Art is being destroyed in order to yield to entertainment.
– Jonathan Paul aka DOC.
He explores different themes of desire, addiction and distraction. He inspires critiques about art bling, consumerism, the one per cent, their intelligence-crushing crassness. He’s dressed in tattoos and speaks calmly but intensely. The über talented artist on our October Cover Story is no other than the infamous Jonathan Paul aka Desire Obtain Cherish, one of the most talented and probably the most singular contemporary artists of his time. His work awakens endless interpretations but if you care to ask him, there’s only one:
Do you think that what sparks the controversy around your work is how people refuse to admit the biggest problems and failures of society that your work shows, such as consumerism, vanity and shallowness?
I didn’t know my work was controversial? I didn’t know society was failing us? I’ve often thought about people who complain when something changes. They get upset when their neighborhood gets gentrified, or some new hotel opens on their corner and threatens their very existence. It’s funny really. The best explanation I can make is that the moment they moved in, nothing was supposed to change. Not to mention they moved in and that alone might have upset someone else. Their attitude is that I’m here and progress should stop all around me, and if I feel the slightest change in attitudes I have a right to complain that the world is failing and certainly other people and society are to blame. Progress isn’t looking the way I want. Progress is looking too commercial.
Do we watch more and read less? Headlines only, click bait, sound bites. Is the world dumbing down? Might seem so based on the little tickers at the bottom of Fox and CNN. I read recently that our attention span is officially less than a goldfish. I’m not sure how they measured that really, that alone should be another artwork.
I digress. So we’re dumber. News, political debates, theatre, art and books are no longer judged on the power of their ideas but on their ability to entertain. “We are all just, entertainers!” – Jay Z, wait no, Kurt Cobain. See? It gets confusing with each new generation repeating sound bites.
Hannah Arendt, a political theorist stated, “Culture is being destroyed in order to yield to entertainment.” So I suppose I should change the quote to be more current and read, “Art is being destroyed in order to yield to entertainment.” I mean Banksy steals quotes, so why can’t I? I guess the question really is am I an artist or an entertainer? To what extent does entertainment become vain and shallow? I think MTV was responsible in the 80’s. A Harvard University author Cesar A.Cruz recently said, “Art should comfort the the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” If art has indeed become entertainment and I the entertainer – that disturbs me uncomfortably. Long live art.
Your work has no limits: we see different materials, concepts, color palettes, techniques all in both paintings and sculptures; how’s your creative process, from the inspiration source to the final touch?
I get bored. So do you, admit it. So what? I grew up on the outside of a city, there were empty fields, open skies, lots of room to play. Someone told me that the cells in our bodies completely change every 7 years. That means the old me that started 7 years ago is gone and the new me is here. Thank God. The old me had no patience. He’d never of sat for this interview. He’d say, “What’s the point? No one seriously is going to read this, don’t be an idiot.” “Everyone only thinks about themselves.” “Not another interview with a stupid artist.” “Too many words. More pictures!”
You’ve made some “parodies” or versions of iconic art-works from other artists, such us Damien Hirst’s shark or Piet Mondrian’s squares, which seem to kind of downplay the vainglory of some successful artists, coming both from themselves and from critics/public; was it your intention? Have you ever had this feeling with fellow artists?
A well dressed art collector leaned over to me during dinner one night after a friend’s gallery opening in Chelsea and whispered, “Wanna hear a little story?” I said, “Sure.” “A story of two gentlemen,” he said. “Each has a yacht, each has houses on different continents, each has more cars than they can drive, and more watches than they can wear. But what one man has that the other man doesn’t is a Rothko. A Rothko that used to be owned by David Rockefeller.” “Sounds like the collector is more important than the artist,” I said. He smiled wryly and gave me a hard wink. The Collectors. The Collectors. The “Collectors”. You’re missing the point.
What’s your message? Did people understand it and therefore your art from the very beginning?
Ok. Let me take this moment to address my critics. The rest of you can skip this section. “Contemporary art is half art materials, half words. Reducing the sentiment further, the best way to describe contemporary art is to say that ‘art is the discourse about itself.’ Applying the same sentiments to contemporary social media, online personas are not unlike this same discourse. We are centaurs of half constructs of social conditioning, half delusions of grandeur. Online we become the ‘discourse of myself.’ In other words, ‘Let me talk about myself.’ Like contemporary art, we can gain significance when a suitable explanation can be attached to us from others, and successful when we become a talked about person of our aesthetic culture, though not necessarily profound or desirable to society at large.” That should make everything clear now.
Do you believe art has the power to change things with the message that you give it?
“Power to change?”, you asked? Art? Are you and I living in the same century? In order to change anyones opinion these days you either need to control the network, distribution channel, or hack into it. Like a meme. I think memes are more effective in communicating to people than art. Memes. They’re like a virus. They spread at amazing rates. They’re fast. They’re free. Far more effective than posting a pic of a painting on Instagram. Inspirational memes are even better. Like a quick drink or pill to give us that instant rush so we can feel better about ourselves and forge forward toward our dreams. Disposable spiritually. Drink it up!All fears are quickly swallowed by mouthfuls of concentrated shots of inspirational quotes that calm our hearts to strengthen our truths. We harden as we swallow. We become warriors. We become Gods! Fuck art. I’m gonna be a Meme Farmer.
DOC’s work can be found exclusively at:
UNIX Gallery New York
532 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
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