I brought smiles to people’s faces. I went outdoors with a laptop, yealling, making public sculptures, happening augmented reality meanwhile there were horses and carts around. It was a big contrast. And I was confronted with my own history, which doesn’t happen very often working when with technologies.

It is eight o’clock in the evening, back in freezing february. In the Canadian embassy in Berlin the lecture of media philosopher Andrew Feenberg is just finishing and the audience is heading towards the saloon. Kristoffer Gansing, the new curator of Transmediale festival, presents subtle young man with a hispter hairstyle and big squared glasses, who became one of the main attractions of this year edition of  festival.

Although beeing 33 years old, Jeremy Bailey feature evokes a shy, blessed child with eyes wide open to the wonders of contemporary digital world. Smart enough to be critical, gamin enough to enjoy his work and let the audience enjoy his videotutorial-ish parodic allegories and interactive performancies along with him.  

Besides naming main creative impact of Kandinski, Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons, video performance artists William Wegnam, Vito Acconci, Alex Bag, Miranda July or art critic Clement Greenberg, he emphasises an influence of Bob Ross, a pathetic character of TV landscape painter from 90’s with whome he shares an aesthetic approach that „mistakes are good“.

Jeremy Bailey (http://www.jeremybailey.net/) opened this year edition of Transmediale with his 3D performance The Future Of Creativity, presented his piece Public Sculpture in the video programme and  inaugurated first collection of his art work in Europe. At this moment Kristoffer Gensing didn’t hesitate to confront the author with his work, and asked the computer help desk if the God exists. Virtual assistance with a image of distorted Bailey’s face on the plazma screen replied immediately: “In the future, we all will be Gods. When we upload our consciousness to clouds, we will be living altogether in eternal happiness.”

Lenka Morávková: Seeing your work at the exhibition at last Transmediale, it looks like you played a lot of videogames as a child, right? 

Jeremy Bailey: Well yeah, I consider my art as a game. I used to love to design textures in the videogames, it is very satisfying. Especially when you are a child, you feel powerless in the world and the videogames gives you a feeling you have all the control – you can build or save the world and at the same time I was not even able to get my essay on time. On the other hand, I was not allowed to play videogames for a long time. I got my first playstation when I was 12 and then everything really changed. When Nintendo, Supernintendo and especially 3D games came along, I got really obsessed with it. I had my console, was buying games in China Town for one dollar. Me and my brother, we had hundreds and hundreds of games. And when we got bored, we changed the game or modified it. I just had played the games all the time and I loved it. I still do like playing games but I’m frustrated because today you see the same driving game as 20 years ago, just a bit better crafted. The videogames are so tied up to the big companies so they can’t take any risk, it’s just like blockbusters. But I can take a risk develloping my own games (he laughs).

Lenka Morávková: Actually, your work looks like an excuse of an adult to continue playing …

Jeremy Bailey: The truth is I love to play with technology and so I love to dance and paint. In a way I feel, that dancing and painting are activities I am no longer allowed to make as a contemporary artist. I have gone through art school and I was taught to THINK, which is important to me, but I still want to enjoy expressing myself. So I have created those parameters that allows me to let go. For instance during the opening performance for Transmediale, I was dancing like a half person – half robot in augmented reality for three hours. It was also pretty amazing as a gogo dance (laughs). Software is mostly written to be useful, f. e. driving videogames simulates the driving so well, but I do believe together with my favourite Korean new media artist Nam June Paik in missusing the technology to be creative and to really have fun. For some reason, the fun is the last thing we consider in the context of serious new media art, but it is one of the most important human desires. In my opinion, an entertainment is still valuable, specially in the dark times. I like thinking in a way: Is not art ridiculous human race? Isn’t it so silly that people like this? Let’s just dance!

Lenka Morávková: Well, at the opening performance The Future of Creativity you were dancing to the song of Britney Spears Till The World Ends; for the Video Terraform Dance Party you put this 90s dance hit No Limit from 2Unlimited. It seems music is somehow important in your videos and the cultural reference of it is a bit ambigious.

Jeremy Bailey: I always love popular referencies. I love Britney Spears, she is crazy and especially I enjoy the idea of dancing till the world ends. Beeing on an art scene, you are told never put music over your work to use someone elses  ability to compensate your work.  But I actually like it, because in case you don’t like the art or you get bored, you can still watch the other video or listen to the song. It is also similar to the demo videos where the people put some dance music over the software presentation to make it entertaining. In general, I don’t agree that art must challenge the audience. The audience is first nice to come and now you want to challenge them? In my opinion, it should be an equal relationship and not treating them like some slaves. You have to give your audience, if you want to get something back.

Lenka Morávková:
Your video performances definitely look like you are having a lot of fun. On the other hand, I was wondering if you cooperate on it with some technical specialist or is it actually a lonesome work with a computer?

