with Nick DeMarco
part of an interview with me translated into german and now back to english with google translate pic.twitter.com/CKV6F74MHj— Nick DǝMarco (@nickdemarco) 30. August 2017
In conversation with Nick DeMarco
Nick DeMarco born in Seattle as Nicholas Van DeMarco now lives in Brooklyn, NYC, has a studio in Bronx and has a car that takes him from Brooklyn to Bronx to do the work.
Humor that tackles real political situation mixed with creating the world he wants to live in are his things. DeMarco is different but 2017 is a good year not to fit in, and he is doing it well. In the past, he has published books or let rather say – words, that resident in MoMA. He made a bucnh of weird objects like soft table, brush lamp, spiral clock, void stool, zen desk, etc. He made a film called Here on Earth that only includes audio recordings, cutouts of baby half alien Drake, J.Lo and Paul Newman as his parents, with voice overs from people DeMarco found on Craigslist. Here on Earth is a film that puts you in the film. He is now in the midst of making a new one.
He will make a movie inspired by Trump, without Trump in it. In the future DeMarco will also make a full feature! He wants to do it so he will do it, but in the meantime, he will make a bunch of weird objects you secretly want to live with, you just don’t know it yet.
We talked with Nick about his films, objects and how current political situation effects his work.
Nick, first things first – Slavoj Zizek, my fellow Slovene. How did he end up in your art and when you do that, put other people in your work, do you do it out of mockery or out of respect?
He’s a pop philosopher, I mean, at least in America. There are not that many public intellectuals anymore, but he’s probably the most famous mainstream philosopher-type-person that people would recognize. The nature of his personality and persona—and also the specific ideas about antagonism and tolerance that he was talking about in that lecture—I thought he would be the perfect person to mess around with and shine a laser pointer onto his face.
But why do I do it, respect or mockery? Neither or both, I would say. That is kind of how I do everything – not quite respect and not quite mockery, a little bit of both and a little bit of neither. I would not have put him in my art if he sucked, or if he was one of my heroes. He’s worth thinking about, but I’m really just fine with him.
What about other people. J.Lo, Paul Newman, Drake as a Baby, etc. What is your criteria?
I like playing with the zone of recognizability. Some of them are A-list people, like Jennifer Lopez, but sometimes they are more obscure. I love the idea of celebrity, and when you become one, you suddenly have this aura around you. I think it is a fascinating thing that all of a sudden you become this different person once you become a little bit famous, that your image exists beyond yourself and belongs to the world of global culture. That’s why I like making movies with these fixed cutouts of celebrities in place of moving actors that even their static image is supercharged.
If I am not mistaken, you are currently plotting a new movie with inspiration coming from the current political situation. Trump is a celebrity that won’t appear in your movie but does somehow dictate the tempo. That said, do you think that if he was not the president your art would be different?
Right now, it’s so sad to imagine the alternate reality, where our grievances are still significant but also significantly less than they are now, but I’d like to think I would be just as inclined to be protesting the horrors of America. There was that one protest sign that went viral that said, „If Hillary was president we would be at brunch right now!“ But that is bullshit! We should still be protesting. I mean, she would be better, I would be happier if she would be our president, but mostly for having a woman in office.
But do you think you would still make the movie if she would have won? What would the narrative be then?
I would still be making the movie, but I don’t know what it would be about. I would probably be more inclined to have Hillary in the movie as I don’t love her or hate her, she is more like Slavoj Zizek to me.
She is just there.
Exactly! She is just there!
Do you think that artists do have a responsibility to the public when it comes to politics because you all have a voice and certain followership?
It is hard. I personally do not love didactic art that tries to teach. I am more interested in art that encourages an evocative way of thinking. I try to communicate how I see the world, not to tell you how you should see the world. But at the same time, there are real specific problems that I care about, and most of the time I want to be only making political art about those things. It’s a delicate negotiation with yourself, right? There’s this impulse to make overt adbusters/banksy style art with Trump as a cheeto and his hair as a turd or something, but which doesn’t really do anything except as a corny catharsis for the hashtag resistance.
Ultimately I think in response to this abject horror we’re facing with the current administration any art that shows some humanity and empathy with the world becomes political. The hard part is making sure your art does that and isn’t just funky and cool.
Got it! Now objects. When you do that stuff, are you designing object that you want to have or?
It is definitely the stuff I want to have, but even more, it is the world I want to live in.
Do you remember your first work? I don’t mean the first thing you did, but more like the first real piece that you considered as an art piece?
I have a funny relationship with art stuff because of the family I grew up in. My mom and extended family started an art parade in Seattle that was all about free expression, had no written words as a way of blocking out advertising, there were no motor vehicles, very DIY crazy art thing. I don’t even know when I tried to dip my toe in capital-A-art, but now whenever I go back home, all my older hippie family and friends tease me that I do „real“ art now.
I was always wondering what makes that shift from just something to ‘real’ art, though. Does something become art when you put it in a gallery, is that the shift that changes the subject? But the thing is, nowadays you can put basically everything in a gallery but is all of that art just because it is there?
What is the shift, yes? That is a good question! So much of my own art is observational, of looking at little things in the world – from pieces of garbage to pieces of culture, and taking them and rearranging them to my liking. I would go even further and say that putting it in a gallery doesn’t make it art, it becomes art as soon as I say it is. But, I never really loved galleries, I like them fine, but showing art in them has never really been my goal.
What is your perfect venue, though?
Up in the mix. Up in the world. Balanced on the top of a parking meter, or leaning on a chain-link fence. JPEG is kind of my perfect venue, it’s all about the jpegs. Garbage on the street and images online are my perfect venue. The world is my atelier.
My biggest problem with gallery art and making things to put in a gallery is that everything is rarefied. If I make a sculpture or a painting and someone buys that, who knows what the rest of their house is going to be like. What ding-dongs are going to be hanging out there? And more importantly than what their house looks like, what their life looks like. I don’t want something I make to become cultural capital for an arms dealer somewhere. That does not interest me, and on the other hand, mass production is even worse if you care at all about the planet! You can’t win.
How has your idea of art changed from when you first started to now?
Now I am much more jaded. I started my practice knowing I didn’t want to be a super regular artist, and then I tried to go all in and go for it but realized what I always knew, It’s a gross world. I am not jealous of people who are thriving in that environment.
What are your goals, though?
My goals are to be autonomous, to be able to make whatever I want in a little beach shack somewhere and distribute it on my own and somehow generate money doing it.
Nick, what is your favorite song?
Current – Long hot summer by The Style Council.
What is your favorite movie?
Very hipster answer of me, but being a hipster, my favorite movie is David Byrne’s True Stories.
If there would be a movie out there that when you saw it, you would think to yourself „Damn, why I didn’t come up with this first?“ would that be the movie?
That is definitely one of them. That is funny you ask that because everytime I see something good, let it be art or a movie or whatever, I get jealous because I wish I made it.
Fuck Donald Trump! And always cut up your used six-pack holders to save the baby turtles.
Interview: Katja Horvat
Photos: Courtesy of the artist
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