Artist Statement

Extracted from the results of an automated online survey

May 23, 2015


Justin Watson (°1984, Salt Lake City, United States) makes installations, photos, drawings and media art. With the use of appropriated materials which are borrowed from a day-to-day context, Watson presents everyday objects as well as references to texts, painting and architecture. Pompous writings and Utopian constructivist designs are juxtaposed with trivial objects. Categories are subtly reversed.

His installations focus on the inability of communication which is used to visualize reality, the attempt of dialogue, the dissonance between form and content and the dysfunctions of language. In short, the lack of clear references are key elements in the work. By using an ever-growing archive of found documents to create autonomous artworks, he uses a visual vocabulary that addresses many different social and political issues. The work incorporates time as well as space – a fictional and experiential universe that only emerges bit by bit.

His work urges us to renegotiate installation art as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. By contesting the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, he creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

His works bear strong political references. The possibility or the dream of the annulment of a (historically or socially) fixed identity is a constant focal point. By investigating language on a meta-level, he tries to grasp language. Transformed into art, language becomes an ornament. At that moment, lots of ambiguities and indistinctnesses, which are inherent to the phenomenon, come to the surface.

His works appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role. By applying a poetic and often metaphorical language, he absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. This personal follow-up and revival of a past tradition is important as an act of meditation.

He creates situations in which everyday objects are altered or detached from their natural function. By applying specific combinations and certain manipulations, different functions and/or contexts are created. By merging several seemingly incompatible worlds into a new universe, he reflects on the closely related subjects of archive and memory. This often results in an examination of both the human need for ‘conclusive’ stories and the question whether anecdotes ‘fictionalise’ history.

His works are an investigation of concepts such as authenticity and objectivity by using an encyclopaedic approach and quasi-scientific precision and by referencing documentaries, ‘fact-fiction’ and popular scientific equivalents. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, he wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and alienation.

His collected, altered and own works are being confronted as aesthetically resilient, thematically interrelated material for memory and projection. The possible seems true and the truth exists, but it has many faces, as Hanna Arendt cites from Franz Kafka.




an auto-interview: preface for a video

audio recorded 10/3/2014

Via Macbook Pro, 2014 edition

Software: Audacity 2.0.5, Safari 7.0.6, MAC OS X 10.9.4





I have all these ideas that have, kind of, populated my mind, and then, you know, they try to colonize or replicate or reproduce. It is within this framework that I operate.




Because I have a feeling, um, a convergence of a feeling that stems from some interior monologue that’s ongoing, it seems to recursively follow itself in this endless cycle. Repetitions, a pattern, a computational line that just keeps going and going and going.




Because I have a feeling.




Because I have these EMOTIONAL THOUGHT GESTURES that I’m trying to figure out.




[sound clip of a toaster activating] [sound clip from Jim Croce’s seminal Operator] [sound clip of a toaster popping] [sound clip of a microwave completing its cycle] [sound clip of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor slowed by 50%]




[sound sample from World War II bombing raid] [sound clip from Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor]




[Voiceover:] and the interruptions and overthinking initiates its long dreaded cycle.



Artist Statement

An Auto-Interview: preface for a video, version 5.1.2015

Audio Recorded 5/1/2015

Macbook Pro, 2014 Edition

Software: Adobe Audition CC, Safari 8.0.4, Mac OS X 10.10.2


Why are you an artist?


I have a compulsion with internet searches. I am recalling a memory from grade school when a teacher wrote the 5W’s and H of journalism on the wall: who, what, when, why, where and how. I still use this rudimentary system to investigate content and I view an artist as an entity who explores the convergence between everyday life, culture, and philosophy and manifests this information into immersive audiovisual experiences. I am an artist because I had no other possibility of merging these various data-sets and interests into one sequence or pattern. I grew up grafted to internet culture, so a majority of my process is akin to navigating the open waters of the internet with my sail open. I am always searching, hunting, learning. When I stop learning, I instill changes and evoke systems of chance to allow for modifications to arise.


What do you make?


