IAN BRILL: INTERVIEW
AN INTERVIEW WITH IAN BRILL ON THE OCCASION
OF HIS EXHIBITION “CURRENCIES”
The following interview was conducted via email between George Magalios and Ian Brill.
For Currencies, your current exhibition at Ragioni Techniche, you made a series of prints for the first time. Can you explain the thought process behind these works and how they relate to your immersive installations?
My installations are a natural extension of my 2D and time-based practice. It felt necessary to take this opportunity to explore how my experience with generative, immersive and programmatic methods might have influenced my approach at 2D constructions.
In many ways these are “music boxes”. The discipline and construction feels similar to methods used in the construction of melodies and electronic music. In a manner similar to the platter of a record player I make practical use of an ambiguous relation between figure and landscape. This ambiguity of form and field voids any primary focal point and allows the eye to drift, orbiting the composition in circles, colliding and resonating against a series of color relationships. The intention is to induce new emotional realms, in a manner similar to music or any time-based media, but through the use of static forms and compositional methods.
The black paper background is as much a bass line as it is a soft, textural pad. The hierarchical and organized relationships of colors are reflective of compositional elements, such as notes, sequences or percussive events. However, these are not intentional or considered actions. They are an incidental result of decades spent constructing images, sounds and multimedia systems.
Perhaps the goal was to pare the essential inspirations for my explorations back into the realm of poetry: a poetic exploration of form and color that has endured throughout my varied and iterative career.
The intention was to take the ideas and experiences that I’ve acquired through immersive and performative installations and attempt to embed their larger truths and machinations within a formal, 2D discipline. I wanted to track any growth I may have acquired. I hoped that somehow the potential for wonderment that I unconcealed through the process of externalizing my creative processes programmatically might have matured or refined my most basic poetic impulses.
How would you describe your relationship to the word “technique” and its place in your sculptures and installations?
Technique is rather important to me. I cherish it. Technique is a platform for poesis. I assume that a wider breadth of technique provides chambers of resonance for the sublime.
Technique is a manner of form that unveils itself over time. The life of an artist is a performance- an expression of refinement and questioning. In the same manner that a laboratory, place of worship or athletic body has a heightened potential to observe or unconceal certain truths, the active pursuit of technique compels the individual to exist, communicate and aspire toward clarity, truth, enlightenment and the sublime.
Throughout my life the aspiration for technique was a surrogate for external guidance. Identifying points of failure afforded moments of observation of my performance. I found that identifying errors and overcoming weak impulses, such as defensiveness gave me stepping stones to further leverage my abilities. Observation, organization and ritual have enabled me to incorporate technique within my practice. Through programmatic and architectural means I externalize and iteratively explore my own techniques. The way one lives their life or sees the world requires technique, as does one’s manner of responding to the change and difference that we experience.
With technique being a derivation of the Greek word “Techne” which translates roughly as “making or bringing forth” and can be used in both a fine art context and a technical/technological one it seems to me that you are an artist immanently grounded in the evolution of this phenomenon from its roots in Classical Greek thinking all the way to our current day with your use of computer programming as a central component in your sculptures. How would you describe this play, this relationship for your work and your approach to your art?
I feel this is fairly consistent with my practices and intentions.
When I was a teenager I was motivated to explore poetry because of a love interest. This was before the internet. I was living in, essentially, a squat in the East Village. When the pressure was put on me to describe what I was experiencing I found myself using words as footholds to ascend towards a staying power so that I could express beauty and truth in a classical sense, rather than lose integrity or form and be pulled into a standing reserve. I did not know that I was dabbling within metaphysics or existentialism. I had little context- just a sincere, stubborn, deliberateness and a reasonable intuition for bullshit. Growing up poor in NYC will prepare you to detect bullshit like a science. And, if you can find enough clay, you can build yourself a house.
Before I ever programmed a single line of code I identified the power of poetry and, consequently, language. I identified and practiced similar properties within music, chess, performance and athletics. I found that when you start something it’s important that you must fail enough times to develop a sense of direction and refinement. Every illustration I’ve ever made has been in a new style that attempts to improve upon the previous. If I drew a comic strip any narrative content would mean less than the evolution of the use of medium from frame to frame. Still, any work I’ve ever made is a proper recording of the act of being at that time. It sounds a lot like I’m a trauma victim. I believe that truth and beauty are traumatizing. So be it.
My work is research. It is ceaseless. I rely on personalized tools to externalize, automate and iterate through my ideas. Through the use of immersion I attempt to disambiguate boundaries and illusions that exist between individuals and groups, the universe and the womb, that which is familiar and real and that which is hyperreal, impossibly unknown and infinite.
Since following your work for more than 23 years I have come to understand that you have an appreciation for design, in a most basic and material form, as much as art and that the question of art/design is not just a philosophical one but also a provocative meditation on a practical level. Would you please elaborate on what these poles or these words mean to you as an artist?
Survival is not merely the appropriation of food or shelter. Survival is experiencing presence and life in a world that is increasingly obfuscating, with every generation- through, a staying power. The body can scrape together means but the soul must transcend the pressures and influences of their environment. Otherwise what separates us from rats or even grain, swaying with the wind.
My work has been a meditative dance with technique and perspective. WIth failure and growth. I have tuned my aesthetic inquiries, circumnavigating my bounds, like you would upon tuning a drumhead. I pull threads together to create emergent forms. I work from a place of personal interest, intuition and passion- it’s the only way I know how to engage with the world.
I am intrigued by the simplicity and multiplicity of the construction of your light installations. They seem to me to be inspired by thoughtful and prescient design and have a strong relationship to industrialization and repetition. How do you see your work evolving in any of these contexts going forward?
I have my secrets. I have big plans. I’ll need an NDA and a downpayment before I go there.
As an artist who has succeed in bridging the gap between gallery and commercial spaces for showing your work how dependent are you on the term “contemporary art” or “contemporary artist”? Do those labels, filled with baggage as they are, ever occupy your mental space when you begin a new project?
These labels or considerations rarely occur to me. My art practice is tied to personal needs. It just so happens that I am human, and others seem to share my needs when they are presented with my work.
How has planning for your Currencies exhibition, your first in Italy, been a different experience for you? Were you conscious of an Italian audience and what that might mean when you worked on this show?
I admire Venetian culture. I wanted to demonstrate respect and humility by communicating with a native language, so I chose to make prints.
CURRENCIES IS ON VIEW AT RAGIONI TECNICHE UNTIL 10 OCTOBER 2023
Pittsburgh Resident and New York City native, Ian Brill is a multimedia artist whose work focuses on the accumulation of form through process. Through the creation of interactive, performative and multi-sensorial environments, he considers boundaries of becoming (versus being) and our immersive relationship with technology. His installations, performances and writing have been presented internationally, at conferences, festivals museums and galleries.
Brill has exhibited widely across North America and Europe with a recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
Currently, he teaches at Penn State University.