Evan Roth Answers FAD’s Questions. March 2009


1 When did you start to make art?
I have been making things and putting them online since 2000, but I wasn’t comfortable calling it art till 2004. At that point I was in a masters of fine arts program and Parsons in NYC and realized that what I was making wasn’t any worse than any of this other crap people were calling art.

2 How did you evolve into a professional artist?
3 What drove you to make art as a professional vocation?

Originally I had intended to be an architect, but after working in the profession and tasting the 9 to 5 I knew that it wasn’t for me. While I was working I started a website with a friend and co-worker, Max Asare, called ni9e.com. We were both un-happy with the disproportionate amount of creative time vs bull shit time we were finding in the architectural workplace so we started meeting at lunch and after hours to create experiments on the web. After 3 years in the work place I realised that I was getting more enjoyment from my after hours work than from my job, so I moved to NYC to attend graduate school in the Parsons Design and Technology program (http://cdt.parsons.eud) (where I now teach).

After graduating I was awarded a fellowship at the Eyebeam OpenLab (http://eyebeam.org), an art and technology R&D lab where artists and engineers are funded to work on any project of their choosing as long as they release their work free of restrictive copyright licences. It was here that I met James Powderly(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Powderly), a former NASA robotics engineer, and co-founded the Graffiti Research Lab (http://graffitiresearchlab.com) (one of my most popular projects to date). These two very productive and inspiring years have ruined my chances of ever returning to the 9 to 5. Now my professional goals in life are based on how to maximise the amount of time I can spend working on my own projects.

4 Explain your inspiration?

5 In what way does your inspiration transform into ideas?

6 From Ideas to production of art – how? And why?
Inspiration comes from the web, rap music, copyright law, data visualization, and graffiti (among others). Lately I’ve been interested in the idea of turning wasted time into art making time, and have been creating a series of projects that take place in airports…. a place find myself more often than I’d like.

I am less interested in beautifully crafted objects than I am in visual evidence of creativity. And at the end of the day the only thing that I really care about is the idea. Often times I wonder if once the idea is communicated clearly if the production of the piece even necessary.

7 Could your ideas be portrayed in any other medium? If so which?

I don’t feel tied to any particular medium. My favourite, however, is definitely the web because it is fast, cheap and has a huge audience of people willing to give brutally honest feedback.

8 Which artists would you most like to blatantly rip off?
Cory Arcangel (http://www.beigerecords.com/cory/)…. he has so many good ideas that he doesn’t even make half of them.

9 Why is your art made?
Because people need something to click on when they are bored at work.

10 What does being an artists mean to you?

To me being an artist means that I can wear sneakers to the club.

11 Are you happy with your reasons for making art? i.e Are there any trade offs that make life hard?
Part of me looks forward to the day when I run out of stupid ideas that I feel are so important, and I can go back to playing video games.

12 When does your art become successful?

For me art is successful when you can get your friends and the curators at the MoMA all laughing at the same joke.

13 What is art?
Art is stuff that is made for no good reason. Bad art is made about “feelings”. Good art makes you say, “fuck, I should have thought of that!”

14 How do you start the process of making work?
19 Any routine in making your artwork? If so what?

Usually by getting in the shower and turning the water up really really hot. After 15 mins I come away with some project idea that I feel is worth wasting the day on.

15 Who prices your work? And how is the price decided upon?
I priced this last show with the curator, Sydney Ogidan (http://www.annahoj.com/), who has become a good friend. Since a large part of my audience is made up of younger people I’m trying to price things as low as I can without feeling too sad about letting the work go.

16 What is your next; move,project,show etc?
The AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE (http://evan-roth.com/available-online-for-free.php) exhibition is an overview of work created over the course of the last 5 years. I have been working on the exhibition and book (http://evan-roth.com/available-online-for-free-book.php) (of the same title) for the better part of the last 3 months. So now that I am back home in Hong Kong my plan is just to catch up on a lot of back email.

I do have a few project ideas I will start on shortly. I also have a new collaborative project with some friends that will take place in Los Angeles in April (stay tuned to http://fffff.at for more on that). I am continuing to build up the Free Art & Technology collective I help run (http://fffff.at). Similarly, I am trying to build a sister organization with a colleague in Hong Kong called the Art And Technology Organization Of Hong Kong (http://aatoo.hk). And I will announce new solo works on my blog (http://blog.ni9e.com) shortly .

17 What are the pros and cons of the art market?

The cons list is layered and lengthy. The pros list, however, is very simple. If the system works as it should the artist is left with enough time and money to create new work. This, I believe, is the main goal of most artists.

18 Which pieces would you like to be remembered for?

Whichever one I made last.

20 What has been the biggest break in your career?

I had three big breaks. The first was having a great teacher, Zach Lieberman (http://thesystemis.com). He taught me a lot about code, playfulness in art, and open source among other things.

The second was my time spent at the Eyebeam OpenLab under Jonah Peretti (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_Peretti). Having two years to do nothing but hang out with interesting people and create work was an amazing opportunity that I know most people don’t get.

The third was meeting my wife who has been my biggest supporter in figuring out this art game.

21 Who has been the biggest influence on you?
Cory Arcangel, Banksy, Edward Tufte, Eazy-E, Richard Stallman, Jay-Z, and others.

22 How many artworks have you given away and to whom?
I’ve given away artwork to people that have been champions of my work, friends and people that have given me art. And, like the name of the show, it’s all AVAILABLE ONLINE FOR FREE, so I’ve given away hundreds of thousands of pieces to people on every continent.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, a curation of the world’s most interesting culture, and Creative Director of FAD Agency, a strategy & creative agency working with brands to solve business problems using cultural tools. In 2008 following his passion for art he founded what has grown to become FAD magazine. FAD magazine is internationally recognized as a key figure within the emerging and contemporary art world, and has been selected as official partner by organizations as diverse as Moniker Art Fair, START, Volta and Christie’s. In addition Mark is a columnist for City Magazine.

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