Joel Holmberg was born in 1982
He studied BA Fine Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
Joel currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York
Jon Rafman was born in 1981
He studied BA Philosophy and Literature at McGill University and
MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago
Jon currently lives and works in Montreal
A conversation between Joesph Murray, Joel Holmberg & Jon Rafman
Joseph Murray: I would like to start the interview by thanking you for both taking part in the show. To start the discussion I thought I would ask you, Jon, about your method of appropriating imagery from other sources in your work, and how specifically this relates to the work you have displayed in the exhibition which incorporates, or borrows from Joel's aesthetic?
Jon Rafman: My goal for this exhibition was in part to elucidate or explore the notion of appropriation. This term is rife with associations, interpretations and definitions and is prone for historical reasons to elicit intense emotional reactions not all of them positive. Just as internet and post-internet art has transformed on the net and has transmigrated from the digital to the physical, from the virtual to the real, the term appropriation has undergone its own transmutations and transformations. I find the question challenging as I do not believe that I have a specific method of appropriating imagery. Although I sometimes appropriate iconic paintings in my other work, in Joel Holmberg’s case it is more that I am responding to his ideas rather than appropriating his images. I am using images to show how I am responding to his ideas. I am influenced by his interest in the banal and the everyday and by his particular sense of humour.
JM: It’s an obvious remark to make but the piece Gmail Correspondence feels like it behaves differently in comparison to the other works. I wondered if you could say a little bit about its inclusion?
JR: This reminds me of an interesting point that Joel once made to me. Today we find ourselves in a crisis of appropriation. Insofar as we can choose anything to appropriate, we become paralysed as to what to appropriate. Moreover, if it is viewed that anything can be appropriated and be called art, a self-negating aspect begins to accrue to the notion of appropriation. We are back to the question “what is art?” I chose Gmail Correspondences to be the skin of the bust in order to make transparent, in a straightforward way but also in a playful manner, the process of how the show came together.
JM: Joel, at the time of conducting this interview the show install has been completed but we are still awaiting the delivery of your piece Shipping 10 Feet I suppose the appropriation that Jon just mentioned could apply to this piece more than any other in the show, do you have anything else to add to Jon’s remark, maybe specifically in relation to this piece? I also wondered if you are excited by the idea of the delivery man being welcomed into the gallery space by your piece UPS Affirmation.
Joel Holmberg: I always see the forum of an exhibition as an opportunity to share my ideas with people. I have never been to Norwich, but it’s fascinating that I had this chance to share my ideas with a community of people where I have never been. There are so many people involved in an exhibition, and so many people come in contact with, participate in, and can be be moved by an artistic act from ideation to delivery and deployment, daily maintenance, and de-installation. Adding to Jon’s answer, I am often so overwhelmed with how much transcendence there is in the world. As an artist I have signed up to take on this role of having a heightened sense of looking at the world, but as Maurice Blanchot has said of the writer, I often find myself so inspired to act that I fall into a state of ineffectiveness, or desoeuvre, because all I can do is consider how phenomenal the source of the inspiration was. In short, I am all for the cliches of art and what art can do. The most dangerous thing that can happen to an artist or someone who works in the “culture industry” is to dwell on or become resentful of their capacity to create, participate in, and promote a unique and individual experience. I’m sure that the committee at OUTPOST has a familiar relationship with their package couriers, and might have left notes for the “UPS guy” at some point. Both sides involve their own levels of bureaucratic departmentalization, but in the end it is a human exchange that can give pause to each individual. Once I was at a gallery in Los Angeles and a UPS driver arrived at the gallery to pick something up, saw some white paintings on the wall and BURST into laughter. He called one of his co-workers to tell them that this gallery was showing paintings that were just white! Then he started to ask the gallery staff if they had ever seen work by “the brick guy, that guy who just shows a bunch of bricks on the ground?” To this the gallerist replied, “yes, in fact we had to study the brick guy.”
Yesterday I was looking at the Empire State Building at dusk and noticed all of these flashes coming from the observation deck. I thought at first that it was a signal for airplanes, but the intervals of flashes were so irregular that I had to stop and figure it out. Of course, it was from visitors who were taking pictures from on top of the building of the view, maybe with their friends or loved ones in the foreground. As far as the flash being able to help capture the “cliché” view from on top of the Empire State Building, that is an amateur mistake. The flash is ineffective in that situation, but what a lightshow it was from the ground! As I was writing I thought of this movie The Go Between which is set near Norwich. I have the AVI file if you are interested in screening it during the exhibition.. Is The Go Between a known book/film in Norwich? Would people associate with it as far as a role of a courier between two collaborative parties? It’s BORING! But so romantic!
JM: I have never heard of it before, but that doesn’t mean much, I am terrible with names and titles! If you would like to screen it we would be happy to. The way we organise shows here is orientated around the idea that we allow artists once selected to show anything they would like. If you want to show it we will show it.
JH: I would like to include an image of the movie poster if possible then :) only if it’s no trouble
JM: Yeah ok we will include it! No it’s no problem at all.
JH: Amazing! Joseph, thank you so much!
JM: Haha, no problem!
JH: I’m glad to feel like I have taken advantage of this opportunity. Definitely some of these ideas have spun out of this incredible freedom I have been given. I feel like I might not have ever been able to realise these pieces because it involves the gallery taking huge risks.
JM: Well we try to promote the idea that the gallery can be used to show new and maybe experimental work, I suppose this promotes risk taking.
JH: I’m so impressed! Every artist should be so lucky to be treated like this!
JM: Well thanks again to you and Jon.
JH: Thank you!