Jeremy Hight: what are you working on right now?
Patrick Lichty: That depends on what you mean—today I am finishing up the second of two rock videos for my pre-RTMark media collective, Haymarket RIOT (which obviously still exists) for a Greensboro, North Carolina homeless project called The Healing Blues. It's called "What's Inside" and was written by one of the area's homeless as a collaboration with the region's musicians. This project's videos would grow into the visual style for RTMark and animations for The Yes Men.
Lately I have been doing Jacquard loom tapestries based on various social justice themes, like loneliness or drone strikes or environmentalism. The Jacquard Loom was invented in 1803 as the first digital production method, but it also gave rise to the Luddites and Saboteurs. With the rise of mechanization of labor being relevant today, I think this work questions a lot.
I have also been developing robotically-drawn drawings currently based off of Random Internet Cats, which is my commentary on the current Post-Internet art boom. They are generatively drawn using a polar drawbot and brush pens on good old 150# Arches paper. Where I started to work with the machine just to get it going, I have expanded to doing color separations, and now taking those separations into florescent colors, which I will also overspray in the next round. They were inspired by Marisa Olson's Monitor Drawings, where Internet content becomes an evident ink-on-paper piece. I'm happy with this body of work.
In the background are a rogue's gallery of little projects, like Arduino-based sculpture, a series of Computerized Numerical Control and 3D printed works, as well as my gearing up for some sound/videojockying work.
JH: Who and what are some of your main influences? have they changed over the years?
PL: This will make more sense when your question about theory comes about. I would say my influences are the First Wave Avant-Garde (especially Dada when it comes to things like Second Front), Postmodern theorists like Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi. I consider myself a theorist who makes or one who creates 'sensable concepts'. But lately, I have been trying to dig into pre-Web sources for my work, and have been working with Hank Bull to help decode old telematic-era digital video transmissions. I also heard from Nina Czgledy about this as well, so this is super-exciting. I think that's really exciting, as I'm creating an open Slow Scan TV art archive.
JH: What was RTMark all about?
PL: RTMark wa/i/s the parent group from which The Yes Men came. It was framed as a 'mutual fund for corporate sabotage' that had people like DJ Spooky, Andrei Codrescu and others being the managers of supposed mutual funds of subversive projects. The idea was to put together funder and artist to create subversive projects. One of them was to represent an international corporate concern at a trade summit (or thereabouts). Thus, The Yes Men.
JH: What was working with Yes Men like? The animations are amazing.
PL: Being an original one, that's a strange question. We've all been around each other for almost 20 years? Things come and go. I've become more of a sleeper cell/content producer as The Yes Lab and Action Switchboard emerged in New York. I'm just not in New York City, and my strength is in media production versus having my boots on the ground.
The animations are even MORE amazing when you realize that my usual turn-around time was originally about two weeks, and squeezed to an average of 5-7 days for five minutes of character animation. RTMark days were much more leisurely, but as things compressed, ironically like a need for increase in productivity, I went into Second Life to help start Second Front and to put together a workflow that would be two days, rather than six. I still do 2-3 anims for the movies, and go out with them on occasion, but I'm as likely to be seen with drones and the Overpass Light Brigade, who I will miss when I leave Milwaukee later this year.
JH: What connective tissues do you see in the range of work you produce?
PL: I've tossed that around a lot over the past 25 years, and I've come to the conclusion that mediation creates its own realities, and I usually link that to some form of social justice agenda or critical reflection on the medium's place in society, history, etc., which leads us to your next question.
JH: Is art production and critical theory linked in your process?
PL: It's central. The beginning of my practice started when Jon Epstein and I re-initiated Haymarket RIOT (it was a prog-rock band in North Carolina, and we decided that it would serve for a container for our multi-media theory). We were studying Baudrillard and Virilio at the time, and he asked how this could be articulated through media ("Pat, what does hyperreality LOOK like?" "Simple; turn on cable"). I was thinking about pervasive & transmedia in 1996-8, and now I'm thinking about Bruce Sterling's statement that children born now will see the 22nd Century. That's a lot to think about, given that we put so much promise into the 21st.
JH: What areas of technology do you see as most ripe for creative exploration and critical analysis at the moment?
PL: I've always liked the 'realities' (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, and thus my involvement with Second Front and Manifest.AR), as well as drones. There are two aspects to being an early adopter; the first is that there is a seduction to new technology as there is a promise of its potential and a fear of being left behind. Secondly (on the other hand), I find artists use this as a crutch for weak work, more often than not, but also you have to give compassion for the pioneer in that they are in unknown ground. My approach is practice-based research seeking out what the immediate impacts of new technology are on society and how that can be effectively communicated to my audience.
Conversely, I also feel that there are immense areas of near-abandoned media that are rich areas to revisit, like Slow-Scan TV. Perhaps also doing things like feeding drone video through these devices may give us a great perspective on where technoculture situates itself in a larger sense.
Jeremy Hight is a Staff Interviewer at Unlikely Stories: Episode IV. You can learn more about him at his bio page.
Patrick is a media "reality" artist, curator, and theorist of over two decades who explores how media and mediation affect our perception of reality. He is best known for his work as an Artistic Director of the virtual reality performance art group Second Front, and the animator of the activist group, The Yes Men. He is a CalArts/Herb Alpert Fellow and Whitney Biennial exhibitor as part of the collective RTMark. He has presented and exhibited internationally at numerous biennials and triennials (Yokohama, Venice, Performa, Maribor, Turin, Sundance), and conferences (Iowa State Education Association; Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques; Popular Culture Association; Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts; and South by Southwest). He is also Editor-in-Chief of Intelligent Agent Magazine, and a writer for the RealityAugmented blog. His recent book, Variant Analyses: Interrogations of New Media Culture was released by the Institute for Networked Culture, and is included in the Oxford Handbook of Virtuality.