November 5, 2012 James Clar – “Iris was a Pupil”
05th of November – 08th of December 2012
Carbon 12 is delighted to announce the solo exhibition of the American multi-media artist James Clar, “Iris was a Pupil”, opening on November 5th 2012. As the title clearly suggests it, the new works are about the sensation of visual stimuli, the constant challenge of finding new viewpoints, and the demand to keep seeing things from fresh perspectives.
“Iris was a Pupil” (also the title of a song by techno legends Autechre) also calls the connotation of synaesthesia to mind. The theme of crossing borders is always present in the work of Clar, who lives and works between New York and Dubai: not only in the sense of redefining the physical limitations and boundaries of media (mediums), but also in the metaphysical sense of investigating subjects such as nationalism and globalism in the age of social technologies. Here, he takes a step further, blurring the lines between dreams and reality, synthetic and real.
Aesthetically, his oeuvre is closely related to early minimalism and conceptualism. The new mission is to feedforward instead of to feedback. His technique always allows him to go beyond self-referentiality and touches very current themes while closely investigating the politics of representation. Clar’s work is deeply connected to art historical discourse, but cutting edge at the same time: where most artists would only ask How, Clar’s work is all about the Why.
Lights and filters, brainwaves and diagrams: Clar deals with raw material and raw data. His approach towards subject matter is physical and analytical at the same time, direct in implementation, but meta in discourse. Where new media minimalism meets information theory, Clar is on the bleeding edge: self-sufficient but far from self-contained. The works not only keep exploring the entanglement of aesthetics and theory, but Clar fuses these to something that deserves to be called true media art.
Text by Albert Allgaier
Conversation between the Gallerist, Kourosh Nouri and the Artist, James Clar
Kourosh Nouri: James, we finally have you in the program! I still freshly remember our encounter in 2008 and the first time we discovered your works.You have moved marvelously forward with your practice and this first solo show with Carbon 12 is a very exciting one, considering we are exploring a new contemporary field: multimedia light approach…I even like the sound of it! How do you feel about that?
James Clar: Thank you! I’m really excited to show with Carbon 12. I’ve watched the gallery from when you first opened and it’s been great to see the variety and high level of art displayed at the gallery. It was always refreshing to see a trans-global viewpoint of art in the region.
Technology doesn’t have a border, in fact it’s doing a lot to erase geographical borders. More and more technology is integrated into our lives and I believe art should reflect on how that shapes our thinking. Art should also be open to using new technology as a means to communicate this change.
Kourosh: You are one of the most “playful” artists in our program. The only ones I think that approach a work so playfully are maybe Olaf Breuning and Anahita Razmi. I believe this is also one of the key points of your work that strikes the viewers of your works. What goes through your mind? Tell me for instance, how was the process for “One Minute Dreamstate” or “Waves”?
James: I grew up with videogames, computers, music videos, etc., so I guess my work is a reflection of that. I often see my work as pop-influenced minimalism founded in media theory. However, media theory doesn’t have to be dry. For instance, science fiction is a whole genre based on postulating what a future or alternate reality might be like with ties to our own that we can relate to.
This is the basis for “One Minute Dreamstate”, and the conceptual focus of the exhibition itself. For “One Minute Dreamstate” I recorded my brainwaves while sleeping, centering in on the moment I hit REM sleep (the dream stage). It’s from this vantage that most of the works come from. They reflect the creation of an alternate computer reality that is also a reflection of our own. It starts with “One Minute Dreamstate” and ends with “Wake Up”, an alarm clock in a vacuum chamber.
Kourosh: I totally see that James…I personally admire how close a viewer comes to your art and I must admit that your “playfulness” radically eliminates the rigidity of the medium. When I explain your works to art enthusiasts, there is always a spontaneous smile appearing on their faces, and I love the “of course…wow”. Contemporary art should be sometimes simplified and brought back to its rough forms. When I think of the fathers of minimal art: the artists Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, and then looking at your work, I just realize that one of the layers of your works is to eliminate that rigidity. Somehow the extremely formal approach of those two references.
James: That’s true. I think it has to do with our relation to light and technology media. We are much more integrated with it, staring at computer screens or cellphones everyday. So I think there is something that people can relate to. It’s funny because I feel like computers are becoming more human and humans are becoming more robotic. We’ve become more systematic in our daily lives; I “like” this, tweet this info, now I’m here, etc. Our daily lives are spent listing out what we do. “Social media” is the application and our brains are the CPU’s running those applications.
This sounds very sci-fi, but it seems like it’s becoming the truth.
Kourosh: As an art lover and an art professional, in the past, I always feared “technical” art works, specifically the use of lights. Since we have been working with you, this “fear” has been dissipated and the simplicity of your works, and the way you personally master and tame the technical aspects are so refreshing.
James: Originally I studied film with a concentration in 3D animation. Then at graduate school I studied media art. It was here that I learned basic electrical engineering and programming microchips. I was still interested in communicating stories and ideas, but with this new technical knowledge I could approach visual storytelling in more physically abstract ways than the TV medium will allow.
However, I don’t think the work I do is overly technical or complicated. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I like to strip an idea to its core essence both conceptually and physically, and this is why a lot of the work ends up being pure light.
Kourosh: Your works are somehow mesmerizing, almost hypnotic…
James: It’s difficult sometimes to get perspective as an artist because you are constantly trying to push yourself further off base. Your frame of reference is intentionally off and you are trying to get people to see from that viewpoint.
But related to that, let me ask you a question! I feel like every artist has a different world they inhabit with different issues and problems…How do you and Carbon 12 choose which artist “worlds” to include in your program?
Kourosh: As you know, even before Carbon 12’s birth, when we were in the very early stage of planning, we always wanted a wide program. A wide program is sometimes challenging, yet exciting. Also in curatorial terms we can do so much with the whole program. Yes, each of you has their own contemporary approach and visual language. In your case, we were looking into “light” from the very beginning. The moment we saw your first works we knew your universe could be part of that wide program, yet, there is something very organic in your approach that fits even some of our painters’ approach!
James: This is very true and especially with this current exhibition. I am really trying to approach lighting from a “painterly” aesthetic. I’m pushing further into a visual style that is aesthetically and technically my own.
Kourosh: For the fist time, we have a part of an artwork that was created with the help of a 3-D printer (the work “Orchid”)…Just writing this sounds like science fiction. It is very fascinating how technology appears in your work and you are always capable of turning it into visual art!
James: I love how Yves Klein invented a new blue using processes which was previously unavailable. When we understand what a technological process means or how it can affect us on a human level, then we can integrate it into art. So I’m very much into the communication possibilities created with technology and new production processes. As I previously brought up, we are surrounded more and more by technology, so it’s important to think about how that is shifting notions of culture and identity.