I was first turned on to David Horvitz’s work by Gudrun Landl at Bureau N, when she was telling me about a double exhibition project TRANZPARENZEN / TRANSPARENCIES between Bielefelder Kunstverein and Kunstverein Nürnberg in late 2015. The artists each presented two of their works in the respective museums, David Horvitz showed his work ‚Mood Disorder‘ and the app he had developed called ‚the space between us‘. The works intrigued me so I checked out his website; it made me want to do an interview with him that could be seen as a virtual studio visit. With me in Berlin and him in the USA, a nice email chat evolved and the result is what follows.I am happy to have taken the time to dissect David’s work for myself a bit– it’s really impossible to verbalize his aeshtetic; what seemed at first to me to be energized on a level of hyper-virtuality really afterall comes from the very deep soul. Delighful to be the case, this interview emerges just after the opening of David Horvitz’s solo exhibition currently on view at Chert’s new space in the Ritterstrasse in Berlin. Here it goes…
You are arguably most notably known for your work in the virtual sphere, but you’ve also been known to work with physical items such as books, photography, performance art. How did your artistic fascination begin, and what propelled the transition of your working with physical media to virtual media.
My dad showed me how to use a camera when I was 12 years old. The story and its details matter, but I don’t want to give a biographical anecdote. As for the transition from physical to virtual media, I think the reverse is actually true: I believe I went from digital to physical. I grew up when the internet became a thing, and it was just natural to make work there. Just like how it would be natural to make work in a public space, or on a billboard, or a bench, or in the classifieds of a newspaper; the internet was there as this social space. It was later I started making physical things because I found it sometimes quite dull to ‚translate‘ digital work into a physical exhibition space. So I began thinking about things more physically and spatially.
How do you think growing up in Los Angeles has helped in the development of your work?
Growing up in LA means you go to the beach every day. You can stand on a bluff and look out onto the ocean. And because of the proximity of LA to the ocean and the marine layer, there are micro-climates that alter the experience of looking and what you see, even within the span of a single day. So you can stand in the same spot and look out onto the ocean and it’s complete fog and the ocean is veiled, and then ten minutes later total clarity with blue sky and razor sharp horizon, or you could see in front of you and then you can’t, and you can watch the fog move and the wind makes all the difference too. A lot of what I did was looking, seeing, gazing, and disappearing in and out of the frame. I went to the beach every day.
How do you think leaving LA had influenced your work?
If seeing and receiving has anything to do with perspective, which it does, then leaving LA provided contrast. I missed the beach. And it’s not just leaving a place, but also where you go, where you arrive. What you miss, what is different, who you meet, what you notice. So maybe leaving LA influenced my work by providing new perspectives, but maybe it’s just leaving in general, the act of leaving itself, that changes you.
What has most influenced your work and how you see aesthetic?
The first layer of influence comes from just going outside and looking around and listening. To the beach, the garden, the fog. From the place and the experience. And then you start to notice transitions. Not just linear growth, like a tree from a seed, but transition in all directions. And the time it takes, and the space that holds a place. It sounds contemplative but often it’s excitement that drives my work.
In your own words, what is the definition of ‘Mail Art’?
Mail art is any work sent through the mail where the act of mailing and the distance between the sender and receiver is intrinsic to the work’s meaning.
Do you think something changes with aesthetic when it leaves a set, physical location / environment?
Yes of course. It shifts contexts. Its movement generates new meanings, new relationships to new environments. New destinations and places of arrival generate new perspectives. Movement generates transformation and so the work itself changes as it received by new locations, new people. And then you’re also able to ask and see what is essential about something, what stays the same, despite all the movement.
How did this idea of distance play a role in your latest work ‘The Distance Between Us’?
The whole work is based on spatial orientation between two bodies, two people. It’s an App about using two people as points of orientation. I’m thinking about physical distance as something that one loses sense of in a world where technology conflates time and space. With technology like the Internet and smart phones and things that connect people, you lose sense of spatial distance and time. Time and space collapse into each other. But they are obviously not gone. So I’m thinking about where people are in the world, not as a dot on a Google map or as an interface on a screen that represents someone, but physically where someone is. Maybe you’re standing in a garden in Brooklyn, and you’re mentally and physically and spatially and temporally in it. Or maybe you’re standing in that same garden but you are in virtual space, on your phone. You are connected everywhere.
You are not actually present in the place where you are. That’s why I hate GPS driving directions, you can be somewhere and move through space without knowing where you are. When you’re driving somewhere and you’re following a dot on a map that tells you where to go, your sense of space is represented through this device. You are no longer in physical space. You’re in an abstract digital space. And I’m more interested in embracing physical space. How to be in space. So my App is an arrow that points off the screen. It doesn’t draw you into the device. It points away from the device in a specific direction toward another person who is also in physical space. So the distance between two people can draw you back into physical place and space even as it points away from where you are.
I love love love your work ‘Mood Disorder’, but it seems to sort of need explaining around it. I mean, this explaining turns into something more personal, like an anecdote, but still, its not like a painting or sculpture that you can just place in a room and it speaks for itself. I feel like this piece also sort of gets more attention due to the stories around it. Could you explain this piece to me a bit, how the idea started… did you expect the images to get the attention they did, or was that part of the plan…
Wiki is a copyright-free website, people can legally use images without paying a royalty fee; so in a sense, Wikipedia hosts free stock images. I was looking at a lot of stock photographs depicting depression and I wanted to make my own image with myself as a subject. I put the photograph onto the Wikipedia page for ‚mood disorder‘ and my image became a free stock image for mood disorders. Later, using a reverse image search, I located the places online where the image was used. It was used in everything from articles to blogs. I had no expectations but the images showed up everywhere. And who knows if websites lifted the image from Wikipedia or from other websites that had found the image from other websites that had found the image on Wikipedia. The Internet is a place where anything can happen.
This question is difficult to formulate: in many artists, one can obviously see a sort of leitmotif of how their work develops over the years; with your works, I don’t wish to say that I see a development quite clearly, I feel like I see more, like, milestones of development…. for instance, this photo series you did called ‚Public Sex Acts‘. I love how they kind of work like a nexus for something very personally intimate and something completely cold…
I make a lot of work and sometimes specific works are used to look backwards, to reflect and draw connections between different projects that were never intentionally connected – or the connections are only visible after the fact. It’s interesting that the ‚Public Sex Acts‘ piece stands out, because it was made as a joke. I never intended for it to serve as a milestone. I had it on my Flickr page and someone wanted to print it as a Zine because he thought it was funny. But because it got printed as a physical object, it became part of the cultural narrative. It could be collected, archived, given a name. In ten years someone could find it and hold it and say, “Oh how interesting, and wonder how it fits into my body of work.” But it wasn’t a work with a ton of thought or inspiration behind it. In fact I’m embarrassed by it.
Standing as an outside observer of your work, it seems like you are / have been looking for new way to create and work with aesthetic. You’ve gone from physical, more traditional forms of artistic manifestation, into performance, books, and onto virtual reality. Do you think you’ll ever find a point where you are stuck due to media potentiality?
It’s not something I think about or worry about. Infinite media may offer the potential for infinite works. But working within constraints also carries limitless potential and calls for new perspectives and relationships.
SHOW CLOSES 11 JUNE 2016.
CHERT / at the new gallery space / Ritter Strasse 2a / 10969 Berlin / Tu – Sa 12 – 18h
Images: Courtesy of the artists and CHERT