Artist of the week

#104 Jason Dungan

Jason Dungan
Born 1978 in Houston, Texas
Educated at Middlebury College, USA and Slade School of Fine Art, London
Lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark


1 Untitled, Digital video, work in progress, 2017, 25 minutes


Hvilke temaer og hvilke spørgsmål er du optaget af i din kunstneriske praksis?

I think of myself as a filmmaker, although I probably spend half my time making actual films or videos, and the other half writing, making works on paper, and playing music. Many of the recent videos involve processing the digital image through a stubbornly analog materiality.

At the moment, I am working temporarily in an empty shop on Amagerbrogade. I’ve been painting on the windows with Chromakey paint, which allows me to substitute images in the colored zones when editing. The glass is painted by hand, and the resulting images are ‘doubles’ of the view out the window. It feels like someone cut into the image, or the glass, with a knife, and I’m really enjoying the jagged edges of digital space.


Hvilke nulevende og afdøde kunstnere føler du, at du går i dialog med?

In terms of living artists… there are several artists that I collaborate with or have close discussions, and they have a huge impact on my thinking. I play music with Dustin Ericksen, an artist based in London, and we also make video works together. We meet up as much as we can, and our conversations hover around things we’re reading, music, weird things we find in the street. I think we probably work in very different ways and this is a partial stimulus for our working relationship, as things rub off or spark through this difference.

Of artists who are more distant to me…Michael Snow has been a lifelong interest. Although thought of as particularly rigorous, in practice I find most of his films to contain eccentric or inexplicable elements which puncture their systematic structures, and these moments have really fed my ideas about film.

Elizabeth Murray’s paintings provide a constant reminder that there are always new forms to be found.

Anthony Braxton’s explorations of musical systems that balance structured composition and complex forms of improvisation, particularly his large ensemble work, has been hugely influential to my thinking.


Hvad gør du for at trække din kunstneriske praksis nye steder hen?

In the last 4-5 years, I have been developing ways to bring research into my work, which still feels new to me. Prior to that, I was very interested in producing work from very direct experiences in the studio, or in a location where I was making a film.

In 2015-16, I made a pair of films that dealt more directly with events in the world, focusing on the Vietnam war and the spate of police killings in America and the UK. In both these cases, I became interested in exploring these subjects through some kind of indirect process. These events, like all media events now, are so saturated in imagery that I felt it was impossible to film them directly. I used fiction, spoken language, and a kind of blank image space to explore violence as a kind of empyting-out, a removal. Doing a lot of research allowed me to envision elements of the films which were, in a sense, unfilmable.


Hvad kendetegner de seneste nye opdagelser i din praksis? Hvad har det tilføjet dit kunstneriske udtryk?

The biggest shift for me is a recent turn to making screenprints. I made a number of works on paper over the years, with spraypaint and paper, pencil, other things. Recently I’ve started printing at Beboerhuset here in Copenhagen. It’s allowed for a merging of text with the image which feels quite new and yet is a logical extension of some past work.


2 Untitled, Digital video, work in progress, 2017, 25 minutes


Hvad er de konkrete rammer for din arbejdsgang? Hvordan udfolder din proces sig rent praktisk?

I have certain structures, images, or processes in mind when I start working. I usually don’t go forward with something unless there’s some kind of problem to solve. I like feeling like there’s something I need to make, but I don’t quite know how it will work.

I usually find it useful to have a period where I’m producing tests, whether it’s works on paper, or test footage which I can then throw out and make the ‘real’ film. I find it’s really useful to work for intense periods on one thing, to develop a film with a sense of urgency towards the process.

Maybe half my film works are made alone, and half are made with a small crew, a cinematographer, an actor. I really love working this way when I can – the aspect of surprise through collaborating with good people is always very exciting and sends the work in new directions.


Hvad betyder inspiration for dig? Hvor opsøger du den?

I see a lot of live music, usually improvised music, some kind of jazz, or things that are new to me. Mayhem, Jazzhouse, and 5E in Kødbyen are all important for this. The potential of improvised music, its balance between structure and immediacy, is very important for thinking about, and making art.


Hvad stiller du op, når din proces går i stå?

There are a number of activities I do which are very important to my practice but which aren’t strictly my own work. I play music in a band called Squares and Triangles, and I make solo music as Blue Lake. I’m also involved in running a project space called Amager Film Lab, and an experimental studio project called Kiosk 7, both in Amager in Copenhagen.

These activities are usually collaborative and allow me to work without directly engaging my own production – I often find that after some time with these projects that a stubborn edit or unresolved print reveal their solutions.


Hvad har for nyligt begejstret dig kunstnerisk? 

On a recent trip to London, I saw two concerts by the Art Ensemble of Chicago at Café Oto. Seeing the group play together and achieve moments of total transcendence was extremely inspiring. They have played together, on and off, for 40+ years, and it felt like a guide for how to continue to develop one’s approach, how to find fresh angles.

Barbara Kasten’s show of older and recent photographs at Thomas Dane Gallery was great – her work was new to me, and it was really enjoyable. The large-format Polaroids from the 1980s were both fascinating formal studies and weird time capsules of the aesthetics of my childhood world.



Drive-In, 2016, Chromakey blue and screenprint on paper, 42 x 59cm, Series of unique prints


Hvordan ville du beskrive den danske kunstscene og hvordan befinder du dig personligt med den?

My two biggest impressions of the Danish art scene are its artist-run spaces, and its experimental music scene. Both are very close-knit, and totally supported by the range of artists and musicians who take part and help make things happen.

I lived in London for a long time, and the sheer enormity of the city, while energising, was equally exhausting. As I’m getting to know Copenhagen, I’m enjoying that its scenes are knowable and that people are talking to each other and seeing each other’s work.



Dear Michael: I AM GOING THRU HARD TIMES, 2016, 16mm film, Color, sound, 21 minutes


Hvad er sammenhængen mellem din musik og kunst? (spørgsmål fra #100 Steffen Levring)

As I play in a band with four other visual artists, we’ve given this a lot of thought (and discussion). I think something we’ve all experienced in the band, is that the process of playing music has gradually seeped into our art-making, even though there is rarely any music in the work.

When playing music, especially improvised music, as we do, you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings as well as distant enough from them to make choices and see where you’re going. But it only really works if you give yourself over to it.

This might just be a loosening up of my strict processes, but I’m very aware of how playing music has shifted how I think, and that it subtly infects my non-musical art activities. I took up the clarinet a few years ago, and I often start the day by practicing. There’s something about the non-verbal and non-visual aspect of playing the instrument that is very stimulating. I recently saw an old picture of David Hammons’ studio in the 1970s, and there was a bass clarinet propped in the corner. I think a lot of artists have an instrument in the studio.



The Desert, 2015, 16mm film and HD video, Color, sound, 43 minutes