Out of Bounds (Generator), 1999
J.D. Walsh is based in Brooklyn, NY and shows at Solomon Projects in Atlanta. Check out more of his works at his website and see the interview below:
JL: Done in 1999, Out of Bounds (Generator) is interesting because it seems to embody many of the same elements that have been concerned with over the past few years. The ball is bounced and dictates a shape that is then cut out and becomes 3D in appearance. How did you come across a fascination with chance and they way that it can then materialize into something "real"?
JDW: I think my interest in chance stems from my interest in open-ended artworks. When someone is confronted with something that's incomplete, or something that has an open system built into it, it's the human tendency to try to complete it. In this case meaning is generated partly by the viewer, but is predicated by choices that the artist has made. It's the old story of when people read whatever meaning into vague song lyrics, mid-60's Dylan for example. That strategy in lyrics is kind of a given today, but must have seemed radical at the time.
JL: Is there an initial influence from Cage and Duchamp here? Are you looking to expand on their chance experiments or to find another use for them?
JDW: I should probably say now that many of my works don't involve chance at all, but rather the adjustment of an ambiguity/meaning ratio. Out of Bounds (Generator) is a good example of this. It's not a chance operation, but a partial-chance operation - the chance parts are edited to have the effect I want.
Regarding Cage and Duchamp, they were initial influences for me. For the longest time I thought Cage was the perfect artist. But the classic contradiction in Cage is that as much as he wants to remove his own taste from the equation, his taste is evident in the structuring of the work, even in the initial decision to use the I-Ching or whatever chance procedure he uses. Nothing just "happens". I feel like maybe I'm more comfortable working within this contradiction; in fact I like it. I'm always very aware of my own tastes when working, and I really like the idea of "tuning" meaning. On one level I think I've been trying to see if I can get away with using perception as the content of my work.
Hallucinations (and the real), 2003-2004
JL: Considering this notion of "tuning" meaning, it makes sense why Hallucinations has a more systematic bent. In a way, you have begun to look at each layer that we found in Out of Bounds (music, the ball/chance metaphor, and the shape that develops), separated them out and recapitulated these sources. Could you explain the process involved in the work and how it changed?
JDW : Well around 2001 I got really into the possibilities of writing my own computer programs as a way to open up the work a bit. But at first I could only do certain things, like have it place something in a certain location, or determine the scale of something, etc. Composition-related things. But at some point I wondered if I could get a system going that would choose entire images for me, images that I had not chosen, that I hadn't seen before. So I wrote a kind of image-search engine. This was the basis for Hallucinations.
JL: Technically, what is actually going on in Hallucinations?
JDW: It's actually two programs running side-by-side. One takes an account written by Albert Hoffman, the scientist who first synthesized LSD (who coincidentally died yesterday). The account is written in the first person, explaining the experience, which was essentially the first acid trip. The program selects one sentence at a time and displays it for a random duration. The other program enters the sentence into the search engine and grabs an image (and a found sound) and displays it next to the sentence. The result is an ever-changing contextual shift.
JL: By titling these Hallucinations, aren't you proposing another kind of contradiction of perception, since these are 'real' images, created mechanically, rather than figments of the imagination?
JDW: The title comes from Hoffman's text, but I liked "Hallucinations" as a way of describing how we experience the internet, but I think you're right, it is a play upon how these real images can be unreal depending on the way in which we experience them.
JL: In the Slow Fade works, you began to use very recognizable sources (domino sugar etc…) that are seemingly hand picked. How does this image/source selection process differ from previous works? Since you are now controlling heavily what images, arrangements etc., are you then providing the viewer with this experience?
JDW: In that series, it's true, I wanted to work more with iconic imagery. I guess I felt like the loadedness of Domino Sugar, the Beatles (particularly Sgt. Pepper), the book, etc. gave me more room to play with perception, since everyone has pre-conceived ideas about what these things signify. I initially saw these things as static transitions, like an embodiment of the cinematic dissolve between shots, hence the title "Slow Fade". It's the moment where you can see two things at once, irregardless of space, time, setting, history. I guess the fact that the iconic objects have a history is why I chose to use them. So I suppose it is about the Beatles, Salinger, Dentyne Ice, etc, but the baggage associated with each must also be added to whatever it's (literally) connected to.
JL: Your newest work, Boy, seems to be a bit of a departure. there is no video component and no obvious borrowed image of something mass-produced. At the same time, as a whole it is a sort of shadow of a projected image and this group of people seem anonymous, nondescript. In the same way that the Slow Fade works become one ambiguous object, Boy doesn't "make sense". What drew you to this set of images? One wouldn't assume a narrative in the Slow Fades, but here there is a spark of a narrative function...
JDW: Boy, like the works in Slow Fade, comes about by choosing the right images from a large pool of appropriated images. This goes back the whole "tuning" concept - it's all about finding the right threshold between pointedness and obscurity. I'm not sure it has much to do with chance. In this case it does look like a narrative, but to me, alluding to narrative is just a way of referencing a different practice while meaning occurs in a more open-ended, non-narrative way.
I think in the newest work I'm relying less on decision-making systems and more on intuition. So I guess it is a bit of a departure. I suppose someone could chart some kind of tenuous relationship between chance and appropriation. But for me it's too early to tell.