Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Meet Your Maker: Jason Waterhouse


This ‘Meet Your Maker’ will be a bit different because I’ll be interviewing Jason Waterhouse – co-founder (together with partner Magali Gentric) of the whole Stockroom enterprise. I met Jason nearly a year ago now, when I moved to the country from Melbourne, and about 4 months ago I started working with him and Magali. So, rather than an interview, this may end up more like two mates shooting the breeze, and we may well get a different insight than otherwise would be the case. And as a prelude, I should make it clear that Jason and I have this half-joke relationship where I am the waffling, pseudo-academic art-wanker from the city who uses too many long winded bullshit concepts, and Jason is the straight-talking, dirty feral trash-bag who actually knows how to make stuff.

Kent:
So, why installation and not, say, sculpture or drawing?

Jason:
So in 2008 I grew a moustache. At the time I thought that an uber-cool urban cowboy sort of vibe would be a good thing. A number of people found my moustache quite irritating. I am creating an installation, though I prefer to think of it as an intervention as I am not really installing anything, I am working with what exists in the space, modifying and shifting.

My work is pretty much the same as my 2008 facial hair, I'm just growing some bits. I think it’s a pretty good idea, but like my moustache, I wonder whether the punters may find the work (or lack thereof) irritating. Fruitlessly searching the space for some sign of Sculpture or Drawing.


Kent:
Well, you certainly are a shit-stirrer. Why are you trying to mess with the gallery space? I know you went to the cops to ask about shooting it. What's your problem?!

Jason:
It’s true, I did go to the cop shop to politely inquire about the legal ramifications of bringing a shotgun to Stockroom to shoot the north wall of the gallery to create a "drawing" on a wall in the space. It would be a beautiful thing, like a starburst etched into the wall. I have a shooting license, and a shotgun, but they were of the opinion that firing live ammunition in a residential area, inside a shop was a bad idea. Even out of hours.

For this show I also was thinking of knocking out a wall so I can bring a car into the space. Then I was going to rebuild the wall so I could proceed to crash the car back through the wall again. Though I am still keen on this idea, modifying through destructive force, it lacks the subtlety I’m after at this stage. Maybe tomorrow...

Then there was the burnout idea... the crash photos... the hole in the floor... the drawings of destructive forces...

In answer to your question, I think I spend too much time in Stockroom. I keep getting urges to fuck the joint up. Am I using my art as an excuse to justify a bit of teen angst? My 13 year-old daughter would be proud. Imagine Milo when he's 16. [Note from Kent: Milo is Jason and Magali’s 4 year old son – a firecracker of a kid].

Kent:
There's definitely energy at the core of much of your work I think. An almost primal, certainly masculine, compulsion of force.
What do you think about the angle of the 'masculine' in your works? You know, guns, cars, tools ...

Jason:
Well I am a bloke Kent, and I like cars and making stuff. I know the art school graduates have mostly been chicks for several years now. Are we rebelling against the blokes’ world of Australian sculpture of the 20th century? Shit, am I uncool and too Bathurst macho-blokey for today’s arts scene? Should I regrow my moustache? Would that make you happy? I’m going to do a burnout in my 1970's Japanese muscle car.


Kent:
You know, a moustache would make me happy Jason. First one to a handlebar wins!
What's it like pursing your own work as an artist while simultaneously promoting other artists?

Jason:
Distracting

Kent:
You do like to juggle several things at once. You do public commissions, commercial fit-outs and make furniture, amongst other things - how do you see these relating to your art?

Jason:
I do like my projects, it’s true. I have a short attention span and tend to be driven by the idea more than the result. That’s why Stockroom works for me, as I can chop and change according to my interest at the time, and the bonus is this keeps the shop fresh. Also, Stockroom is such a huge project there is always scope for new directions and modifications. I would go nuts in a 'normal' sized shop. There is also that need to make cash so we can pay our bills bit.

As to your question of its relationship to my art - I dunno. You tell me. My practice is my primary focus, but if you check my work (www.jasonwaterhouse.com - shameless self promotion) you will see that it’s not very commercial. I’ve done my time in both hospitality and teaching to fund my art. The next thing was to use my skills in a commercial way I suppose. My art practice is more expensive than crack.

Kent:
Art that chases cash often ends up a little hollow. Cash chases good art because money is a gravitational force attracted to value.
Ok, so let's go here:
Most of the really good artists I know have this compulsion to make. Almost an obsessive need. Do you get frustrated and down if you don't make things?

Jason:
I wish that gravitational statement was true. But it’s not Kent. There is a hell of a lot of truly talented artists out there who are hungry and waiting tables. The sad truth in the collectors’ art world is that money is attracted to perceived status value and collectability, or worse still, those who get around with the right crew. Not good art. How many amazing shows have you been to that haven’t sold well? Where is the magic gravitational money pull?

But to answer your question - if I don’t make shit I go fuckin' mad. Seriously. Massive mood swings, angst, depression, anxiety, you name it. The wonderful life of the artist is a myth. It’s more like being a drug addict. You have to make, but what you make is never good enough so you’re always on the search for the next better idea, the next score. It’s shit and I would not change it for the world. Art is a compulsion for me, not a pastime. The ideation is like a high, after that it’s process. Once the idea exists in real-time I’m gone and moved on.

Kent:
Ah, the old money and art relationship conundrum. This is a discussion that not even a table full of beers and an endless night would resolve. Cash chases many things, not least itself, and quite commonly some pretty god-awful shit. But not all collectors are interested in only acquiring the trendy stuff and not all art shows are put together by the in-crowd with nepotistic intent. Sure, some is. Just like any industry.

So, with all the emotional investment, what do you hope people actually take away from an exhibition of your work?

Jason:
I am generalising, it’s true, and we all know there are many, many exceptions in the art collector world. But I’m afraid there are also plenty of kudos collectors, which shits me, as art is so far removed from its intention when purchases are made by name rather than by passion.

As for my work - lots of the Stockroom regulars would have heard my soap box rants about accessibility of art, and my strong belief that work should communicate to its audience whether it be someone with a PhD in contemporary art or a tradie who has never walked into an ARI (artist-run initiative). Sure, that communication will be at different levels of understanding, but I fear that many practices are isolative and exist for the fellow artist rather than a wider audience. This type of practice is self defeating and unsustainable for all. When the general public sees my show I hope they smile. Anything beyond that is a bonus. As for the art-wankers, they can enter into long discussions about the deeper meanings of the work, exploring the notions the work poses about art space, or gallery, as a platform for ideas bursting forth with unbridled energy. They can contemplate our relationship with the space as artist/viewer and its function. They can talk about hybridisation and metamorphosis, with a bit of gestation thrown in on the side. People will see what they want to see in the end and their opinion is always valid, for once the work is made it’s not mine anymore, it’s the viewers. We as artists only need to offer a hook, the rest is up to the punter. But at the end of the day I prefer the laugh.