You're from Detroit right? What was it like?
I was raised outside of Detroit, it is very suburban / industrial with a lot of automotive and pharmaceutical influence. It was a pretty typical American atmosphere - poverty next to wealth, concealed racism, midwestern strip mall aesthetic.
How did you get interested in making art?
Making art...things, has just been something that I have always done. I have been doing what I since the beginning, maybe even before the beginning. I would be doing it on the moon.
You went to art school in Chicago. What was your focus?
In school I focused on printmaking in traditional and avant garde sense. I had already been through a lot of art school institutions so by the time I got to chicago. I double majored in "Viscom" short for visual communications - graphic design, and printmaking. I really liked printmaking / printed material because they had the best spaces to make work, an really beautiful printers. Printmaking was an outlet to very broad spectrum for creating whatever you want, It could be digital or it could be 2D or installation, I mixed it up.
There aren't that many examples of physical artworks on your website. Can you tell me a bit about objects you've made in the past? In high school I studied a lot of the arts and crafts movement. I made a lot of ceramics, weavings, photo. In college I was making books, prints and glass sculptures. When I got out of school, I didn't have any money to produce objects - store prints, etc. I turned to the things that didn’t cost a lot and mostly didn’t take up space - performances. I am very good with my hands, I am still making physical objects just kind of incorporating them into other media - thus multi media / performance became a new form of non structure seeing. I like architecture and I am heavily influenced by object / space relationships.
Have you had other websites other than cognitive Synergy or do you prefer working on multiple social networking platforms?
I like working on all platforms. I like working. I have a lot of websites. I am currently building a lot more digital work because I have a vision for how I would like to present my ideas to the public. Digital channels lend a beautiful sense of control as well as community and affect more people.
Where did the name cognitive synergy come from?
It was a building of a lot ideas from my mind that I had been personally building. It was a project that spawned into many sources, some deep within me and others externally like Nietzsche, creative destruction, a lot of mythology and science. Existentialism, self actualizations, and twitter were the basic starting points. I still can’t even describe what it is fully, it was just something I had to do.
The project you did for Next Time seemed like an epic venture on your part. Could you describe a little about what was involved and how you came out of it?
I decided to experiment on myself, using modern tools I had already - which were free, such as twitter. I wanted to express the idea of performance in modern terms, break the constraints of what most people think a performance is or could be. I was taking into consideration what performance had been the past, the reputation is has built. I was mostly really turned off by the common attitudes towards the art form, or that an artist even had to be present in a space to execute a "performance".' I had written to a friend during this performance that lasted 34 days, I did a lot expressing, creating, destroying, over the internet and IRL. I was just publically being myself, not withholding any content. It was a series of notes as to what is means to be an artist, what it means to be sensitive, expressing my vision. I did things many people never have the opportunity, creativity or freedom to do. Existing as myself in the present and being aware of it. You can still read all my thoughts from that time. https://twitter.com/ExistingSelf
It seemed like when you did that performance you were deeply entrenched with online activity. Have things become more steady for you?
I am still very entrenched, with the internet, and the media and privacy / publicity / technology.
Have you always felt a connection between art and the internet? Do you ever separate them?
Yes always, Separation - I never do.
Your video pieces often are shot in cinematic spaces of epic scope despite being ultimately documents of a performance for a camera. Where in the history of performance/ video art do you see these fitting?
I dont think about the past too much, history is history. I see myself in the future and I can envision my work in a myriad of different contexts / time / physical space - I suppose thats why I like what I make.
Your works strike a crazy balance between politics, personal narrative, and poetry. How important is it for you to mix these elements?
It is important for me yes.I want my voice to be heard no matter what I do. I believe awareness and understanding the world we exist is, being successful within it... Everything is relative and I am impacted by the important and unimportant issues of our time, civil rights, technological advance, bio chemical warfare, froyo, ect. Often there is a lot of heavy content embedded in my concepts, ones that are only expressible through art, those are never on surface level and therefore hard to pin down just what I am conveying (moved this here)
What are your goals when starting an artwork? What are the challenges you come up against? How do you know if a piece is done?
My goals vary but I try to keep it simple. My goal is finishing something that I need to make, making my dreams reality. Usually just when you think you have got it all figured out, then something goes wrong, it’s challenging to really feel at all.. The world is dark, I face a lot frightening experiences, I try to find light. I know when an anomaly when I see one, because I am one, and I know myself; so I feel lucky. I am done when I am satisfied, so never.
How do you relate to other performance artists and filmmakers?
I respect anyone who realized that its a given right to make art whatever they are creating. I have a lot of obsession with people, some of whom are celebrities, some people i know, but to answer your question I relate to them on an intensity level.
You seem to take no issue with participating in activities outside the artworld- modelling, music videos, reality television- do you see this as being separate from your practice or as much a part of anything you produce?
I contribute all of myself to any project that I am working on, I cannot really separate that part of myself, which is why I have had trouble keeping regular jobs or living the way others do. I am myself 100 % no matter what is going on around me.
Interview by Asher Penn