In conversation with parkerito.com and, ultimately, Sarah Rosamond
Somehow I feel it’d be interesting to begin by focusing on your third party representation (bios/intros etc) across the internet. To what extent do you see this diffusion of yourself as part of your artistic output/identity?
Currently I’m in West Sussex. I go on YouTube and search “whirlpool”. This is the first video that comes up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx8vA9jBEFk.
I think whirlpools are a good metaphor for the flow of information on the Internet, and I think searching “whirlpool” on YouTube is a good example of this metaphor in action. This video has over 9 million views. I had one upload on YouTube that had like 10,000 views. It was a video of a giant shit that wouldn’t flush down the toilet. It got flagged and removed. This guy named Brooklynsfinest2007 kept messaging me telling me he’d pay me to shit in his mouth. I asked him what shit tastes like, he said “it depends on what the person eats LOL.”
Why does this video come up first when I search “whirlpool”? Why does this video have over 9 million views? Does this video have 9 million views because it comes up first in the search, or does it come up first in the search because it has 9 million views?
Information in the whirlpool (Internet) spins around and around, gaining context and losing context. The most visible place is the center (even though this is probably the shittiest place to be in an actual whirlpool). When and where to drop your information in the whirlpool is really the secret of the Internet, and big corporations pay tons of money to have people tell them this shit.
The whole Rebecca Black phenomenon illustrates this beautifully.
I dropped a bunch of shit in the whirlpool back in late 2008 / early 2009 and it’s still floating around. This leads into your next question and I’ll answer it here, but you should still leave the question in the same place. I’ve always talked about (or been talked about as) being from California, and that influencing my work. Or maybe actually the Internet influenced my decision to make it known that I was from California. I grew up in Orange County, right next to Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach is known as “Surf City USA”.
I’ve referenced the Beach Boys several times in projects as a way of referencing an idea about a lifestyle. In my mind this surfer/California lifestyle paralleled my projected Internet lifestyle. The Beach Boys named after and based their image on the surfer lifestyle, even though only one of the Beach Boys could actually surf (I think it was Denny). Even though I’m from California I don’t really like going to the beach, and I’ve claimed to be an Internet expert / professional web surfer in other interviews, but maybe I don’t know shit about the Internet, just like the Beach Boys didn’t actually surf.
One of the best interviews I’ve ever read was an interview about Maurizio Cattelan in Wallpaper magazine. Instead of interviewing Maurizio directly they just asked his gallerists, curators, and friends to speak about him.
Your Californian heritage is often emphasised, a detail that might seem paradoxical to some given the boundarylessness of the internet. For example, thecreatorsproject: ‘L.A.-based artist and internet wunderkind Parker Ito isn’t defined by the confinements of geography, as his stomping grounds can be accessed virtually from any computer.’ How important is location / identity to you?
Whirlpools are natural phenomena, upon which, once developed, we as humans can have little effect. Do you think we are as helpless when it comes to controlling this virtual whirlpool? I’ve phrased that somewhat pessimistically, but it would be interesting to consider any positive outcomes of this information flow. Further, although your above answer accepts a level of authorship over at which point we drop information in this whirlpool metaphor, there seems to me just as many instances in which we might add or create information unwittingly as part of our daily interaction with the web. Even from what books or games you browse on amazon you are creating information about yourself, which is then part of the public domain with the potential to effect how other parties interact with you.
I have about 10 email accounts. Some of them I use only for signing up for porn sites. I’m pretty sure if you searched one of these email addresses in Google you could see some of the porn I’ve been looking at.
In essence we can’t hide from the accountability of our actions. I think there’s the potential to perceive something weird and fatalistic in this, but we should really fight against seeing the big corporations - the metanationals - in this light. To what extent do you see ‘Parker Ito’ as a brand? The top google result for ‘whirlpool’ is a home appliances company.
If I say “yes I’m a brand” people might think I’m full of shit.
Or the above statement reaffirms my status as a self aware, transparent, brand.
Or nobody has figured out that I’m just a dog yet.
Lol. I find your Metro Gallery interview particularly interesting because it reappears across the internet in some kind of obscure places.
