Interview with Videos Collide artist Jeremy Bailey

Real-time software performance "Future of Theatre"

There is never a dull moment in Jeremy Bailey’s performances – I’d like go ahead the deliveries of his stand-up/software demos/karaoke sessions as the funnier “artistic” Steve Jobs. In “The Future of Theatre” debuting tonight, he plays “this hopeless and foolish slave trying desperately to conjure his machine to do increasingly absurd tasks of questionable use. Computers are the new chauvinist modernists.”

First off, let’s start with a survey. There’s a lot of terms floating around that describe the ballpark of your media (video / performance art). In 4 words or less, describe in your own words what it is you think you do. How much is “video” and how much is “performance”?

4 words? That’s impossible! OR, “Satirical, Software, Demo, Performance.”

How did you come to focus on your current medium/media? What’s motivating you?

My educational upbringing was strongly influenced by several key mentors that were prolific in early performance video art circles in Canada (Colin Campbell, Lisa Steele, Tom Sherman). My work emerged from a simple question: how is “performance for the camera” different today from that of the 1970s? The short answer is that the camera is now a laptop. I’m motivated by the insane implications of this development.

Your collective works all have different levels of audience interaction. What is the relationship between you and the viewer? What’s the difference between the LIVE viewer and the viewer behind the screen? What sort of role does the two you play in relation to the other? Do you think there is ever a chance that documentation will ever take over live performance? Btw, HOW important / successful do you think documentation is in bringing your performance to the audience that isn’t physically present? Okay, I realize this is definitely several questions crammed into one.

I originally started doing live performances of my videos to simply prove that what I was doing was not post production. Soon after I realized there are a lot of differences between performing in your apartment and performing in a live context. Everything seems more risky and exciting, and I think the audience feels this. It’s a bit like nascar, where everyone is just waiting for a crash and when things actually work it seems like magic. Ultimately the audience changes things because you end up reacting to them just like you react to the camera/computer interface. As for documentation, this is actually a core interest for me because it was what led to the first experiments in performance for the camera and ultimately the birth of video art. Check out this clip of Chris Burden in tormented anxiety about releasing the recorded documentation of his work.

Performance art was touted as being more real than other forms of art because the presence of the artist and focus of the artist’s body is actually what gives the impression of “the real”. How scared on you when you get on stage? You’re essentially “naked” in front of your audience, in front of time, and LIVE snafu’s. How does the fear
aid in your performance?

RL rules! I think I answer this question above. One thing I didn’t mention though is that jokes are way funnier in front of a live audience. Where a screening might get a few loud nostril exhalations, a live show would get real laughs or even cheers. It’s just a lot more fun, a live audience is like your birthday party at that point where the cake comes out and you blow out the candles.

Where do your characters come from?

Toronto, Canada. Also known locally as T-Dot (everyone in Toronto will hate me for telling you that) oh, wait, you mean, the characters in my videos…!!!

The turtleneck guy I play in my work is modeled after new media artists that are ignorant of their bodies and persona in *documentation* of their artworks. Basically, they create machines that overtake their own “hand” and ego and replace content and meaning with technical achievement. I play this hopeless and foolish slave trying desperately to conjure his machine to do increasingly absurd tasks of questionable use. Computers are the new chauvinist modernists.

How closely do you think what you do is connected to technology?

Very. We view most of our lives through computer interfaces. We basically put everything we have into these boxes that make us look like idiots. My work is essentially about deconstructing and laughing at the space between our bodies and our machines.

What do you think about the idea of “rehashing” art?

Art without historical context is not art. Art is one long story, you can’t ignore the existence of a central character just because someone new and exciting shows up.

And of course, what do you think about the current & future internet? Do you think it holds the fate of mankind in it’s web?

WHAT!!? Ok, the future of the internet is invisible. The fact that we still access the internet by using our eyes and fingers is just insane. Mankind will essentially BECOME the internet in the next few years. Either that or the internet will become mankind. It could play out either way.