Nearly three months have passed since Beaubourg 268′s inaugural event This Ain’t A Happenin: Transient Acts & Documents, and still participants have sent me emails asking about Jessica Gomula’s installation work. Re-remembering the event at the time, the unexpected arrival of old friends, nervous meetings with new friends, performance artist Josue Rivera’s surprising act in between Violence & Theatricality, remembering the sarcasm of the ones on the right and the annoyed scepticism of the ones on the left, demanding for a newer and higher synthesis of Art, remembering the uneaten hamburgers and red meat in the washroom, remembering the laughter and whispered gossip besides the outdoor fire and transluscent phosphorescent videoart, remembering the moans and groans of Jessica Gomula’s audio and video installation, etc, etc. Maybe it was all just a wild dream. That night and related questions are the subject of this interview.
Many of the sorts of questions raised by This Ain’t A Happenin can be distilled in Jessica Gomula’s “peep show” video installation. Part of the intrigue, for many spectators, was attempting to figure out what was going on on the opposite side of Gomula’s occluded openings (in one passage a woman is doing aerobics, while in another a woman is presumably performing fellatio, etc). And then there were the participants who simply enjoyed the spectral, haunted environment Jessica was able to create; the darkness of the space and the pornographic murmurs, coupled with the projection of the slowly revealing neon lights of strip clubs and topless bars.
BEAUBOURG 268: Can you say a few words about the production of this installation? Perhaps something about your creative process?
JESSICA GOMULA: My work often begins with observation of our digital media world, and coalesces around images and scenes that I find absurd or contradictory. Projects evolve metaphorically and literally from there. Both of these projects reveal a tendency in my work to allude to specific sexual activities, without actually revealing any.
B268: What was your impression of Beaubourg 268?
JG: I think the arts collective is a great way to go in our current arts atmosphere of multidisciplinary post modern environments. It reminds me very much of the goals of the 1972 Womanhouse in L.A., or of the artist borough of Chelsea in the early 19th century.
B268: According to your statement on Liquid Neon (http://liquidneon.net/) your work “is an interactive investigation of the sexual aspects of our culture. [Your] work intends to be direct, whether the result is imagery of nude bodies and sexual paraphernalia, or purely semantic in nature. [You] seek to generate an intelligent dialogue about sex by combining interactivity, playfulness, and humor.” Can you expand on this?
JG: If you can laugh about it, then you can talk about it, and dialog is a very important part of examining our own behaviors.
B268: I was struck by the title of your research blog (http://jgomula.blogspot.com/): “I make research not art[.]” I feel a similar way about my work; the endless debates over what is and isn’t art bores me. What’s your take on research? Do you have a working definition of art?
JG: This title is a play on one of my favorite blogs – we make money not art. Research is always in the beta phase, and not as locked into a single concrete thesis – much of my work involves a randomizing aspect, and so it is also not to be too firmly pinned down to a single concrete representation. So much of our lives are in constant flux and endless fluid revisions. The masterpiece, as a single ideal is no longer relevant in our remix culture.
B268: At the beaubourg event we talked a little about your project concerning a four-part video response to Modesto’s ranking as the most unlivable city in the country. At the time your project reminded me of other para-utopian art projects concerned with the reimagining of cities such as post-9/11 New York and post-Katrina New Orleans. Can you tell us a little about the status of the project thus far?
JG: Currently the films are scheduled to be screened as part of the 2010 Modesto International Architecture Festival. The project’s next phase, which will be enacted this Fall, is a ARG built from the framework of Jane McGonigal‘s EVOKE.
B268: You are the professor of new media at California State University, Stanislaus. How has teaching influenced or shaped your research?
JG: I work with my students on the development and realization of my current project, Building Imagination, so teaching and research are intimately related and reflexive.
B268: You are an active member of the inter-media performance group Double Vision in San Francisco. How would you describe the art scene in San Francisco? Or if this is too broad of a question – how would you describe the immediate kinds of activities you and your colleagues have pursued?
JG: Colorfully. DOUBLE VISION’s immersive performances, Evolutionary Patterns and the Lonely Owl, are a series of events during which the audience roams freely, exploring a multitude of performances, environments, and installations. The artists strike a balance between unity, complexity, chaos and ritual. My own installations with DOUBLE VISION often involve transparent fabric walls flooded with video projections and processed live video.
B268: You’re friends with the video/installation artist Gina Clark. Though her art school background comes out of Cal Arts – you both seem to share the sentiment that “our sexual culture deserves dedicated, creative exploration.” How do you understand the relation between her work and your own work?
JG: Our work is well aligned conceptually, and we have collaborated together in the past on a VJ performance in which live drawings and performances were mashed-up with an animated love story. Slippery Dreams was presented at Climate Theatre’s Hypnagogia by Sean Clute, Gina Clark, and myself.
B268: Could you discuss whether or how far it would be right to see the idea of ‘transgression’ in your work being elaborated? In particular, some feminists have argued that the use of pornographic elements as a sign of transgression is merely a reproduction of the non-transgressive mainstream. Where do you sit on this issue?
JG: Working in a post modern climate, I have always been fascinated by the multitude of images surrounding me, and I have always seen it as part of my artistic freedom to cull them all together into a new context. While I agree that much of my work is deliberately open-ended enough to allow for different viewpoints and interpretations, I also believe that my sex-positive feminist stance is visible in the underlying structure of the works.
B268: Which writers, artists and thinkers have been significant in your own development?
JG: Ann Hamilton, Joshua Davis, Gloria Steinem, Liz Phair, Song of Solomon, Womanhouse, Girl Talk.