Personalisation of the internet has become a popular topic of discussion over the last few months. Yet your quotation of others to describe yourself coupled with its then saturation of your google search seems to point to a depersonalisation of the internet, a sort of outsourcing of identity. To what extent is this a concern of yours? Can we see these concerns reflected in your Most Infamous Girl project?
This goes back to the whirlpool idea.
The Internet is all about access to information. But in the way that we’re all creating and dispersing information about ourselves, the Internet is also about outsourcing of identity. If you don’t know how to outsource your identity, you don’t really know your identity. Recently, ‘when Nestle wanted to find out more about what Australians talked about in the kitchen, it created a 5000-strong online community and began a regular, two-way conversation with grocery buyers’. And often, when people want to know where they are within their social circle, they create a ~500-strong online community and begin a regular, two-way conversation with friends. Most of the time this is harmless. Maybe the Parked Domain Girl paintings take this idea to its extreme, highlighting this conflict over Hannah, the ‘Attractive Student’s image / identity / personality. As Artie Vierkant said, ‘Parker’s Parked Domain Girl paintings involve him versioning the same jpeg over and over until his personal brand can overtake or become synonymous with one of the most widely-circulated images on the internet.’
I don’t really know how much control I have over it all. Maybe it would have been more appropriate if you answered this question for me as how you would think I would answer it, I guess so I could find out.
Should discourse around your painting consider these ideas? Could the whirpool be used as a metaphor for the wider flow of information in general, beyond the internet? Perhaps your use of paint is a material reflection of this.
To consider flow of information in terms confined by the Internet seems wrong. Often people introduce me as or call me an Internet artist, yet I’ve made mostly paintings in the last two years. Maybe discourse or whatever should start there. It’s also funny how I introduced this whirlpool idea in my first response, and we’re still talking about it here, it’s got caught up in it’s own mini-whirlpool in this article. Which is why maybe I have a concern over leading this notion of discourse too authoritatively, I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.
JstChillin created a centralised platform for a number of convergent practices, and, for the uninitiated viewer, thus becomes an important resource. To what extent did this project help create a sense of community? Further, how was this community then effected by its culmination?
The other day someone was telling me how READ/WRITE was kinda like a degree show, an international degree show with everyone you wanted to go to school with. In my mind the show was quite symbolic as it clearly marked the end of something, and I think this transcended the project. I made a status update about this right before the show that said something like: “Having a solo show and selling work is cool, but my all time fav. is having a group show with a bunch of your friends that you met off the Internet.”
Actually the person that was telling me how the show was like a degree show was Sarah Hartnett, an artist who was in the show, and also my current GF. We only met because of the JstChillin show. So maybe our relationship is an extension of that project? That’s a romantic notion, but it’s probably not that true.
Some of the artists in the show have told me that they met a lot of people through JstChillin, and I hope we were able to facilitate some sort of dialogue. There was a lot of good work that got made, I’m really proud of what we were able to do. We had tons of fun, and I got to become close with some really interesting people.
I’m not really sure how to answer this question because I feel too close to everything and that clouds my judgement. It felt like there was a lot of energy behind it, but at the same time it almost feels like it never happened, it wasn’t that influential, just good timing. I’ve seen like two articles in the last 2 weeks that speak about online galleries and how they’re so “radical”, yet none of these articles mentioned JstChillin. But none of these articles mentioned Netdreams and Netmares, or Club Internet either.
What about online collectives functioning to the same end as Warhol’s factory in the ‘60s?
Warhol was kind of using people though no? The factory seemed more about hype and excitement than actually production. This idea that if you’re at the center you’re important by default. Are you saying that I’m Andy Warhol and JstChillin was my “factory”
Not at all, I was more thinking about how people would gravitate from around America to this kind of environment, as a way of escaping whatever dull suburban or domestic reality they were trapped in. The internet offers kids the chance to ‘escape’ their homes without even leaving their bedroom. But maybe this isn’t so much true of an artist’s practice as certain forums where just normal weird kids congregate, or perhaps some youtube comments threads where people find a voice or a subculture. Maybe there’s a more accurate comparison between online collectivity and broader environments such as Greenwich Village.
I like the Montparnasse parallel because it feels more romantic. Object sexuality is quite interesting in this regard. At the time the film “Married to the Eiffel Tower” was made object sexuality was quite a rare thing. The film follows a group of women who are in love with objects, but because of the Internet they are all able to meet up and hang out. Well now this shit gets talked about on Tyra Banks. In essence the Internet has maybe destroyed counter culture? Everything becomes normalized and consumed by mainstream culture so quickly. I can’t imagine what porn will look like in 5 years. Will it even turn me on anymore?
