Sullivan’s exhibition is a narrative installation exploring the nature, force, and rituals of memory. To do this, the artist chose two narratives, separated by seventy years: One is a collection of photographs and material artifacts from the WWII era. The other is a curation of objects, photographs, and sculptures memorializing the artist’s recent past. The Opening Reception takes place tomorrow, May 17 at Underline (238 W. 14th St.) at 6:30pm.
INTERVIEW: Jordan Sullivan with Laura Hajek
LH: What has inspired you to work with events from the past such as in your piece ‘Prayer For The Wounded’ rather than current events?
JS: When I met with Underline Gallery we talked about linking the event with a certain holiday or special occasion that the exhibition would fall on. The show coincidentally fell on Memorial Day, and my grandfather, who was in World War 2 had just passed away. I had spent a lot of time with him over the past year, and I just felt it was an important time to explore some of his history, but more broadly, the war. War has always fascinated me and particularly World War 2. Exploring my own history in juxtaposition with this huge historical event seemed like a good contrast and also way for me to look at all these themes of memory and death and history, which were already so apparent in my work, in a new way.
LH: Can you share a few of your sins with us?
JS: They’re all ash and dust now. It doesn’t matter anymore.
LH: Your work seems to relate heavily to the idea of Object Ontology which focuses on the rejection of the post Kantian privilege of human existence over the existence of non-human objects, How do you decide which objects are important to include in your work?
JS: I use materials that relate to whatever story I’m trying to tell. I wanted to print pictures of POW’s so I used a soldiers duffle bag as the surface. I printed a picture of a dead pilot and an aerial photo of a city bombed during WW2 on WW2 parachute silk. Some materials I’m inexplicably drawn too as well. I’ll collect something and then sit with it for months before I figure out why I got it in the first place.
LH: Which events hold greatest historical significance to you?
JS: I not really the person who should answer this on any sort of global level. In my own life I think the turning point for me was working as a construction worker in Texas. I remember chopping down hackberry trees with my friend Juan while he told me how he was so poor growing up that he had shoot doves with a slingshot if he wanted to eat. I learned a lot from that dude.
LH: Have you considered the possibility of guests to your sound booth choosing to lie when retelling their histories? Does this affect the importance of the stories being recorded?
JS: I don’t think the lies would matter. A lie can help enhance the truth of the overall experience. It sort of bummed me out when everyone got on James Frey about his memoir. I had a girlfriend at the time who was really affected and moved by that book. He connected with so many people about addiction. The fact that he lied some shouldn’t negate that. I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure some of those lies helped make a point that cold facts couldn’t. So for this sound booth if someone wants to tell a story I want them to tell it however they want. Fact and fiction are so blurred. The facts aren’t always the best way to get to the truth of something.
LH: How does your music influence your artwork?
JS: I don’t get to play music as much as I want these days, though I think that’ll change soon, but recently wrote a couple songs that accompanied a solo show I did in Tokyo called A Room Forever. Music means everything to me and I really can’t imagine living without it. It influences every part of my world.
LH: What was your favorite place in America visited recently while on tour?
JS: My favorite part of America is definitely Texas and out west – New Mexico, California, and Arizona.
LH: Your work deals with the changing face of the American landscape, what do you feel has been lost in the past 50 years and what needs to be preserved?
JS: America’s always been fucked ever since white people first set foot here. I think the only consistent beauty in America is it’s nature, the forests, the deserts, the oceans. Hopefully that will be preserved.