Google image search of Jaakko Pallasvuo, 2012
LD: Your identity is split between multiple internet presences. There is definite cohesion between the works on your artist website and your Tumblr, but your illustrations seem severed and separate. Google image searching you, your comics and illustrations actually appear more frequently than your other work. In Auditions you briefly meditate on identity association and representation on the internet and I’m curious as to how you intentionally shape this identity. How do you approach self-design?
JP: The way I think is fairly contradictory so it makes sense that the works would emerge that way as well. I question how satisfying maintaining a strict, programmed artistic identity would be in the long run. Making art is for me very much a form of learning. I will gladly sacrifice cohesion if it means that I can explore larger fields of knowledge.
I’ve been uploading works to various internet contexts since I was 16 and can accept that I cannot control their circulation. I do contemplate the way I represent / have represented myself online but I can’t completely dictate my “brand” anymore. I appreciate artists who are able to maintain a cohesive image, but I don’t think I could be / would want to be one.
LD: A lot of your image work utilizes 80’s and 90’s aesthetic and culture as a jumping off point. From the midi backing tracks heard in your How To video series, to the gradients, colors, and photoshop brushwork found on www.dawsonscreek.info, where do you place nostalgia, irony, and sincerity throughout these works? Where do these begin and end for you?
JP: Irony and nostalgia are difficult terms. I think of irony as snarky non-commitment and nostalgia as uncritical sentimentality. It feels unsafe to connect them to my own work. I have an interest in the recent past and have made attempts towards charting what I assume are generational experiences. I am genuinely fascinated by Tumblr culture, Dawson’s Creek as well; choosing the URL was not merely an ironic gesture to me. It’s easy to understand how people would perceive my work that way (as ironic), but my approach is quite serious and sombre. I guess it adds to the confusion that I do want to investigate nostalgia, irony and sincerity as themes. It’s a fine line between making works about irony and making works that are ironic. I’m treading that line.
Low Epic, 2011
LD: Previously, we’ve spoken about the influence of cinema in many of your video works. Your interest in a type of ‘cinema of the internet’ or the idea that many of your works are informed by cinema while also attempting to address their circulation as documentation on the internet, while becoming documentation in and of themselves. Could you talk more about this?
JP: I appreciate how sites like Youtube assign the same context to all video material. There’s something cruel and reductive about it, but it also makes obscure things accessible. I feel like the divide between short-form cinema and video art is often artificial and maybe the internet can help erase that divide. I have an ongoing interest in the idea of ethnographic/anthropological cinema and the methods of essay film. I have made videos that explore those interests. There is a fair amount of meta-commentary going on, the videos discussing their own failures. It’s the curse of self-awareness. I don’t really see my work as documentary, although I do understand how that connection could be made. The videos definitely have to do with awkwardly imposing dramatic structures onto reality, the relative impossibility of that.
It’s a tired observation that the Internet diffuses the divide between high and low culture, but I feel like I have to point that out because it’s central to my interest in the medium. I’ve recently been enjoying this SinäTuubaPaska (the Finnish equivalent of Youtube Poop) channel more than most institutionally verified art. The videos are edited in such a brilliant, hypnotic, varied way, it reminds me of Jazz. I also like how the Finnish dubbing of mainly American source material localizes and complicates the videos, how it ties them to 90’s childhoods. The videos deal with the unreliability of videos (I was trying to write “the unreliability of memory” before I got distracted).
I also like when this is reversed, an artwork that transcends art and becomes a meme. I think the best thing about the How To videos was how much attention especially the Internet Art related episode got from sort of random sources. I enjoyed reading the comments on Knowyourmeme.com (pro tip: don’t bother making a video if you’re gonna post a half-assed slideshow made in windows movie maker). It was reassuring to understand that I am somehow able to imitate the mechanics of meme content, and fun to receive feedback on the video as both art and content nugget, even if the feedback was mostly negative and related to the failure of the videos to be any of the things they alluded to being (art, critique or lulz).
LD: Low Epic and Screen Test discursively reflect on the social and cultural placement of the self within a networked age. These videos become personal and highly self-conscious yet you never really reveal yourself. There is always someone else narrating, posing for the camera, etc. Why choose to use an alternate identity?
JP: It’s about obscuring and obstructing, about freeing myself from the constraints of gender and national identity and about variation.
I don’t know if I should quote Barthes but I want to:
“In order to suggest, delicately, that I am suffering, in order to hide without lying, I shall make use of a cunning preterition: I shall divide the economy of my signs.
The task of the verbal signs will be to silence, to mask, to deceive: I shall never account, verbally, for the excesses of my sentiment. Having said nothing of the ravages of this anxiety, I can always, once it has passed, reassure myself that no one has guessed anything. The power of language: with my language I can do everything: even and especially say nothing.
I can do everything with my language, but not with my body. What I hide by my language, my body utters. I can deliberately mold my message, not my voice. By my voice, whatever it says, the other will recognize “that something is wrong with me.” I am a liar (by preterition), not an actor. My body is a stubborn child, my language a very civilized adult.”
To this I would add: the thing that interested me in early internet culture, that still interests me, is its elaborate anonymity. Using avatars and screen names to both diffuse yourself and be more yourself than you could actually be. I’ve tried to extend those tactics into my work, asking friends and professionals to stand in for me, other voices and appearances. I think of them as avatars. I recently read an interesting essay about the way Bresson thought of his actors (not as actors but as models, even props, icons?), that has something to do with it.
How To/Orientation, 2011