Q & A: JAKOB S. BOESKOV
by Dave Cantor
Richmond Magazine, July 11, 2016
When’d you move to the States?
My first show was in New York in April 2004 and I moved there shortly afterwards. This was during the second offensive in Fallujah. So the States was very much in a post 9/11 mind set when I moved here and perhaps it still is.
How many times have you watched the Terminator and Robocop movies?
Many times, sure. I was a child in Scandinavia in the 1980’ies and there was good science fiction movies everywhere. We had all the American stuff on VHS and also great low-budget state funded TV. Some of it was mind blowing stuff. Situationist inspired television for children! There was only one TV channel so all the kids watched it. Fantastic.
Why do you think robots obtaining consciousness generally has been depicted negatively in pop culture?
The most likely scenario is not that the machines will become like us. The most likely scenario is that we will become like machines. Personally I don’t think machines will ever gain something that can be compared to human consciousness. It’s a spiritual thing. Machines can never have a soul. We as humans, however, can adopt a way of machine thinking and in a way we already have.
Is there a version of the singularity that works out well?
I think the concept of the singularity is pure nonsense and an distraction from the current challenges we face on earth. Machines will not obtain human consciousness and we will not live as data inside computers. It is a childish notion. The singularity is talked about in a sort of cultish way, it’s like a new pseudo religion, devoid of any spirituality. It is nothing more than the ancient dream of eternal life, this time revolving around super computers. It’s mostly men who talk about it, for obvious reasons, as men cannot create life. But as an artist I am interested in what makes us human, so in that sense all talk of the singularity is fine with me.
There’s a comic-book quality to some of the work you’re showing at Ada. What books were you reading (or what cartoons were you watching) when you were a kid? And have we passed the point when comics and cartoons or comic-influenced art is looked down upon in the “art world?”
I read Robert Crumb and Richard Corben. Those were my guys. I really liked Richard Corben, although today, well, some of his work seems a bit childish, but I was a child, you know! But what colors he used. I can still marvel over that. He was a master at that. I don’t read comics anymore, but they did shape me as an artist, tremendously. Comics was (before cheap video technology anyway) the only cheap way to fuse images and narrative. I am a visual artist, but i find narrative irresistible. In my work I am inspired by artists such as Laurie Anderson, Chris Burden and Valie Export. Regarding the status of comics in the “art world”: It is still very low. I can only think of Mike Kelley who had guts enough to admit to talk about how they had impacted him and who worked with comics in an non-exploitative way. I think comics is a dying art form. Nobody reads them anymore. And that’s ok. Nothing is meant to last forever. The silent movies also faded away and transmuted into something else. Mutation and transfiguration is the very nature of art.
The ID Sniper hoax happened before you turned 30. Has it been difficult to surpass that moment in your work life? Do people expect conceptual projects from you more than drawings?
Well, yes in a way, but you know everything worthwhile doing is difficult, isn’t it? I have recently finished the second part of the “pre-crime” trilogy which the ID Sniper was the first part of. The second partis called Face Jagger and is another conceptual art piece disguised as a futuristic weapon. But it took 13 years to complete! So yes, in that sense it was difficult. I takes a lot of money and planning and luck to do these kind of art pieces. It can be compared to climbing a mountain nobody has ever climbed before. I am very happy with the Face Jagger piece and I think it is even better than the ID Sniper piece. But I hope I canpick up speed a bit. Hopefully it shouldn’t take another 13 years to complete my “Pre-crime trilogy”. To answer the last part of your question: I don’t know what people expect from me. I love art. I create art that I feel should exist, and I do it completely for my own sake. I see myself mostly as a conceptual artist. I don’t sell art, I sell ideas.
Have Americans and Europeans responded differently to your work? In the States, we clearly have some different approaches to security and guns.
American paranoia is based on the the fact that we are living on stolen land, in an economy originally based on slavery. In Europe the paranoia is based on class wars and the geographical proximity to Africa and Russia. Add to that 1000 years of war between small feudal states and a some major genocides, committed by populist movements, left and right. Sprinkle on top of that a rigid class system and you have get a very European sense of paranoia. So yes, the approach to security is radically different on the two continents.
The place where my work has been best received is in Germany. Perhaps the German combination of extreme guilt and logic is good for the understanding of my work. But i live in the States and my very first show was here in New York, at an artist run space called The Thing, in Chelsea. It was a good experience. The ID Sniper deals with the Phillip K. Dick notion of “pre-crime” and the screenwriter from Blade Runner showed up at the opening. So I have fond feelings for America and how I have been treated here. I must say also that in America there is a better understanding of the omnipresent nature of fiction. But the ID Sniper piece was created in Scandinavia where I was living at the time. In Scandinavia the nature of surveillance is “soft” - a sort of omnipresent soft authoritarianism, like a benevolent intrusive mother, if you will. American surveillance is vaster, and also less efficient, I think. Racial profiling in Europe and America is a current disgrace and a sign that sometimes we are not moving forwards, as a society.
Are these drawings honest, if some of your other projects haven’t been? In an interview, you said, “But when you are working with art, you can lie to tell the truth.”
All my work is honest. And there are many kind of truths. The opposite of a sublime truth is another sublime truth. I am fascinated by mimicry and camouflage in nature. Is the butterfly deceitful for having fantastically colored wings that makes it look like a scary monster or a beautiful poisonous flower? I don’t think so. The world is built on beauty, that is all I can say.
How are the rifle and software projects related to the work at Ada?
I don’t know what will be shown at Ada yet, so it is hard for me to answer that.
Your work doesn’t depict violence, it only offers symbols of it (“Facebook Gun”). Why is that?
I find violence boring.
Are you nervous about the future?
No, not at all.