Metaphors distilled from dreams, memories and real-time experiences. Is a performance an act of making or is it an unwinding of a moment? I ultimately make questions and use contemporary technology to activate or point to these questions. I do not prescribe answers. More specifically, I am interested in pointing out cultural artifacts, and in my case, I grew up connected to the internet, playing video games, reading literature and exploring the natural world via swamplands that used to exist near my father’s house. I also memorized entire books of scientific classifications of dinosaurs and animals, subscribed to National Geographic, etc, etc, so I’m equally interested in what goes on within and outside the online network I pair the virtual with “in real life” content. When making a work, I investigate the common underlying strategies, technology and processes used for that format. For example, the infusion of a seemingly conversational interview between two beings establishes a proximate reality of engagement.


Can you be more specific? You did not establish a clear image.


I tend to over extrapolate the cerebral contexts of my work practice. As I specified earlier, I use technology that matches the content. In my case, I am mirroring my life experience and interests through the lens of internet culture, video games and the natural world. I use a broad variety of tools ranging from imaging software, game engines, microscopes, digital film recordings and real-time computer screencasts. For example, I am currently working on a project involving the killing of Hydra species, an act that I’m not all too comfortable engaging with, but nonetheless curious about exploring due to the mythological associations of this creature. I’m essentially recreating the myth of the hydra and my first experience of using a microscope—we looked at a brown hydra in a biology class in middle school—and applying this memory to a larger mythological and metaphorical structure. The signification of the hydra is now often equated with the regenerative potential of the internet. The consideration that is more important to establish here is that everyday life inherits myth systems outside of what we consider the pantheon of classical mythology. My goal is to blur our distinctions of history, memory and time.


What do you mean by “blur our distinctions of history, memory and time”? In relationship to what?


Derrida wrote about a concept he labeled as “Hauntology.” Hauntology is a concept that hinges on the impossibility of a culture (usually associated with Neoliberal Capitalism) to escape a memory vacuum: its history has collapsed due to an expectation of a utopian idealism that never occurred. What results is a society stuck in a culture obsessed with direct revisionism and replication of the past; nostalgia, sequel and anachronism are the tools of this amnesiac society. Information and ideas are recycled as opposed to generated and critically engaged. I feel this concept, in many ways, greatly correlates to contemporary society and the problems of the internet and the postmodern. So when I speak of collapsing history, memory and time, I’m speaking of not only pointing out these issues, but also regenerating new ideas from otherwise exhausted content to illuminate new connections and understanding. In my most recent case, recycling the myth of Herakles and the Lernaean Hydra, but using contemporary technology and the inversion of power dynamics to make a philosophical and metaphorical pivot in a new direction.



Artist Statement

An Auto-Interview: preface for a video, version 8.10.2015

Audio Recorded 8/10/2015

Windows 8.1

Software: Adobe Audition CC


Why are you an artist?

Haven’t we moved beyond this question? I mean, isn’t it a rather DULL question to be asking? Here we are, nearly a decade into this process and we are asking ourselves the same questions. It’s completely mad, a smashing one’s head against the proverbial brick wall sort of scenario. I refuse to answer this question any further.


What do you think of altered states of consciousness? It appears throughout your work in sprinkles, such as the appropriated John McCracken piece that you created while surfing the web and, from what I’ve heard, intentionally drinking to augment the construction of this idea of spatiality and distort your cognitive overlap of both reference and also this new collage of ideas. Isn’t there problem with this overlap?


