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Interview: Jeremy Shaw

The experimental artist on single viewer exhibitions and photographing plant “aura”

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Working out of Berlin and Vancouver, multimedia artist Jeremy Shaw is a busy man supplying both cities with his highly involved works. Currently, Shaw is exhibiting in Berlin alongside artists such as Yoko Ono and Geoffrey Farmer, in the conceptual group show, “One On One,” which is curiously designed for a single viewer. He is also the focus of a solo show at Vancouver’s Macaulay & Co. Fine Art, which explores his experimental photography techniques. Originally developed in the 1930s to capture coronal discharge, Shaw now uses the Kirlian process as a way to bridge the scientific and the mystic within his work. To gather a greater sense of what each of these really represents we recently caught up with Shaw in his Vancouver studio for a quick chat.


You’re currently showing in an innovative exhibition at the KW in Berlin, in which artists were invited to create work specifically to be experienced by on person at a time. Can you tell us about your contribution?

I made a single channel video work that plays out as though it were a sort of ad hoc self-hypnosis VHS tape from the ’80s. It incorporates a lot of tropes of ’80s motion graphic animation combined with current neuroscience imaging, the Scientology “Personality Test,” heavy optical effects, a monotone narration and an immersive analog synth soundtrack. The piece is triggered when the viewer sits down in the single chair in the enclosed room and will shut off if they get up for more than 5 seconds. I felt like this was a good opportunity to really push for the viewing of something exactly the way I wanted it to be seen—and made it very necessary to watch the entire piece from start to finish in order to really get it. I liked the idea of being very demanding of the viewer within this super intimate context.


You recently began using the Kirlian photographic process on both human subjects as well on plants. What drew you to this technology and what have you been investigating with it?

I was drawn to the process because it treads a line between the scientific and the mystic—polarities that I often engage in with my practice. The camera and process was introduced into scientific and medical studies in the ’60s in an attempt to learn to read magnetic fields for various things, but was thrown out quite quickly as junk due to the vast amount of variables that affect it. At this point mystics took it in as an “aura” camera. I’ve been doing experiments with it both on myself—listening to music in headphones and photographing my index finger in an attempt to see if the music is altering my aura—as well as on plants with psychedelic properties in an attempt to expose their hidden potentials.

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Your solo show in Vancouver will be followed by the premiere of your stunning 16mm film featuring the sexy vogue dancer Leiomy Maldonado. Tell us how you came to work with her on that piece.

I had wanted to make this piece with Leiomy for a few years—I’ve been a huge fan of hers via YouTube and I knew exactly what I wanted from the piece, but it was just a matter of getting it all together and contacting her in NY. In 2011 I was awarded a six-month NY residency and so it was the perfect opportunity. I contacted her online and we met and she instantly was into the idea. We shot the piece a couple months later in a day at a theater out in Flushing—but then I spent an entire year figuring out how to get the edit and effects and score the way I’d always imagined them!

For more information on Jeremy Shaw visit his personal site directly. Images by Jonah Samson


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