Jonathan Checler is a French-American interdisciplinary artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He produces artwork that explores the human relationship to a degenerating nature. In his artistic practice, he employs both technology and the human body. His curiosity leads him to new artistic processes, in which he is mostly self-taught. He emphasizes that all knowledge is on the internet, we should not be afraid to learn, and that tutorials are available for the mass distribution of knowledge. He recently exhibited a series of projection-mapped sculptures at Superchief Gallery (NYC). His work will be shown at our inaugural launch exhibition, “Volume 1: Looking fw to the Future,” at Stream Gallery in June.
How did you end up in New York and making art?
When I was 18 I dropped out of high school to go to theater school in Paris. I graduated four years later and my forte was stage directing, but by the age of 22 no one would produce my plays and I kind of gave up and started painting. When I was 25 and painting in my apartment I decided to take art a step further so I moved to New York, got my GED and went to college to take art classes. I’d been introduced to other art forms and artists and never looked back. I’m still in New York making art.
So the theater world really helped with this. Do you like to build environments?
Theater is most definitely part of the foundation of my art. I like to conceive my art work with the same closeness that exists in theater with the audience. I did a couple of art performances in New York and they always had a dramatic aspect. In 2012 The Violent Fluffers did a performance titled ”Dance:Body." Originally inspired by 80’s sci-fi movies, I was wrapped with spandex fabric and stapled to a wall like a structure.
Did you feel transformed?
Yeah, it felt like a shelter. It had a really comfortable feeling, this idea of being wrapped up. And having full trust in my partner who was stapling me.
Does the body play a big role in your work?
Yes, I don’t really like clothes. A body in the flesh is more interesting. It is beautiful and fragile.
How did you move from painting to digital work?
It’s a 10 plus year process of learning and disappointment. Like everything, the more you work on something the more you realize that you are not as good at it, so each time that I would hit that point I would experiment with another art medium. I went from painting to sculpture, from analog photography to art performance, and then from digital photography to video projection in the last few years.
Where did you pick up your tech skills?
The internet. Every problem I came across (software/programming issue, projector set up, technical specs) there was someone before me that had the same problem, solved it and for the good of the community posted the solution to Youtube, blogs and forums. Once I got rid of my fear of not understanding technical stuff, it became pretty easy.
So you learned carpentry as well?
Yeah. I worked in a bunch of bars that needed some wood work to be done. I love building shit.
That’s a great way to approach art making. People just box themselves up and are too afraid to try.
I was told as a kid I couldn’t understand stuff like mathematics or grammar (lexical mathematics) because of dyslexia. I want to believe everyone can understand, it’s just a matter of how it’s explained. Once I understood that 1+1 equals 2 anywhere in the universe, that math is a universal language, it became accessible and useful. Complex mathematical concepts were not a dead end, they became interesting mysteries to solve. I try to apply that to everything new I learn. Once you try, there is a lot of failing, of course.
What themes do you use in your work?
Nature. I like human nature in it’s most primal ways. It is in human nature to eat, fear, reproduce and idealize nature. In my photographic series “The nature of this” I use pornography imagery to demonstrate that our society enforces a concept of sexuality that is removed from it’s nature.
You recently had work up at Super Chief Gallery in Brooklyn. What were those works about?
I did a video installation, a multi-surface sculpture like a praying totem onto which I projected on the surfaces a mix of porn footage, mid 90’s pop culture movies and westerns. I was comparing the imagery of ultra sexualized females to “invincible”/emotionless alpha males. Outlining a new monument for moral guideline. I like to glitch the video footage by modifying the Hex and ASCII code. Computers don’t see images, they just see 0’s and 1’s (binary code). So when you look behind and change a few of them that is when it glitches. You can also add all the letters of the alphabet. I would go to Missed Connection site on Craigslist, copy my favorite one and paste it into the ASCII code of the image to glitch. So you would see an image that was all weird, but behind it there would be this story.
We are so happy to hear that Missed Connections are being used for creative purposes.
Oh a lot of people are. Now there a lot of posts that are written by artists. I find so many beautiful essays on Craigslist, apology letters and short novels.
That’s so weird that Craigslist can be used as a platform for art. So do you want people to know the text of the work?
The text is for me personally. I used a bunch of material like the first chapter of the Mormon Bible, surrealist poems, amateur short stories. When I show these works I will show the image and the text.
I love the idea of the Bible and the code coexisting in a parallel realm because which one takes us closer to God?
The belief is that God is all knowledge and all knowledge is on the Internet. It’s a general and global consciousness. I find it fascinating that people on Youtube will still have a pedagogical inclination to share knowledge, from plumbing quick fix tutorials to clinical cyst removal video.
What separates us from this global collection?
Us being able to physically touch someone.
Who else would you collaborate with?
I am in a collective with Ryan Mulkey called Violent Fluffers. In our statements we keep you excited with a sense of revenge. I am open to new collaborations so bring it on.
Who were your influences?
The major ones were Jean Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, Jenny Saville, Anish Kapoor, Martin Puryear, and Paul Rebeyrolle.
What are you listening to?
Dj Shadow and Prefuse73 are my go to.