Public Sculpture, by Jeremy Bailey screens as part of Vertical Distraction at the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, February 3, 2012
It’s hard to take Jeremy Bailey, The Famous New Media Artist, completely seriously, what with computer-generated imagery hanging off his limbs in most of his videos. But he professes there is plenty of truth in his artwork. Bailey has been producing videos that speak to the strange relationship we have with technology for the past ten years. And oddly, the situations he finds himself in as an artist working with technology are ridiculous enough.
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He doesn't need to stretch reality very far to portray himself as a famous developer of artistic software that will save the world. As a privileged white male with access to technology and capital, he acknowledges that he holds a powerful position in the world. He states that this "isn’t fair, in fact it’s wrong. I’m not the only person in this position, but I am earnestly trying to destroy this position of privilege and ruin it for others." While he comes across as comical and self-deprecating in his videos, Bailey is dealing with real issues in a personal way.
Visitors experience the “Jeremy Bailey Collection” at the Marshall McLuhan Salon, February 1, 2012
He situates his work within the period of video art called “performance for the camera.” This technique emerged in the 1970s in part due to the increased access to personal video cameras. Artists like Colin Campbell and Joan Jonas used video as a mirror and performed in front of it. They also created characters for themselves. Campbell, a pioneering Canadian video artist portrayed himself as multiple transgendered identities that poked fun at the codes of television and art.
Colours Of The Spectrum
Bailey uses a similar approach but takes advantage of the technology we have access to today. He builds the code for his projects himself adding computer-generated imagery that follows his body movement. This allows him to set up a dynamic relationship between himself and the computer. When a performative decision has to be made, Bailey often lets the computer make the choice.
"What’s interesting to me are videos on YouTube, such as gestural interface demos, where people are fiddling with a Kinect or whatever and looking at how their image is affected in this way that sort of mimics the way a primate interacts with a mirror," says Bailey.
Inspired by the way technology controls us, Bailey takes his video a step further than performance for the camera. He is also performing with the computer. In fact, it's more like Bailey provokes the machine and its reaction becomes the performance. The Famous New Media Artist is more like a puppet than a performer at times.
But he appears to take no notice. Using a motion tracking system, 3D shapes, sparkles, and full spectrum colors jump off his body as he playfully demonstrates how easy it is to change the future and fix the past. While he describes the magnificence of these developments, he makes sure to show us the mechanics behind the process, revealing both the simplicity of the machine as well as the human.
Jeremy Bailey Famous New Media Artist performs at the opening ceremonies of Transmediale Festival 2012, January 31, 2012
While Jeremy Bailey performs in a bit of a vacuum, it seems he is not without a community of contemporary artists combining alter egos, humor and internet aesthetics. Hennessy Youngman and Ryan Trecartin are notorious for this approach. Bailey states, "I do feel like part of a growing community." He also mentions the influence of artists like Alex Bag and Anne Hirsch, who are working with this as well.
"For a long time, my only point of reference was performance for the camera work from the 1970s, so it’s been really nice to connect that history with some contemporary peers," says Bailey. You can draw parallels between the influence technology has had on both periods of video art. The aesthetics of YouTube have been appropriated by contemporary artists and speak to computer literate audiences. While in the ’70s, access to personal video cameras made it easy and affordable for video artists to play with and deconstruct the medium.
Bailey recently presented his work in Berlin as part of the Transmediale festival where he was happy to be included in several aspects of its programming. When asked how he sees his work relating to this years theme, In/compatible, he tells us, "I'm literally incompatible with myself. I love technology and yet I take this approach toward it that makes it look really funny and pathetic." Not only did he perform during the opening ceremonies at the Haus Der Kulteren Der Welt, his video, Public Sculpture, was included in Vertical Distractions curated by Marcel Schwierin.
Transhuman Dance Recital
A solo exhibition entitled The Jeremy Bailey Collection was presented as an off-site partnership between the Canadian Embassy and Transmediale.