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The Circle and the Abyss

JG Hampton
June 6 – July 4, 2009

Reception and catalogue launch:
Saturday, June 13th at 8:00 pm

Purchase the catalogue here

JG Hampton is a Canadian, American, mixed-blood Chickasaw artist with eclectically interdisciplinary interests. Hampton has exhibited work in group exhibitions at the Scenofest Quadrennial in Prague, Czech Republic, the Zero1 Bay Area Biennial in San Jose, California, and Provflux V in Providence, Rhode Island, but is embarking on hir first major solo exhibition in The Circle and the Abyss, premiering at Neutral Ground artist run center. Hampton has received a diploma in 3d Animation from New Media Campus, a B.A. in Visual Arts from the University of Regina and currently resides in Regina, Saskatchewan, working with the artist collective “Turner Prize” and in solo work across multiple disciplines including video, installation, writing, print, and audio.

Hampton’s work can be found at and

An interview between John Hampton and Brenda Cleniuk took place in June 2009.

– how do you situate the work as post-minimalist?

I consider this body of work to be in conversation with the minimalist and post minimalist tradition, particularly with their utilization of conceptualist traditions. Minimalisms trajectory is analogous to an academic discipline, and I find the aesthetic/concept vocabulary that has been constructed through these disciplines to be a useful tool for the territory I’m exploring. Other canons I explore are used in a similar way: as vocabulary.

– how do you situate the work as ‘relational’?

My understanding of the viewing process assumes that all work is relational. Engaging with an artwork is entering into a dialogue with it, it creates the intersubjective experience that is at the heart of most relational practices. �While physical interactivity can be used to comment on the social life of ‘objects,’ it can also be used to draw attention away from it, defining “relational” as a purely physical, local relationship.

So in that sense I view this body of work in alignment with some forms of relational practice and in opposition to others – or to be in a critical dialogue with its tropes, trying to deprivilege physicality while still utilizing its vocabulary as a familiar entry point.

– are you re-investing in the white cube as a strategy to locate the �
deferred meaning of deconstructionist theory?

Despite the critique of binary relationships in poststructuralism, it still often works within binary terms. The polarization between the infinite potential of deconstructionism and observed “reality”, in my mind is obsolete. Deconstructionist theory accomplished something in showing that the reduction of an object into its “essence” does not create a singularity but a multiplicity of “essences.” I think that this theorization has resituated logocentrism and deconstructivism as complimentary pursuits.

– are you finding new utility in the white cube?

Again I think white cube is useful as vocabulary. I thought the debate around neutrality, purity and institutionalization was a useful voice for the conversational dynamic of the work. Also, because this work was designed with an artist run center in mind, I wanted to explore the cooption and translation of standardized tropes – such as the white cube – in these quasi-institutional zones that exist both as subversive and imitative in relation to larger or more traditional institutions (a dynamic which I can relate to in many of my pursuits)

– are you re-constructing Modernism? if so, why now?

This is a difficult question because of the subtleties involved. There are obvious aesthetic similarities between this work and modernism, and perhaps similar goals… I think this is because of similarities between periods. Because of the appropriation fever that plagues postmodernism, there has been a recoil from citational authority. This move away from citation is in someways quite similar to the forward looking gaze of Modernism. In a similar manner to my engagement with logocentrism as a deconstructionist pursuit, I utilize citation, reappropriation and in particular translation as a means to work against the authority of citation.

Also, the reductionist purity or emotional expressionism of Modernist artists could also be seen as a parallel to affect-based practices or theories of the contemporary artists. While a painting meant to evoke pure emotion may be aesthetically (and even conceptually) similar to a painting which seeks to engage the senses at the level of an “unthought known,” there is an important differentiation between the orientation of such experiences. The Modernist imperative was the pursuit of an objective language, a universalizing experience; conversely, affect-based approaches look for an intersubjective mode of engagement, something which sets the scene on which an experience can happen, but by no means does it prescribes how that will occur. In the end, there may be no aesthetic differences between the art produced within these two modes, rather it is simply the way in which they are framed. But after all, this framing is pivotal to the experience of any work. This is an example of how an object or a methodology can change through perception.

– how are you associating the idea of the collapse of organizations �
(institutional critique) and an “affect-based quantum social paradigm”?

Well, a quantum social paradigm may be a bit of a contradiction – a paradigm should be an attempt to stabilize concepts, while both quantum and social organization should be more fluid. I think the incorporation of these conflicting sites is a less assaultive institutional critique. I don’t think I would like to see a collapse of organizations but rather greater fluidity between them: less rigid compartmentalization would seem to be a more “natural” way of dealing with information. There is a self-organization that occurs in any system, and to place organizational frameworks such as a static “paradigm” upon them creates tension. I think this is the impetus behind the “paradigm shift”; a paradigm is laid over a natural organization like a cage, holding it in place while it slowly evolves in a different direction, pushing at the cage until it pops up out of the ground and relodges itself where it naturally would have been anyways.

I’m interested in models of interaction/information/institution that maintain the cage
while trying to be receptive to the movement of the life within.

– do you consider the work to have a ‘spiritual’ dimension? how do you �
see quantum consciousness in the work?

I definitely think the work could be read as spiritual, and quantum consciousness would probably be the most accessible way to do so. The alliances between various spiritual groups with a very specific understanding of the Copenhagen interpretation creates some very interesting theories of subjective reality. This form of “scientific” spirituality is based on a familiar model but with new clothes; praying, blessing, and ‘the secret’ are all variations on affirmations (“I am beautiful!”), which is really just taking control of discourse and redefining your own reality.

I think spirituality (and the arts and humanities as well) have a leg up on science right now. There is lot that is “unknown and unseen” popping up in sub-atomic particle physics and accepting the unknown is very unfamiliar to science, many scientists insist that it isn’t science. But mysticism, philosophy, art and the humanities have a lot more experience when it comes to theorizing what can’t – by its very definition – be measured, or empiricized. So I think that is why they are getting involved and being taken more seriously.

Personally however, I’m an agnostic, raised Luthern and Chickasaw. While in some ways my philosophies can be framed as my spiritual beliefs, to me they are intellectual pursuits; ones which I approach very pragmatically.

– how has technology influenced your work?

I was born with technology in my life. Some of my first memories are of my typing away in DOS or on the Commodor 64.I think the omnipresence of technology throughout my life has really rationalized me. In my experience, the structure of technology is both reinforcing and undermining�structualist systems. In some ways it is this rhizomatic intersubjective realm of potentiality, but in others it is merely the next logical step in linear structuralism. The code itself is very linear, reading line after line, executing everything in sequential order, but the creative use of variables has spawned a manifestation of a collective consciousness that in some ways goes beyond the most ambitious of spiritual constructs. I think in some ways technology acts as a diagram of poststructuralist ambitions, but when I read Barthes and Derrida I see them as writing against technology. So I am wary of technology. I am excited at its potential, I am dependent on it, invested in using it as a tool, but I try to minimize its presence in my practice to where it makes sense. After training in video, web and computer animation, I slowly started to remove all technology from my practice – I saw it as a crutch: if I was stuck using it then I would be forever destined to make work that either was about technology, or was over complicated by including it when it wasn’t necessary. Once I had reduced my reliance to the point that I could produce works purely within the social realm, requiring no objects, I realized I could start using technology again – but only when it was needed, not as a gimmick, and not just because I can.