Brian Sherwin: JD, you studied at Alfred University and at Bard College. Can you tell our readers about your academic years? For example, did you have any influential instructors? Also, do you have any advice for current students?
John Daniel Walsh: Both experiences were good in different ways. Alfred in the 90's was a great place with a lot of exciting stuff happening, especially in the electronic art and 2-d departments, which is funny because most people think of Alfred as a ceramics school. To this day I remain extremely close with many people that I first met there. Peer Bode and Andrew Deutsch were instructors that had a profound effect on the way I thought about making art.
Bard was chosen largely because it takes place in the summer - at the time I was living in Atlanta, teaching at the Atlanta College of Art (now SCAD), and I didn't want to give up teaching, so the summer schedule worked out great for me. Bard is a funny place - you don't get so much done in terms of art production because of the short schedule, so what really matters is the feedback, connections, and philosophical aspects of your work. So after the summer you have all year to unpack it. I also got to meet a lot of great people there, many of whom are doing great things now.
I'm not sure what advice I can give students, except that they should try as many different things as they want - if you're early in your career, you have plenty of time to focus, and don't underestimate the value of experimentation.
Manual Blues (Times Spread Time-love Bare), 2008, Video Projector, Wood, Metronome, DVD Player
JDW: Well a lot of my work comes from experiments with chance. Not all, but a lot of it. "Manual Blues" was one of these pieces. I wrote a simple computer program that would take two texts that I would select, and it would weave them together into one. In the end, it's hard to tell what word comes from which source. For "Manual Blues", one text comes from old Blues lyrics, and the other comes from a technical document about gardening.
Though I've worked a lot with video and new media, not all of my works are electronic. The series "Slow Fade" mostly consist of static objects made from wood, and are painted and silkscreened. Many of these pieces are appropriated, enlarged objects that are literally crashing into other appropriated, enlarged objects. I see these as a physical manifestation of the cinematic fade between scenes, where two things are visible at once, along with all of the baggage and history that's associated with these.
BS: Can you discuss the social implications of your work? Do you strive to examine any specific aspects of popular culture?
JDW: That's a tough one, because I do use a lot of appropriate images from popular culture. But it's not so much a critique on these objects or capitalism, etc. Instead, I often use recognizable images to critique and call attention to the way meaning is constructed. And it's easier to achieve this if I use very recognizable images.
BS: What about other influences? Are you influenced by any specific artist, movement, or event?
JDW: I love all sorts of art and music - John Cage, Duchamp, Eno - anyone experimenting with chance, non-determinate art. Some younger or contemporary artists I'm into lately are Peter Coffin, Aida Ruilova, Wade Guyton, Urs Fischer, Rachel Harrison, just to name a few.
sub Sensory (with Scott Silvey), The hollow forms of domestic sets are scattered throughout the room. There is a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom scene. On large video screens, ghostly figures inhabit these spaces and go about their daily routines. In the gallery are tiny video surveillance cameras that capture the image of the gallery audience, and transports these images into the video space shared with the domestic ghosts
JDW: Yes! As a matter of fact, Scott and I collaborated on a piece called "subSensory" in 2001. This exhibition was the result of a grant from the City of Atlanta. It was a fun show, and a true collaboration from the beginning. We made these bare-bones "sets" of domestic rooms - a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom - and set up cameras that would capture the images of people in the audience. Then the people in the gallery would see themselves mixed up with images of people that weren't there - these kinds of domestic "ghosts" lurking around the gallery.
Slow Fade 2 (Pop), 2006, Silkscreen on wood and birch pedestal, 22 x 19 x 9 inches
BS: My understanding is that you are represented by Solomon Projects. You have had two solo exhibitions at Solomon Projects that I'm aware of. Do you foresee a third?
JDW: I certainly hope so! Solomon Projects is a great gallery, and Nancy Solomon has always been so great and supportive. She was one of the first people in Atlanta to really embrace video art, which is not an easy thing to do in a small market. It's hard to believe that the first piece I showed there was almost 10 years ago!
BS: Finally, will you be involved with any other exhibits in the near future?
JDW: Yes, I'm working on a bunch of projects now - I'll be in an exhibition at the University of Virginia in January 2009, a show about landscape, I'm also working on a new video, a group of audio recordings, and a possible audio installation. There may also be a few group shows in the New York area as well.