For this interview, Chicago-based artist Jefferson Pinder offers some valuable insights into his video piece, “Afro Cosmonaut Alien (White Noise)” featured in SOMArts exhibition, Overturn The Artifice. Jefferson’s work will be on display March 8-29, 2013.
In “Afro Cosmonaut Alien (White Noise)” you spend much of the film interacting with images that are being projected over your body, which is painted white. What does this layering of images mean for you?
The layering of images speaks to the complexity of interaction. I believe that the footage is representative of combustion and progress and I use my body as a proxy of black identity. As the images dance on the figure, I’m allowing myself to be a canvas in which anything can happen.
Do you see the performers in Ben-Hur as theatrical characters or as sculptures of struggling bodies?
I think they are both performers and sculpture. They work together in unity like a pumping machine.Their physical presence is something that you have to deal with, but the action allows for deeper and more meaningful harmony. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive.
There’s a wonderful contrast in Ben-Hur between the forced labor of rowing a galley ship and the voluntary labor of exercise. How does the idea of labor figure into your practice?
In Ben-Hur, the action is about labor. Forced or unforced. It’s about physical prowess and exertion no matter what the reason…these figures are heroically making their struggles public. Labor plays a big part in the black experience historically. Progress and forward momentum is not nesscarily linked to hard work. This is the irony that examine with labor in my work.
What do you expect viewers to take away from their encounters with your work?
I hope the viewers have the the chance to process the action and drive of the flow of action for the work. I don’t have any major expectations. I seek to poetically open up a dialog. I like the idea that people bring their own baggage to the work. I use my performance as way to stylize action and labor and I hope that the spectator and can begin to connect the dots about a human experience with out a overt need to be didactic or to make hard demands on their visual experience.
You write, “Afro-Cosmonaut/Alien (White Noise) is an escapist video narrative that ends in destruction when the protagonist plummets back to earth after a mystical space journey. Like Icarus, the epic fall comes after reaching a brilliant zenith that is both mesmerizing and lethal.” Can you discuss the literality of your character’s journey?
Well, the piece is influence by Afro-futurist ideals. I grew up a big fan of science-fiction. Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Battle Star Galactica (man’s last hope for survival). I enjoy thinking about how this can relate to identity and blackness.
Who actually gets to make these space journey’s anyway? Aren’t these trips voyeuristic experiences that represent progress and determination? I think you may be looking at the whole piece a little too literally. If you think that the character in white face is not actually in space, it’s all mental. Even though the protagonist might not make a physical space journey, it is representative of escapism and breaking free of the earth’s gravitational pull (and everything associated with that). Art making is about illusion anyway.
Do you see your work as being mostly narrative?
It’s a creative or personal narrative, but it’s loose though…nothing too restrictive or predictable. There is a deeper narrative in play here in which the viewer is an active participant to help make sense of a barrage of imagery.
About the Interviewer: Lex Kosieradzki grew up in Minneapolis and now he’s working on his MFA in Social Practice at the California College of the Arts. He lives in Oakland.
Above image: still from “Afro Cosmonaut Alien (White Noise)” by Jefferson Pinder