Ironically the art world still seems to be afraid of the of the Internet, or not equipped to handle its full potential. There are moments of transcendence, but if you don’t have an object based practice people aren’t that excited, and even then people still want to touch the stuff. Sadly, you still have to network as much offline as you do online. Hopefully this will change soon. I feel like I’ve said that so many times that it’s become a Parker Ito cliché.
I think the most rewarding thing about being a part of an insular community is that you know who your audience is, and that fosters some really great dialogue, and giant circle jerks.
Your new jpegs exhibition seems to have been structured around an emphasis upon the post-medium condition. This is a notion that has gained considerable momentum over the last ten years, with commentators such as Krauss emphasising a state in which media has become so conflated that the artist must strive to attain a purification of art itself. In what way does the post-internet post-medium differ from that explored in the institutional art world of the last decade? Do you see this as a node at which post-internet practice can align itself with the art world at large?
In my social circle I have two main group of friends - my skateboarding friends, and my Internet / art friends. These groups rarely interact, with the exception of them maybe liking the same thing on Facebook. Several of my “friends” on Facebook are people that I went to high school with and haven’t really kept in contact with (except for being their friend on Facebook). I often wonder if they see what I’m posting and think to myself “do they care, or is this just annoying them”? I have a really hard time explaining what I do to non-artists. People always say to me “what’s your medium?” Most of the time I respond with “Internet”, but that really confuses them. What I’m getting at is that time in itself creates new identities - one of my favorite past times is coming across the nerdy girl from high school who is now a hardcore socialite hipster. Some people know me as “Parker Ito skateboarder”, some people know me as “Parker Ito annoying Facebooker”.
But in my eyes the primary goal of a post-medium practice is that the form always serves the idea first.
Is gender a significant aspect of ‘The Most Infamous Girl in the History of the Internet’? Notions of sexuality have featured prominently in discussion of Warhol’s Marilyn series, of which a parallel has been made since Gene McHugh considered the relation of the two; should such themes form a part of the discourse of your work? Perhaps traditional conceptions of gender and sexuality have changed in the historical interim, aided and abetted by technologies such as the internet.
For a long time art about identity seemed really cheesy and boring to me. Then I realized all of my work was about my identity, but a new kind of identity that is almost a non-identity, that has occurred because of the Internet. I make work under myself, then as Deke McClelland Two, and then I’m doing this new project with Sarah Hartnett under the name Olivia Calix. So I guess I’m exploring these different identities, different personas, and different sexualities. The Parked Domain Girl paintings are very perverse, but at the same time that image is so watered down and WASPy. Deke 2 is totally hypersexual, basically misogynistic at some points, and more “urban”.
I’m big believer in multiple personalities, that’s to say in our desire to have multiple personalities. It’s also why google+, I think, had the potential be successful. Although perhaps there’s something interesting in how you define between multiple personalities and multiple identities. Can you talk more about Olivia Calix? Maybe introduce a bit of what that’s going to be?
Most people have multiple personalities. I was born under the star sign gemini, the twins, so I believe my personalities to be quite extreme. At times I’ve had people describe me as shy, quiet, and aloof, while at other times I’ve had people tell me that I’m intimidating, loud, and obnoxious. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and also depends on my mood and what substances I’m on. I didn’t start drinking alcohol frequently until about last fall, and I still only really like drinking Bellinis and White Russians. Alcohol and drinking was an important business move for me, as one of my professors once told me, “more art business goes down in clubs and bars than anywhere else.” I spent three weeks in New York this year and I was really fucked up for about 19 of those days, but I think this is what New York does to people anyways.
With the aid of technology it’s a lot easier to curate multiple identities simultaneously and really sell them. The movie “Catfish” would be a really obvious example of this. I used to get really depressed when I would meet someone AFK and their personal brand didn’t live up to the hype, but then I realized that that’s one of the new ways we’re experiencing these technologies in our daily lives.
