between tools/jobs/decisions: Even typing these answers to your questions is related to everything else I am trying to do. . . You can't do something unless you believe in it . . .

Who are your key artistic influences?

 Money, Time, Energy, Motivation, Jessica Ciocci, Ben Jones, David Wightman, Cory Arcangel, Paul B Davis, Brian Chippendale, Joe Grillo, Billy Grant, Shana Moulton, Takeshi Murata, Ryan Trecartin, Jesse Mclean, Jesse Hulcher, Andrew Jeffrey Wright, Twig Harper, Carly Ptak, Chris Forgues, Jim Lingo,, Barry McGee, Eric Mast

Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project?

YES.—all the time. I collaborate with people in the art community more than I collaborate with myself. Recently I collaborated with someone I have never met IRL, whom I still have not met IRL---on this lil book:

BUT again, I think collaboration should not be broken down into art/non-art categories. I have never met U and we are collaborating right now on a new "text piece" :) BUT will we meet IRL??? What do our fates hold for one another??

Do you actively study art history?

I try to--whatever resource notifications get "pushed" my way--I'll stumble into a bookstore every now and then--I really want that big Dara Birnbaum book. Right now I find it very fun/easy to research and think about contemporary music and pop culture.

Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory?

Again, whatever ends up "in the feed" OR what I think I need to revisit by having my student's read (when teaching).

If so, which authors inspire you?

Recently, when I did a workshop on "video and appropriation" in Dublin, Ireland at FireStation Artist's Studios I wanted the participants to look at these texts:

Artie Vierkant "The Image Object Post-Internet"

Seth Price "Dispersion"

Cory Arcangel/Dara Birnbaum Interview from ArtForum

More recently I found out about this book, which I ordered on Amazon 2-day delivery:

Bettina Funcke, Pop or Populus: Art Between High and Low

then it got left at the shipping location for 3 days so I kind of wasted on the expedited shipping but I am still excited to read it! It's one of those books that I have not read but when I think about reading it I think it might help "solve all my problems" :)