Jeremy Bailey: I don’ t work with technical specialist. I mostly work alone, but I do react to other people. I do as any other programmer would do – I use other people softwares. I work inside of the platform Max MSP and I do all the programming on my own. However I often use the libraries or software which other people have written to built their software. My process involves reacting to software – what it can do, what I can do and what I can’t. To me writing a software is a performance. If I tell a programmer what to do, he would have this fun. It is similiar if I would say somebody to draw for me. My process is more performative. 

Lenka Morávková: Regarding that when did you decide to use your body for the performance?

Jeremy Bailey: It happened during very important period to me, more than ten years ago. The first teacher who ever paid attention to me, was Colin Campbell, a Canadian videoartist who had all those pathetic female personas in his artwork. He was believing in what I was doing which was terrible at the time. When he died, I made the first performance called Bye Bye Bye, a thank you to him. And the people really liked it so I started to feel more comfortable about it. Then I got obsessed with the idea of how the computers during the performance effected my inability to be sincere about this important moment. I felt there was no way to use technology which would express my emotions, without interfering with them. Then I got interested in the concept of the layers betwen the real me, my emotions and what people are seeing on the screen and developped the idea of the performance with the camera, where camera is now the computer and internet is now the camera.

Lenka Morávková: Physical presence of yours in the performances is very significative for your work. However personal appearance in the art might look a bit embarrassing or even narcistic. Is that a reason why you decided to use the alter ego “Jeremy Bailey, the famous new media artist”?

Jeremy Bailey: To me it is important that hopefully it looks narcistic on purpose. “Jeremy Bailey, the famous new media artist” is a gross exaggeration of me, a person who kind of exists inside of me and also outside of me. He is so egocentric and ignorant of the world. This character is also an allusion to  ridiculous Canadian behaviour, where people say “sorry” even if you bring them a gift. My character pretends to be strong, but he is very weak so he uses the technology to make him feel stronger. In a way, he represents those logical devellopers/ artists/computer programmers who are confused by the world. Those people upload their consciousness to the machines and leaving moral decision on the systems where all data is equal. And I try to reflect that.

Lenka Morávková: The concept of personal identity in the context of the contemporary new media art is an interesting issue. In your case, the confusion between “real” Jeremy Bailey and Jeremy Bailey as a virtual character is even strenghten by non-manipulation of the physical presence. You don’t appear as some cartoon character …

Jeremy Bailey: In general, I think we are all playing a character. It is like the situation if you receive cellphone call, hear your own voice as a echo and ask yourself: “Is it really me?” And then you start to modify, start to “act normal”. In this moment, you become the material and start performing yourself. So I feel working with the technology and looking at the camera to myself. However we all do it every day with twitter and facebook, we are branding ourselves. When you post a message, you are wondering if it is really you or what the people will think about it. But due to the use of this technology, you have a chance to adjust your personality.

Lenka Morávková: You’re definitely not a usual prototyp of MTV performer. On the contrary, your performance as your art is full of charming imperfections, not preventing the public seeing every little embarrasement which comes naturally with the situation, f.e. tractor passing during your shooting of the video Public Scuplture.

Jeremy Bailey: Yeah, I like to stay on the edge. A lot of times, people laugh at how bad is what I do. I like to evolve my art in a way it looks almost possible that something very amazing is about to happen. But always on this precarious level, where it is so shaky that it all falls appart and I look foolish. As i said, it is very important for me to appear foolish. I don’t want the public to be impressed by me, they might be connected in other way. My performance is similar to the comedy series with the fear that everything can fall a part. If it doesn’t, the people are so excited and also if it is does, they are kind of relieved because it was anticipated. Since I was a very little boy, we were building those some small computer games together with my brother. He was very perfectionalist so I had this mantra for him:”Sean, imperfection is perfection”. To fail is the most human thing and computer is the opposit. In my opinion, the imperfection is what makes the technology human and easier to connect to somebody else.

Lenka Morávková: During the opening of your exhibition at Transmediale 2012, you presented the new piece Jeremy Bailey 1.0  which is based on a virtual “human-answering” system on the customers websites …

Jeremy Bailey: Yeah, it is a platform you can easily buy and actually I don’t know who really use it. To me it seems so pathetic that i should work with it. We usually think of software as modernist attribute – it is not subjective and doesn’t have a morality. However most of that systems have some information about God and present some religious point of view and I’m very interested in the moment when those two lines meet. On this projects, hundreds of other people had contributed on with their understanding of the world to compile a huge database of keywords and responses, so it is like a collective conciousness…

Lenka Morávková: In your other piece, Videopaint 2.0., you were using political images of an execution of an American kidnapped by the islam fundamentalist and taking down a statue of Saddam Hussein as a background of your performance, dancing and painting over it. Such a direct social criticism is not so obvious in your other works …

Jeremy Bailey: This has to do with a level of mediation, which I find problematic. The technology standing in between the real action and the people, beeing used as a distraction from what is truly happening. During the Iraq war, I was feeling the frustration about media sensoring a lot of material, seeing the stories through pixelled cellphone videos where was not even possible to recognise the situations. Videopaint 2. 0. was about the fact, that computer does not know the difference between really horrific and really cute image,  and I definitely feel that’s problematic.

