I am always fascinated with how each of us has a subjective view of reality, which is sensed through a biological lens that has evolved over millions of years. The question of, how do we find a sense of objective reality? Also, how much free will do we really have?Jason Herr
The following interview forms part of a series where I invite contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning, and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.
This week, I talk to Jason Herr, an American artist whose works feature in exhibitions across the US, inspired by questions of existentialism and determinism.
Tell me about your piece, ‘Run Through Deja Vu’
Run Through Deja Vu was part of a diptych I did along with “Outdoor Activity”. These pieces were inspired by going to the park to get some sunshine and activity. When I was shooting around with a basketball a noticed how the light bounced off the macadam creating interesting shadows. I had a feeling of deja vu, or brief memories of childhood and playing outside.
Which philosophical questions do you find most interesting or inspiring as an artist?
I am always fascinated with how each of us has a subjective view of reality, which is sensed through a biological lens that has evolved over millions of years. The question of, How do we find a sense of objective reality? Also, how much free will do we really have? When I was younger, I was really inspired by the existentialist, but now I wonder if things are more deterministic. How much free will do we have when everything we are experiencing is through an emotional biological mechanism that can only sense a small sliver of objective reality? I don’t really know, but it makes things interesting.
How far do you feel you have come in being able to answer those questions for yourself?
Not very far at all. I always come back to that fact that I really do not know. The more you learn the more you realize how much you do not know, but I think it is fun to think about.
Feeling lost, stuck and without meaning are experiences we all face as human beings. Why do you think that is? How do you approach those feelings in your work?
I think we have a negative bias because of how our brains evolved. Fear and trepidation keep us safe, but being part of a close group made us feel safe. Today we are constantly triggering the fear mechanism to keep up with the modern world, but we are also more isolated and lonely. I approach this in my work by putting myself into each character I make. Often they are ugly characters in bizarre situations, they are not me but I’m in there. The self-portrait hidden by a mask.
What is the most unsettling work of art you’ve come across?
The movie ‘Inland Empire’ by David Lynch. There is a scene in which Laura Dern’s character’s face bleeds through and melts. It is like the shadow self forcing itself out of her face. It was beautiful and disturbing all at once. I know David Lynch is inspired by Francis Bacon, it felt like one of his paintings come to life.
If there were an artwork that depicted your current experience of the world, what might it look like?
A kind of electricity trapped in my body that causes a lot of pressure but can not escape. Vibrations unable to breach the surface tension of my skin. Tangled wires as neurons zapping each in an endless loop.