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Journey to the Far Side of the Sun: Interview with Slater Bradley
Uovo, no: 11 (2006)

Was the education you received at UCLA a traditional one? How would you describe it? What were your interests as a student?

My formative years in art were at university high school in San Francisco. I took three years of intense photo classes. At UCLA, I got into video and took a lot of film classes.

When did you move to NY? How has the NY scene influenced your work?

I moved to NY in1998. I found the doppelganger here. And I joined Team gallery in 1999. It felt and still does feel that I am a part of significant.

When you describe your work The Doppelganger Trilogy, you mention a technological lag in the1980s before the audience learned how to talk about memory. To what extent does your own memory/autobiography play a role in your work?
  • How did you become interested in the doppelganger concept? It seems like a recurring theme in your work. How did you find yours?

Most all my pieces deal with reconstructing my memories. The kind of thing normal people do like taking pictures on a vacation and putting them into a photo album. I just do that but in a much more veiled and public way. I had been attracted to the word doppelganger from as early on as 12. I read a lot about Lolita and Nabokov’s obsession with doppelganger’s right at the same time I began hearing that there was this person that looked exactly like me floating around the New York clubs. I met him and decided I wanted to contract him to work for me. I didn’t know what  we were going to do at first, but my friend was trying to get the bio-pic film of the story of Ian Curtis made, so Ben Brock, the doppelganger, decided to play Ian and audition for the film that still has yet to be made. I took photos and reedited his audition video which he shot in his basement and started showing the Ian Curtis body of work in 2001 which was the first work that got recognized from the project.

Given that you use both photography and video, to what extent do the two media overlap or interact? Do you play with the relationship between the moving image and static image? What aspects of the relationship interest you?

Photo allows for the distribution of the Iconic. Videos allows for immersion in the flesh of the Iconic.  

And what about the relationship between image and soundtrack? How important is the soundtrack for your work? Are you interested in music as an art form?
  • Did the music of Joy Division, Nirvana, Heatwave or Michael Jackson make an impact on you as a teenager? Would you say it had a formative influence?

Music allows for further emotional immersion in the Iconic.

Can you talk a little about your collaboration with Takashi Murakami in Take Me Home Forever and Ever in 1998? How did you guys meet?
  • Did this collaboration pave the way for others? What is your approach to collaborative works?

I bought a 5x19 inch watercolor drawing in LA of Murakami’s in 1998 for $400. He saw my videos in the editing room at UCLA and offered to distribute them in Tokyo. I like collaborating. I feel less lonely.

Elisabeth Kley claimed that the dichotomy between filmic fiction and truth is at the heart of your work. Do you agree? And would it be fair to day that subjectivity, the mass media and pop culture are also central themes in your work. Can you elaborate further?

All truth is fiction, and all fiction is truth. Trying to find your place in this scary world is what interests me.

I saw Theory and Observation, 2002, at Bard, and it had a mystical effect on me. Can you say a little more about that particular work?

I was with my girlfriend at the time making a film of the choir at Notre Dame, we were in the back making out so I had to zoom in a lot. I had gone to elementary school at Cathedral School in SF for nine years and had grown up looking at a choir, so the imagery makes me feel safe. The soundtrack was by the Replikants. I have always been able to do a good impression of Steven Hawking and in high school used the Brief History of Time on a presentation on Black Holes, so when I heard their music and the Hawking sample, I decided to mix the two, Hawking, science, the disfigured and the distorted voice box against the angelic choir, youthful beauty and arrogance and pride of the church. A great juxtaposition.

How does literature influence your work?

Literature is a great influence because when I read something that I cherish I feel renewed and inspired beyond most vices.

In Recorded Yesterday, 2004, you used a vintage camera to shoot, which gives the piece an amateurish look. You use a combination of contrasting techniques: vintage cameras and amateurish-looking footage alongside a very precise, staged atmosphere and professional editing techniques. Can you describe how you set about shooting your videos?

Recorded Yesterday is successful because the lab that processed the film destroyed it. That’s why it peels apart and degrades. It became a perfect metaphor for MJ’s own mediated surface destruction. I think my process only works because it allows for accidents to improve the piece. Amateur looking footage lubricates that process because it already looks like you’re looking at an accident.

You have shown your work in both the States and Europe. How do reactions differ? Do you see your work as geographically specific?

I’ve heard I’m one of the only artists in the US making European work.

Your video work has a diversity of running times. When you decide on the running-time, to what extent do you consider the audience? Is it important for you that the audience sees the piece in its entirety?

A few years ago, I made shorter videos because I wanted to gain an audience and it wasn’t working with 30 minute epics, because of the art worlds 3 second attention span. Once I gained the audience, I have allowed the pieces to get longer. My latest pieces all fall around 7-12minutes. I don’t care if people watch the whole thing because all of my pieces are built around the idea that people will only watch for 3 seconds.

You have earned recognition as an artist at an early age. You also deal with fame and the effect of media in your art, most explicitly in The Doppelganger Trilogy. How does your reputation in the art world affect you and your work?
  • Do you consciously aim to criticize the role of the media?

Reputation is a hard thing to gauge, I get a lot of positive reviews but I know a lot of people think I’m an arrogant asshole. I used to care what people thought a few years ago, once you have a certain amount of success and achieve your goals you learn to not give a fuck what most people think. I actually have been feeling depressed lately that I have not gotten too much negative criticism or real criticism anyway. I look at the real criticism devoted to music and film and get jealous. I spend 6 months to a year working on a piece, release it, and don’t hear shit, other than a sentence or two. But at least now I get paid. The art world has become a gossip column.
The media is an easy, nebulous target. I use it because many of the issues I want to talk about are far too personal. Everyone can relate to the media and its superstars and heroes. Not everyone can relate to what I go through. I just got diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. I feel relieved to put a finger on what has been slowly destroying me since I was 12. The media is a filter which everyone relates to the world, every conversation is media influenced. To not acknowledge that would be a lie.

Can you talk about your curatorial project I, Assassin at the Wallspace in New York, 2004? Was it fun? Was it your first project as curator? What parallels do you see between the roles of curator and artist?
  • What kind of work would you like to exhibit in your next curatorial job?

I like curating shows because there’s a ton of work involved and you get people involved beside myself. It’s sort of like a cleansing mechanism. You have to remember that art inspires me. And I like literally showing that inspiration, instead of masking it in an art piece that I make. I’m curating a show (with Matthew Mascotte) at Blum and Poe in LA this summer called “The Monty Hall Problem”. It deals with the safety and desire found in angular plane abstraction and the transformation of those emotions into narcissistic figuration and representation and then back again. The show grew out of Calder’s 1975 drawings and their relationship to Mark Grotjahn.

Can you name any figures within the art world who have influenced you? And which artists from your generation do you identify with?
  • Would you say Christian Marclay has been an influence?

Charles Ray, Martin Kippenberger, Chris Marker, Sander, Winogrand, Jose Friere and every curator I work with. Marclay has not been too much of an influence although I love and respect his work tremendously.

What is your next project?

I’m trying to get this sci fi time travel La Jetee inspired film of the doppelganger as a NASA astronaut walking through the American Museum of Natural History off the ground.

Thank you for your time.

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