Josh Azzarella, Artist Interview Part 2
Before we continue with the MAO/Josh Q & A. We just want to mention.. Josh's new show opens up tonight and runs through May 17th at DCKT's new
posh gallery space on the Lower East Side (at Bowery and Spring Street), just a block and a half down from The New Museum.
FYI..on Thursday and Friday nights the New Museum is open till 10pm.. And it's totally FREE admission on Thursday nights!!
Also for all those
poor young collectors.. While there's no better bargin art program than Jen Bekman's 20x200 print program.. Josh also has this bargain much less costly edition print available from DCKT Contemporary.
(Photo #1, Josh Azzarella, Untitled (SSG Fredrick), 2008, archival digital c-print, edition of 50, 8 1/8 x 12 ¼” image, 11 x 14” paper..Abu Ghraib original source material here )
So if you like the work.. Act fast cause we think it will sell out fast. Oh.. and be sure to tell those DCKT people.. MAO sent you.. and they'll give you
the special MAO discount a free set of steak knifes from the Restaurant Supply store next door. We now return to part 2 of the Josh Azzarella interview...
MAO : What's your starting point for the art work? And how do you choose your source material? How difficult was it for you to get a good quality starting image or video from?
JA : I don't know that there is an identifiable starting point for any of the work. When I look at the lineage of the work I find that it's reminiscent of footnotes. I'll begin researching one event that I consider recognizable and it will lead to another event and so on. Somewhere in there I find an image, or perhaps another event, and consider making a piece. As the body of work has progressed it's slowly moved further away from the iconic image. I've become increasingly interested in the context of the images: where they come from, what is being shown, what is being conveniently left out and why we as a society choose one image over another to label as the identifying image of an event.
(Photo #2, Untitled #39 (265) 2007, archival digital c-print, 20 x 30", Note.. this image takes its source from John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the 1970 Kent State shootings)
As for source material, everything I use is about the worst possible copy I can get. In the beginning, I set in place a rule for myself that the only images, video, etc., I could use had to originate from the internet because this is where everyone else has access to them. This means that for most of the video work the beginning resolution is, at best, half that of a DVD. The still works usually begin as an image that is 2" x 3" at 72 pixels per inch. Because of this rule, I've spent a considerable amount of time developing a method to enlarge images while maintaining maximum quality.
MAO : Some of your images (4) have been modified twice. Can you explain why you did this? What was different about these works?
JA : The pieces you are referring to - Untitled #14 & 22 and Untitled #17 & 18 - are pretty early in the body of work (even if their numbering doesn't indicate that). When I made them I was learning and problem-solving and interested in how these images retained cathectic energy with and without the figure. For a while I would use the images in the pair interchangeably under one title and which one showed up would depend on the works surrounding it. But it became frustrating for me and for others so I officially added them as individual pieces to the body of work.
(Photo #3 & #4, Untitled #18 (Tania) & Untitled #17 (Hibernia) both archival digital c-print, 20 x 30", Note.. this image takes its source from this security cam photo)
I think this practice of removing the figures entirely from one piece and altering their actions in its companion could be successfully applied to almost all the works. However, I don't know that I would gain any additional knowledge by doing so.
MAO : Many of your images involve different US crisis... such as war, assassination, social unrest, murder, crime, and even catastrophic scientific failure.. Nothing too happy.. why ? Do you have some specific fascination, or is there a social/political statement you want to make about the media coverage of these events?
JA: One aspect that draws me to this type of image is that they are records of specific events that have shaped or helped to shape everything we know and how we live, whether or not we were alive at the time or involved in the event. And what happens if, by slowing down and obfuscating or altering the image to create a new outcome, I affect our memory of the event? Can I affect a viewer's memories by offering a new possibility, confusing their previous memory or perhaps creating a memory of an event where one didn't previously exist?
The doctoring of images is nothing new. Altering, inventing or manipulating still photographic and moving images is a phenomenon that has accompanied photography since arranged or manipulated photographs of the Civil War affected the perception and consumption of the war. In recent history, these falsified images are proliferated by some of the most trusted sources; The LA Times, Washington Post, etc.
MAO : So Josh… You have a kick ass blog.. why did you create a blog? Has it been a help to you as an artist and professor?
JA : Let's be honest, it's less than stellar right now and has been for about the past 9 months. I started it for two primary reasons: as a depository for some of the things I found while spending time on the internet and I wanted to learn more about content management systems, php, mysql, and all the nerdy things that come with it. Much to my surprise I found that it has been helpful when planning shows, mostly because I use it as a reminder of technical things I've tried, haven't tried or tried and failed at. However, after The Aldrich show, I found that it was more a source of anxiety than a problem-solving device. Then I began teaching 5+ classes a semester and simply haven't had time for it. In terms of helping me in the classroom, it plays no role. On occasion, a student will mention that they found it online and I either ignore them or respond that it came free with a “value meal” at some fast food chain (which really confuses them).