Theodore Darst

Theodore Darst is a New York City-based artist whose work incorporates video, new media, and sculpture. Last November we exhibited his work in our "No Vacancy" exhibition. Now we are looking forward  to showcasing his projects (alongside Masami Kubo) in "DSL Altars" at the upcoming Spring / Break Art Fair. For "DSL Altars", Darst will build an installation featuring new animations continuing his exploration of compressed digital architectures and fantasy-reflecting that build into a string of visuals and game. The Fair runs during Armory week - from March 6-12 - at 4 Times Square, New York. Find us in booth 2321.

[Images: Tricky Francis, Memorial, Memorial to a Sickly Child. Images courtesey of artist.]

Can you tell us about the new body of work that you are making and how it is related
to previous shows? What are the themes?

With the new body of work, my process really has a lot more to do with collage and
drawing than new media art. Bury Your Head and Interiors are created by a process that
starts with photography, moves into after effects/digital animation and ends as a frame by
frame animation made in Photoshop. I like the idea of a hand touched digital video on
par with a Schneemann or Brakhage film.

[Image: Bury Your Head  by Theodore Darst. Images courtesy of the artist.]

My earlier animations adhere more to a narrative format. Lately, I feel like video essays
that concisely explore a theme in 10-15 minutes are a little washed. I’m interested in
online communities for 3D erotica, conspiracy theories, animation presets, optical
illusions, early computer animation art. Hopefully it seeps through into the work but I’m
really enjoying being more expressive and not thinking so much.

Who are the subjects in your videos - are they based on real people?

No not at all. I think itʼs the human fantasy of these 3D models that really attracts me to
the material. To me itʼs really just another material in the same way a Pictures generation
artist might approach stock photography. Thereʼs a heterogeneity to the characters whose
images I steal, especially in the more pornographic stuff. Almost all the untouched preset
characters in prosumer 3D software are white men, which is kind of a drag. This is what i
mean about it being a collage based practice though. Right now I’m really not that
interested in modeling my own characters, I just like to drag and drop.

Theodore Darst at ALT ESC's No Vacancy 3.

Theodore Darst at ALT ESC's No Vacancy 3.

How do the video pieces relate to the aluminum works?

The videos and the aluminum works are really just differently distributed works from the
same database of imagery that I have been creating over the past six months. I set up
systems for re-photographing and compositing images which can usually lend itself
towards animation or to a print. So they arenʼt stills exactly but they share a similar
source to the video work. They’re cousins.

Your pieces seem to have a bondage, sexualized element to them - is that important
to your viewers?

[Image: The Tourist  by Theodore Darst. Image courtesy of the artist.]

Yes. The uncanny valley of emotions that tend to come with seeing 3D models enacting
these intense scenarios on each other is a beautiful space of digital flesh brushing up
against relatable human pain. I guess the hypersexualized 3D render space is doing
something for me right now. That said, the video I’m working on right with my friend
Collin is is basically harsh Catholic propaganda so maybe I’ve moved on?

What role does color play in your work?

I think about color a lot in the context of itʼs correlation to Hito Steyerl “rich image/poor
image” essays. Itʼs very important for me to try to situate the videos outside of an easy
reading in those terms so I really use a hodgepodge of software and processes to arrive at
the colors/textures that I like to use. Thereʼs an uncontrollability in a hard composite of
three or four images in adobe premiere or after effects that feels so gaudy that sometimes
I have to go back and switch things around a bit to avoid the imagery feeling too ironic or

Theodore Darst in DSL ALTARS at Spring / Break 2018. Curated by Alt Esc. 

Theodore Darst in DSL ALTARS at Spring / Break 2018. Curated by Alt Esc. 

Besides Spring/Break, do you have any shows coming up/are you working on
anything new?

Yes. At the end of March Iʼm having a show with Collin Leitch at Kings Leap in
Brooklyn and then a show of probably five new videos in July at Lubov here in
Manhattan. Iʼm also working on a print series with the poet Robert Fitterman that Iʼm
very excited about. Itʼs about landscapes in black metal lyrics and online 3D model stores
but not in a research way, more about comparing the two structurally, weird collisions of
text and image.