- Master of Fine Arts, Printmaking, Illinois State University, Normal, IL
- Bachelor of Fine Arts, Printmaking, Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, GA
- 2012: Ssshhhh! Alameda Public Library. Alameda, California.
- 2011: Meet Your Neighbor public art installation. Modesto Art Museum. Throughout downtown Modesto, including over 35 storefronts. Modesto, CA.
- 2009: Semantic Frottage, solo video installation. Modesto Art Museum / Mistlin Gallery, Modesto, California.
- 2008: Life’s Trantric Love Triangles. 21 Grand Gallery, Oakland, California.
- 2008: B.O.O.B. (Breastfeeding Outside Our Bedrooms). Austin, Texas.
- 2008: Infinite Transformations of Desire. University Gallery, California State University, Stanislaus, Turlock, California.
- 2007: Love’s Receipts. Print / Photo Gallery, Truckee Meadows Community College, Truckee Meadows, Nevada.
- 2000: Transformations. University Galleries, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois.
The Uncomfortable and Fascinating work of Jessica Gomula
These days we seem to confront sex and sexual issues everywhere, even as we have many reasons to be uncomfortable with our bodies and with actually enjoying sex ourselves. This push-pull of arousal and resistance parallels our experience of technology, and the intersection of sex with technology wraps these tensions and frictions into a disturbing yet irresistible web in which we may long to be entrapped. In 2007 critic Josephine Bosma pointed out that “The ‘body’ can [also] be perceived as a collection of systems and fragments of systems. It is at the same time dispersed and whole (Bosma 2007).” In the post-human world we now inhabit, technology allows the transgression of boundaries between genres and media, between the cerebral and the sensual, while at the same time allowing us to escape from the flesh into personae; avatars; virtual selves that keep us insulated from the messy physicality of sex and of bodies generally.
You have just finished reading this brief essay on the work of Jessica Gomula. You have looked at the images that it addresses, crisply printed in the catalog that accompanies her recent exhibition. You wish to go deeper and investigate her work in detail, seek it at its source, in the original, the prototypical. You have seen the evidence tantalizingly displayed and now you want the real thing. You check out the artist’s website and there it all is, catalogued and packaged, ready for your perusal.
As an artist I explore the intimate and the sexual capacities of human nature, and its changing boundary of private and public expression. I am interested in investigating the intimate space around erotic activities and how these spaces move through and change with time.
My work addresses both physical changes within an individual’s body, as well as cultural changes that occur over generations. I explore intimacy by creating a playground of discussion around and through my work. The use of humor in my work serves a two-fold purpose. It defrays the tension that is often found coalescing around the notion of sexuality in our culture. It also lays an emotional map by which to navigate the subjects I am considering in a particular work. Humor belies my approach to the potential playfulness of the human sexual experience. My work generates a dialog about the sexual and erotic by combining interactivity, playfulness, and humor. I attempt to bring attention to blind spots surrounding intimacy by utilizing forms and objects that are associated with intimacy, but may be ephemeral in nature.
Six Artists in California
The following is an exerpt from the catalog essay written by David Olivant for the 2006 exhibition “Made in China – Six Artists in California” at the Peter Scott Gallery in Lancaster, England.
In the art of Jessica Gomula, a recently arrived artist at CSU Stanislaus, the Post-Modern hybridization of genre and style is second-nature, virtually a reflex. The American flag, made in China, is almost a commonplace and irony such a staple item of the artistic diet that it passes through the digestive tract without so much as a hiccup. The computer screen is the melting pot for this cocktail, which I feel perfectly justified in using mixed metaphors to describe!
Jessica’s website, the most obvious portal through which the neophyte viewer might approach her output, presents us with an opening page that mimics a sheet of handmade paper and we suspect trouble immediately. Many of the short movies that can be activated there, like Happy Holidays, explore the socio-political issues surrounding sexual intimacy. The layering and stylistic heterogeneity are reminiscent of Polke and Salle, though the mood is sweeter. Significant is the sheer quantity of different media layered into a seamless whole, which underplays, if not suppresses the irony, as if there could be nothing more natural than the overlay of painted images, video montage, photographic stills, text, and sound.
Curated by Samantha Rich for Rhizome.org’s ArtBase.
Opened on Nov 02, 2005
In today’s society, women are often viewed not as a unique individual, but as an idea or concept: a mother, a housewife, a sex-toy, etc. “Maintaining the Ideal” is a collection of pieces that speak on woman’s perceived role in society as a plastic and unrealistic idealized version of a female, and how trying to maintain that ideal may entail the loss of one’s own identity. (continue reading…)
Posted by Lewis LaCook September, 2004
Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
–Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming
The Beethoven Code
The idea of programming aesthetic experience is a seductive one. Figurative painters have employed means for centuries to control the flow of a viewer’s sight through a painting; composers have developed strategies to break Western Art Music out of the comfort of functional tonality and into the realms of serialism(Schoenberg) and indeterminacy(Cage). Indeed, all arts, even those not executed via computer, seem to be based on the idea of programming experience, and by the binary forces inherent in programming: freedom and control. (continue reading…)
My work is an interactive investigation of the sensual aspects of our culture. My work intends to be direct, whether the result is imagery of nude bodies and sexual paraphernalia, or purely semantic in nature. I seek to generate an intelligent dialog about sex by combining interactivity, playfulness, and humor. My work is about ephemeral sexual cultures, the private spaces around erotic activities, and how these spaces move through and change with time. (continue reading…)