Considering this question is a multi-tiered hydra of possible responses, I’ll attempt a brief reiteration of my thought process while recreating this and other pieces with what you consider an “altered state of consciousness,” a ridiculous connotation because I simply cannot exist outside my Self. The first question: It had less to do with altered states of consciousness and more to do with belligerence. However, the metaphysics of a plank is as ludicrous within my frame of logic as that of art markets and the larger systems of organization that swarm about it. This is not a Duchamp exercise, but rather a negative Duchamp exercise. A negative of an imprint. The output is clearly a half sized copy of McCracken’s seminal [dual meanings here] “Plank” which ultimately acts as a kind of penis extension and phenomenological wormhole. The signification of a space. My appropriation, however, also involved a ghostly offspring that was hung from a chandelier; the image duplicated through laser etching and the size effectively halved from the copy. This also serves as a metaphor for the shrinking and disintegrative effects of our memory of a thing, and, neuro-biologically, how the translocation of a memory is never equated to the source of origin. The “non-site” performance, which is really me growing belligerent through alcohol consumption, also offers even further distancing from this supposed origin and how it interrelates to this artifact of the past. The most interesting aspect of this piece, for me, is actually as a result of the installation. The form, when using proper lighting situations, optically creates a sort of triangle, or, in my interests, a delta symbol, and the mirror on the floor tethers the illusion of shadow with the stability of the floor. These optical tricks are what addresses these seemingly dystopic images and, for the deep looker, aligns with an ideological construct that is quite diametric to the presence portrayed. Perhaps it is this unification of order and belligerence, minimal and maximal, what makes creating these sort of works so appealing.

To answer to part B) is ludicrous as to admit a problem with the logic of this construction would undermine the philosophical content within: ascriptions of rules are nearly as dull as Question 1 and thus impertinent to a reading.



Artist Statement

An Auto-Interview: a final preface for a video, version 1.11.2016

Audio Recorded 1/12/2016

MACBOOK PRO, 2016 Edition

MAC OSX 10.11.5

Software: Adobe Audition CC


Where have you been?

Elsewhere. I’ve been hallucinating the past two weeks due to a nasty bacterial infection that attacked my eyes, my sinuses, my ears and my lungs and left me with a near-constant high fever. The hallucinations were curiously mundane as they all centered on my experience within the borderline manic environment of our house, which is really a bunch of sticks propped up with nails. For example, I was peering at myself through the abstraction of steam accumulated on the bathroom mirror and thinking to myself that this image would be a wonderful replication (perhaps not?) Et cetera. And then of course the monstrous fear of death that eludes such an illness, when you are up at 4 AM and haven’t slept in four days, it instilled in me a deeper realization of my mortality.


Is it all coming to an end?


What doesn’t come to an end, I propose. What doesn’t inherent properties of ending as though some sort of whisper in the dark could save us from the end. Everything must end and in this case the virtualization of my educational experience is indeed ending, though that in itself is a joke as it never ends.


What will you do with yourself?


What I do with myself and what I do with my self are two separate answers. At this point I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with creating more video work. I am beginning to feel pigeon-holed into a specific subsection of art and I’m rather disillusioned with labels. I’ve been mainly centering myself around the things that also bring me enjoyment that I’ve been neglecting: my family, writing, drawing, resting.


What will you do with your self?

Good question as I don’t currently know. At times I feel as though leaping off a bridge would prove the ultimate solution, but then I consider the jail time I would have to pay if I survived, or the life insurance that my family would have to pay if I didn’t. This is a joke, of course, but really I haven’t any idea as I seem to constantly teeter away from self-confidence in both my work and in my ability to function as a human being.


Where do you think this stems from, this lack of self-confidence?


Look, I’ve never felt as though I’ve fit in with any sort of social normalcy. I’ve always questioned my own identity in relationship to the larger societal structure. For example, when I was young I played with girls in addition to boys when this was still considered a peculiar act (in grade school in Utah) and I think this correlated to not only a rejection of the stupidity of socially constructed expectations of who we are, but also a deeper, more shattered image of the self. My self is really a fragmentation of many other selves all blinking and sparkling like an awful Christmas tree. Even within online social systems I tend to disengage and keep my distance.


What is the effect of these peculiarities?

Most of the time I feel incredibly distant from everyone, as though I’ve been shipped out to the moon. So I suppose my mind is a kind of planet all on its own, for good or for bad and this artificial distance forms potential for even wider gaps of communication and potential moments of error.


What has changed?

I’ve begun to drop projects. X them out. Extinguish them. Assassinate them. One in particular, which I’m thoroughly saddened by, was a project taking place out in Wendover, Utah. The lease for the property I was going to rent, unfortunately, had way too many official stipulations in addition to increasing the rent to make the project feasible for my intents and purposes.


I need to write more often.


I need to breathe more often.


I need to think more often.


I need to live more often.