JONATHAN MONAGHAN: “ESCAPE POD” AT BITFORMS GALLERY, NYC.
Jonathan Monaghan has a new show at bitforms in NYC, opening today, March 22nd and running until May 3rd. Jonathan sent me a preview of the new film “Escape Pod” and answered a few questions I had (below).
The film is a reflexive look at CGI: there’s lots of high-end luxury, hybridised as usual with more visceral and mythological imagery. The artist is creating and deploying many types of classic 3D ‘asset’ in his work: designer furniture, European classical architecture and clinical interiors. Also abundant are hallmark CGI materials: glossy surfaces, gold, marble. The work seems aware of its CGI lineage – from Middle-Eastern property visualisation to Chinese knock-off culture to commodities, fashion andproduct design. With these motifs and themes, the artist creates a complex mythology that appears as complex and contradictory as the luxury goods markets it comments on.
Further to the immaterial animated content, we also have some knowingly opulent real-world art objects – props or relics, perhaps - that signal a clear awareness of their status as commodity. The 3D-printed “Recumbent Bull” feels like an ironic comment on art, commerce and fetish. The “After Faberge” prints are beautiful objects that harbour a thinly veiled libidinous subtext, best depicted by the furry testicles hanging from the egg’s undercarriage. These are lustful objects about lustful objects. And you can buy one. Or you could buy me one? Whatever you want, I’m game.
and I sent a couple of emails back and forth about the show. Here’s what he had
CGWTF: Hi Jonathan, thanks for taking some time to answer my questions. First off, your use of CGI is pretty reflexive. You play to it’s strengths but also seem to avoid complicity by retaining a certain scepticism within the work. How do you feel about CGI?
JM: I think obviously there a lot of practical reasons which lend the 3D animation process to these seductive interior spaces and materials, that is what the software is designed for, to seduce, and I am working complicity with that, but instead of selling or entertaining I like to think my works gets my viewers to think about material decadence, or the role of technology, or about our media saturated lived experience. I have always worked with the disconnect between the rendered surface, which can be made to feel very soft, or fleshy, or desirable in some way, and the ultimate flatness of the rendered image. This frustrating disconnect is an apt method to examine a kind of basic unfulfilled desire that comes with technology, to be more natural or more human.
CGWTF: In contrast with a lot of young artists working with software, you seem pretty adept. What’s your background?
JM: I initially studied computer graphics with the intent to work in Hollywood, or make video games or commercials. But rather than pursuing a commercial, entertainment or technical career in 3D modelling, I became more interested in its ability to work in the analogical space of contemporary art. But I think my works may have a closer relationship to video games than they do say the history of cinema.
CGWTF: Do you still have industry involvement – a day job?
JM: I don’t have an industry day job, thankfully, I don’t think I could make work after making something else all day with the same process. I do teach a little though.
CGWTF: CGI is clearly labour intensive, though it sneakily hides labour by seeming photographic. Do you have ways of managing ambitious projects so they don’t monopolise your time?
JM: I like the labor intensive aspects of it. There is something empowering about having such precise and exact control over the spaces and objects I am making. Modelling and animating Escape Pod took about 3.5 months full-time, then it took another 3 months to render and finalize everything. I do not outsource or enlist help for the animations, not yet anyway. I do collaborate with musicians for the music.
CGWTF: Some of your back-catalogue can be seen online, but you generally only release trailers for your films and restrict the full films to the gallery. How do you rationalise this choice?
JM: I put excerpts online of the newer work, older work is online in full. I want people to see my work, but the works are also designed to function within a physical space. Ideally I project onto a custom built wall or in the case of Escape Pod, a larger monitor is housed in a custom laser-cut steel frame.
CGWTF: Thanks Jonathan! Wish I could be there, good luck with the show.
Mar 22 – May 3, 2015
bitforms gallery: 131 Allen Street, New York NY 10002
Reception: Sunday, Mar 22, 4:00 – 7:00 PM
Artist Talk & Screening: Thursday, Apr 2, 7:00 PM
Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat, 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Sun 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM