When You Read An Interview And You Imagine That The Guy Asking The Questions Sounds Like Johnny Utah
Keanu Reeves talks to Robert Longo. “Fuck yeah.”
Keanu Reeves talks to Robert Longo. “Fuck yeah.”
If you’re an idiot, you might look at Jason Nocito’s beautiful new book, designed by Ari Marcopolous and Camilla Venturini and premiering sixteen new photographs, and say, “It’s a bunch of pictures of puddles.” And you wouldn’t be totally wrong. Aptly titled PUD, Jason’s new book does heavily feature stunning large format images of iridescent pools filled with cigarettes and leaves, but it a lot more than that. It’s an ode to Charlie Brown, death, and American street photography, for starters. I called up Jason while he was working in Los Angeles so he could explain it to all the idiots.
CHRISTIAN: I got a look at the book. It’s beautiful. It’s shorter than what I’m used to but I think that really works well.
JASON: I guess it’s shorter but I don’t really see it as a one-off, done deal. I don’t think of it as a conscious project, it’s just a body of pictures that I put together.After making I Heart Transylvania, which was a larger body of work, this is like the beginning of something else for me. I Heart Transylvania was very personal, and so is this work, but in a different way. It’s personal without showing any humans, which is really different than I Heart, which showed a lot of close people in my life.
You shot the whole thing on an 8×10 view camera, correct?
Yeah, it started a few years ago when I as talking to a friend about Ten Swimming Pools and a Broken Glass, the Ed Ruscha book. I guess it started before that actually, when I moved back to New York from Vancouver. Every place I am, I want to make photographs. I’ve never been the person who says I’m going to go to this place and do this project and do it and be done. I’ve always kind of hated that, it’s not what I’m about. I was living in New York and I was burnt out professionally and emotionally. I would walk around the city all the time with my head down, like a lot of people do, and I would see all these things. That’s what I was looking at, so that’s what I photographed. A lot of that stuff is made right in my neighborhood in Chinatown. I tried it a few different ways with different kinds of cameras but at one point I met with my friend and photographer, Danny Gordon, and we talked about 8×10 large format camera. Its a different process and a different microscope to look at things. I started playing around with it.
I’m also really interested in the 8×10 process and the way that, in five or ten years, the process will probably be gone. It’s sort of a slowly-dying way to make images and the film will probably be impossible to get in the near future. I was really interested in using it as of an extension of thinking about death.
When I first met Sasha Kurmaz, I had never thought of his home base of Kiev, Ukraine, as a hotbed for civil unrest and upheaval. His photographs certainly didn’t change my mind. Sure, there was a certain air of Eastern European military industrial sadness, but the colors were too bright and the kids were too naked and drunk to be in any real danger. Sasha’s work is simultaneously funny and confusing, sexy and weird. He works with ideas of youth, sexuality, and how those things exist outside of our western world. When I heard about the turmoil in Kiev, I immediately thought of Sasha, my friend who signs every email with “Hugs!” and who is always eager to share his specific brand of oddness with the world. I emailed him to find out how he was coping and what it’s like to be an artist in the midst of a revolution.
Christian: First off, how are you? Are you safe?
Sasha: The situation in Ukraine is really tense. Kiev is calm right now, no shots fired or people dying, but the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is very complicated. I find it difficult to talk about the “regime change,” mostly because the regime has not really changed. One gangster regime is gone, but this new one we have has gotten their hands dirty too.
Do you see yourself as more of a European or a Russian, or are those divides not as important as the news media makes them seem?
In my ideal view, I see a world without borders and states, where there is no distinction of race and nation.
What’s it like to be an artist in Kiev right now?
Being an artist is very difficult in Ukraine. No artist, myself included, can think about art when people are dying. But you have no choice; you either stand by and watch, or act in the protest. I’ve shifted my focus. I’ve painted political graffiti on the walls of the city and glued posters. At the same time, I’m trying to create a photo archive of the conflict. The situation here has a direct impact on everything. I think art acts as a mirror for what is happening in society. In Ukraine, after what’s happening in the Maidan, art will be more political and radical.
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