JK Keller’s Realigning My Thoughts on Jasper Johns – a Simpson’s title sequence digitally corrupted till its eyes popped – is just one piece in a portfolio heavy on software misuse and persistently good idea-based projects. Projects that are not only immediate (see the imposing peoples profiles onto each other in You trying to be Me trying to be You) but very aesthetic (like the total levelling of an alpine landscape in the Tantamount Series) – what’s more, Keller doesn’t seem to confine himself in any way. Never appearing to start in the same place, be it with a process or a good pun, or with any specific medium, and I bet you couldn’t guess what he’ll do next.
Right in the middle of it all is his lifetime undertaking, The Adaption to My Generation. Keller is the one who’s had patience enough since 1998 to photograph himself everyday, melting each portrait together into montage that makes his facial hair look like a dangerous sea anemone (every couple years or so.) We caught up with him and asked three of about a thousand questions…
There is a pleasing broadness to both your concept- and experiment-led work, what are the differences in your processes when approaching these two types of project? Like Jasper Johns and Tantamount…
Oh, thanks! My work stems from an uncertainty, ambivalence and misunderstanding of my own relationship to technology, tools and working processes. That’s where the variety comes from. It’s a direct result of not knowing answers, of not giving in to steadfast opinions, but being open to questions that arise from the process of making & doing. And then being even more willing to allow those questions to remain unanswered, messy, un-opinionated, ambiguous, etc. For both the projects you mentioned, I started with the simple query, “What happens if I _________” (align paths in Illustrator & alter silhouettes, respectively) and after working through the technicalities of answering that question, applying the results to parties unconnected to the original impetus.
Work like Fucking-Windows.com is specifically interactive while other projects inspire interaction in an sort of emulative way – simple ideas that resonate with people like The Adaption to My Generation – how do you include the viewer into the working process, if at all?
I went to school to study architecture but moved to interactive multimedia, so early on my ultimate concern was how I created for the “user”. Not just a viewer, but someone who is engaged in the active participation and realisation of my works. Decisions focused on experiential choreography and working to heighten the suspension of disbelief which ultimately led to full engagement within a work. Since those heady & utopian days of youth, I worry less and less about total immersion in a single experience and am trying to cultivate a sense of passive or casual immersion (if that’s not an oxymoron). It goes to what I expressed in the previous question, that I’m trying to live within, accept and ultimately be content inside the ambiguous multitude of conflicting viewpoints, emotions, styles, themes, etc. Then, offer it to viewers.
The continuity with all your work though (I think) is equal parts funny-haha to funny-weird and it looks like a lot of fun make – is it?
That continuity comes from another restless tension between having a rather dry, dark humour mixed with my inability to not laugh at a fart joke. But making it, hmmm, I wouldn’t say fun, no. And that’s mostly due to an irrational and puritanical disapproval of recreation—you may call it a compulsion for the repression of expression (ask Keetra [Dean Dixon] about it sometime)—being at odds with a intense desire to attain the idyllic pleasure state that is “flow”. These things being at odds with one another do not make for a delightful process, rather one that I constantly find myself trudging through. This work is important, is imperative, so I will continue to claw. The indulgence that comes from finishing is the “fun” for me, no matter how fleeting those seconds are.