Lenka Morávková: I can imagine this video could be a controversial. Do you get some negative criticism of your work?

Jeremy Bailey: I was gettting it for a very very long time. Back in 2003, I had a video called The World Strongest Man posted all over the internet with millions of viewers, so it crashed my website and I ended up being the world strongest nerd. I was trying to hold my camera and keep my face on the screen as long as my arm was able to keep the camera up. It is hard and I’m very weak, so I was making fun of myself. But the people didn’ t read it that way. And I was getting not comments, but literally emails, that were so hatefull to make me laugh. Mostly saying I’m homophobic, however I consider my self as a gender neutral figure. Well, it was very inspiring getting hatemails.

Lenka Morávková: Despite of this subliminal criticism, your art somehow reveals an utopian, positivist view of the world. A playfull virtual alegory of contemporary tragedies where no real harm is possible.

Jeremy Bailey: That is the way how we see it. Actually, I have a really bizarre relationship with the world, I feel beeing on an unfair place, my life is way too good. I’m aware of that a lot of people around me even work much harder and the things doesn’t come to them as easily. So I complain about my Iphone creashing meanwhile someon else can’t even have enough food. Well, let me tell you this example. I was invited to do a residency in Ukraine which was happening in a very small city in an abandoned factory where the whole town was employed and now everybody is old and dying. I am Ukrainian descendant, my grandparents left Ukraine because of famine and communism. And I come back 50 years later and find myself in such a ridiculous situation like sitting with my little laptop in former sugar factory where the people were forced to work and now forced to make art. The reason they want me is that I will save the economy of the place because of the attraction of tourism for art.

Lenka Morávková: And did you?

Jeremy Bailey: Well, I brought smiles to people’s faces. I went outdoors with a laptop, yealling, making public sculptures, happening augmented reality meanwhile there were horses and carts around. It was a big contrast. And I was confronted with my own history which doesn’t happen very often working when with technology.

Lenka Morávková: As a new media artist whose work is mainly based on a technology, you seems to be quite critical to this medium which actually enables you to produce your art and realise your ideas. Where is your position regarding the postmodern media criticism?

Jeremy Bailey: According to Marx, the machine uses you. Using a tool to have something done is different than using a machine. You don’t tell the interface what to do, it tells you what to do. And our computers are made this way. I work in a software company and the way how you make a successful design is to make it so that the user doesn’t have to think. Recently there is an interesting book about this theme called “Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability”, author Steve Krug, and it devellops the idea of something being intuitive as a synonym with “don’t make me think”. We are living i   n a world where the computers constantly tells us not to think, but the interesting is that the thinking is what makes the humans humans. And certainly, this issue is more complicated with the artist working with computers or interactive art. We talk about interactivity, but is it really interactive? If it is successful, it is probably using you as the audience. The postmodernism talks about subjectivity, a birth of the reader and the death of the author. But this situation is reversed, it takes the reader as the subject or material and transmit him in whatever the artist want. It is ignorant to the human authority.

Lenka Morávková: Well, the technology is linked with an concept of an authority …

Jeremy Bailey: I would rather displace the image of white privilege man using technology is a position of power. Recently I realise, that all my work is a big apology of a white man in an art history and also for being in a position of control and oppression ultimately. The technology is one way that certain people can retain power, a direct link with a history of power – racing for new technologies connected with a war, nuclear bombs, … The same racing for new technologies is happening with the art world and is dictating aesthetic progress. However historically, the people were dictating the progress and not waiting for some company to come with a new electronic product. So I like to make fun of this absurd situation of where I am currently. 

Lenka Morávková: So how do you personally see the future of technology and mankind?

Jeremy Bailey: Slawoj Žižek said there is a point in the history where the people started to talk about their brains like computers instead as about computers like brains. We are getting to confuse machine with humans. The funny example is how do people talk to computers when they fail and start treating them as humans in a manner  “Why you do this to me again” or “My computer doesnt like me”. Also that is somehow what we are trained to do – we are looking for faces in the clouds and emotions in the machines. I’m very hopeful that people will start to write software that is more visibly human. We saw it with the personal assistant Siri on the Iphone. She can easily answer your question about the weather, but if you ask her about what is she wearing, she gets really angry. It seems inevitable that the software will have a personality in the future, because we actually prefer it, even to be mean or sarcastic. The designers are starting to make those these decision so and we treat the software more and more like humans. This is scary, but I think it is also inevitable to programme the failure first to feel comfortable with machine and it will become a natural part of the machines in the future. They will have to crash every once a while in a similar way as if you drank too much last night and having hangover.