At a certain point I decided that I wanted to exhaust this Parked Domain idea, just really do it for so long that it became annoying. I’ve decided that 2012 is going to be the last year I produce them, this seems appropriate as the world might end. I’d like to do a “retrospective” show of the paintings as well. Somewhere through the project I started getting really bored of myself and this certain kind of thinking. For me the Parked Domain paintings are like “conceptual” works, they’re very rigid in how I approach them.
I’ve always tried to tear down the personal brand that I’ve created in my previous works. Like I see myself as these mini movements and I’m always reacting to the prior one. In 2009 I made all Single Serving Sites primarily based on video work, while in 2010 I reacted to this by returning to painting. So it was really obvious for me to do the Deke 2 paintings, because I didn’t want to disturb the brand of “Parker Ito Parked Domain Girl”, but I wanted to do something to get myself out of a certain kind of process and thinking mode. Deke 2 was a return to material exploration and real hardcore formal painting decisions, really hands on, studio based work that I would describe as “hot”. I hadn’t started painting back into the parked domain paintings yet, and it was the first time I was touching oil paint in maybe 4 years. It felt really refreshing. The full name of the alias is “Deke McClelland Two”, which is a name based on the Photoshop guru Deke McClelland. The personality of Deke 2 is kind of Martin Kippenberger meets Lil B. Keith Boadwee, a former professor of mine, responding to the Deke 2 paintings once said, “Fuck I can’t even watch you paint. You really do not give a fuck at all.” I thought to myself, “Jesus christ Keith, your most famous works are you shitting paint on canvas and you say I don’t give a fuck about painting? I must really be onto something.” To clear the air though, I really love painting, but am really interested in the cliche’d “painter hater” position.
Paint FX was also a project that I tried to push as conceptual for a long time, but latter realized it was more radical to just say it was completely formal. In hindsight I’m really proud of Paint FX, our output, and our sensitivity to software.
Olivia Calix is somewhere in between Deke 2 and Parked Domain, it could be read as a formalist project, but it’s also becoming extremely complex because of the nature of its context. Maybe even creating binaries like “formal” and “conceptual” is stupid at this point though. Olivia Calix started out as a critique of an aesthetic that could maybe be associated with the 3rd wave of “Internet Based Art”, or Tumblr era. This is when Internet based artists became less nerdy and more hipstery. You know this aesthetic looks really sexy, and that’s why it’s so popular, but there’s just so much of it online today that it starts to feel empty. The project is also responding to some discussion about female visibility in the online community, which a female / male duo creating work under a female alias could be a strive for some post gender bullshit. Ultimately the project Olivia Calix is a critique of ourselves (the artists), because we can’t really escape our actions like we want to. Either way people are going to click the “like” button on Facebook. This may seem like a really insular conversation, but there’s also this goal to create a kind of taste algorithm for 40 somethings and above (the people who run the art world). Recently though, I’ve become extremely interested in the parallels between Surrealism and Tumblr and I’m thinking about a kind of neo-proto-hipster-surrealism that takes the form of object fetishism sculptures and installations based on prevalent jpeg aeshetics aided by Tumblr personal taste filters.
One of the first projects we did was the single serving site http://www.tumbler.me.uk, which is the first single serving site I’ve made since 2009. The purpose of the site was to set a tone for the whole project and this site even proceeded OliviaCalix.com. The site presents some tropes of Tumblr but sort of reimagined as these fucked up hybrid sculptures in a white cube. We’re always trying to create a best of, or greatest hits. Each project we do is treated like it’s that last, and that feels really exciting. Thanks to James Stringer btw for helping us realize our “3D Magnum Opus”.
I think it’s appropriate that Sarah also discusses the project as I’m not the only voice of Olivia Calix.
I don’t think self-criticism is an exhausted trope. Or to put it differently, critical awareness of the artistic self could yet be an affirmation of the artistic self. I like how one of your formative actions was to attempt to create a greatest hits. Maybe bring Sarah in here? She could definitely have an extended role in this, perhaps she has some questions of her own? Sarah, I think it’s more appropriate if I stop referring to you in third person.
In regards to varying identities online, I’m interested in the whole camwhore culture and how it’s hard to separate oneself from that to a certain extent when loneliness/desire are prevalent feelings growing up on the internet. I’ve had the internet since I was 11, but if I could chart my 14 year history online the bookmarks would mostly be made up of dating websites and chat rooms. I was pretty lonely growing up in the middle of a field in England… the internet provided a connection/fantasy with the outside world, however convoluted that vision may have been. Representing myself on the internet became a part of everyday life; I lied about my age/name/location and tried to take flattering pictures of myself with a shitty webcam. Everyone is trend watching now- everyone has a tumblr/blog pushing their own taste which most of the time, knowingly or unknowingly, has been constructed through dominant algorithms, which we’re not exempt from, and therefore neither is Olivia Calix.
We decided to make it known that this was an assumed name, an adopted persona: actively placing ourselves within another perspective so that we might be able to work differently, with more freedom. If she had been considered to be a real person making this work then there’d be fewer questions asked. Our own practices touch on varying areas of fashion/lifestyles/ecology which are all relevant in the context of Olivia Calix.
I guess I primarily became motivated about Olivia Calix when I thought about her in conversation with Deke2. I liked the idea of a feisty hot girl coming up against this overtly misogynistic rogue painter and playing him at his own game to an extent. Deke is a parody of itself however, and almost cancels itself out, and there’s a certain freedom in its extreme and mocking nature which is easy to revel in or reject; I like that you have to choose, there’s no middle ground. It’s all likes on tumblr and fb. Youtube, in comparison, is slightly harsher in its critique which makes people stand by their belief in a music video/dance tutorial with great conviction- I love the emotion on there.
I guess the video piece we made with James Stringer for the San Francisco show was a full stop to a certain aesthetic which we ourselves have indulged in and thought was cool. We just pulled several elements together we’d seen again and again on the net and branded them with the OC symbol and added some of our own sub-narrative (via the detailing in the pubey floating bio-hazard sign, shiny dildos, rippling water, sexy reflections).
In response to Parker’s point about female visibility, Olivia Calix does respond somewhat to this conversation which has been discussed sporadically over the last year on and off fb; I found the tallying of female vs male artists in exhibitions to be an increasingly divisive conversation. I think you’re dealing with some big personalities online, which may crumble when you meet them AFK or may be even more intense upon contact, but either way gender neutrality is, and will continue to be, more tangible online. Reflecting on the sound piece which was part of the show in San Fran kind of ties in with issues of gender, whilst being completely tongue in cheek. We used Akon’s “sexy bitch” as the kind of theme tune, playing loud in the gallery with a sound sensitive t-shirt on top of the speakers. The song is obviously just another monotonous commercial “pop” song with bleak undercurrents of female objectification but I like how glaringly defective the lyrics are: even though he tries really(?) hard to find the words to describe this attractive girl without being disrespectful, he instantly resorts to using a derogatory, sexist and offensive label, “sexy Bitch”. But at the same time he’s also highlighting her, “hyper-femininity”. There’s just something quite absurd and retarded about that.
I wonder if Olivia Calix would work if she wasn’t ‘hot’? For me this envisioned personality points to interesting questions about the relationship between embodiment and desire, of course in today’s online environment, but also recognising this itself as an embodiment of dominant cultural undercurrents, the algorithms you refer to.
Hot can refer to a lot of traits in a person, not just their physical hotness! How they make work/how they represent themselves/what images they choose to represent themselves with via image aggregator sites. Oh yeah, Harry, you can edit out whatever you want from my extended train of thought!!
All I’ve really edited has been grammar. I feel that to switch attention right back to Parker at this point would be crass, but at the same time I think this last question has a place in this interview. Do you identify with the term ‘post-irony’?
I’m skeptical of anything with “post” in front of it. I’d say yes though. Hipster culture really fucked irony up, and I’m totally part of hipster culture, but I’m like a proto hip because I’m an artist. To say that is even ironic, but it’s also valid and sincere. So I guess I’m answering a question about post-irony with post-irony.
Post-everything -> repost-everything. I think we should get over it.
This interview was conducted, sporadically and distractedly, between June and September 2011. Parker was, variously, in London, Sussex, Malmö, Berlin, Venice, Tokyo and Los Angeles. Sarah was in some but not all of these.
http://parkerito.com http://deke2.com http://oliviacalix.com http://jstchillin.org http://paintfx.biz
http://flickr.com/photos/soppinggranite http://yearofthehare.org http://oliviacalix.com http://aquaage.tumblr.com