INTERVIEW WITH JESS MAC

Tumblr can be a diary, pinboard, artistic tool, portfolio, network or a news site. Although tumblr is a social network like Facebook, Twitter and the like, yet it is different from the other platforms especially due to the unique understanding of authorship. Tumblr does not feature extensive personal profiles, and it is probably this potential for anonymity that is the networks‘ greatest potential.
But who is behind the millions of tumblr blogs? Who is creating posts day after day and who is following in real time when others do the same? Here we take a peek behind the scenes of the visual anarchy and look at the workflow and the self-conception of particularly prominent bloggers.

© Jess Mac
© Jess Mac

There are just a handful of tumblr-blogs that I visit on a daily basis. One of them is „JessMac.“ The motto: „What happens on the internet, stays on the internet.“ The gifs on this blog are a wild mix of popular culture, politics, art and feminism – unambigious and ambigious at the same time. And they are a statement about current internet culture.
These gifs are predestined to become memes, yet they parody the genre in a very bitter manner at the same time. They are cheerful and vicious, political and banal, art and anti-art at the same time.
Behind this blog is Jess Mac (aka Jess/ica MacCormack). They have graduated from Bauhaus University in Weimar (Germany) in 2008 with a Masters‘ degree. Not only do they work with animation and performance, but also with installation and collaboration. Generally there are no inhibitions about media usage: everything is fair game.
Jess was an Assistant Professor of Studio Arts at Concordia University (2010-2013) and has participated in different residencies throughout Germany.

© Jess Mac
© Jess Mac

I have been following your tumblr-blog „Jess Mac“ for about two years. Since then I have visited your blog every day, hoping that you have  uploaded a new Gif. Therefore, first of all, tell me about your tumblr-routine.

Oh thank you! I forget real people actually see what I post… It so often feels like my own private and personal bubble. It’s always a pleasant surprise when I realize people see my work. (And are not just numbers that appear under images 😉

Apologies for all my excessive reposting! I like shuffling my images and seeing them in relation to each other over time, juxtaposing content to create new narratives and a larger work when one goes on my page.

When did you start a tumblr-blog and why?

I originally started my tumblr as an “artist website“ in 2010 (as I was too ambivalent about building an actual website at that time). Later that year a student introduced me to the concept of memes, and then a close artist/friend, Vincent Chevalier, explained how tumblr works as a social media site. I started creating digital collages and uploading them in the aftermath of a close friend passing away, originally as an attempt to finish the animation we had been collaborating on. But I just couldn’t do it. This ended up turning into a whole new practice of gifs and digital collages.

Do you work with your tumblr more intuitively or more conceptually? 

I oscillate between both. There are certain posts I make that come as a reaction to urgent political situations and/or Internet/tumblr trends. But most of the time I collect images that grab my attention, then play with them to see how they could relate. I like to experiment and see what comes up while also reflecting trends and politics I see online.

I used to make full stop-motion animations in Photoshop that were made up of thousands of frames and frequently worked intuitively on these.

How would you characterize your own tumblr?

Hmmm, it is very strange. A mixture of humour, the bizzare, entertainment, pink, slapstick, heartbroken, crappy, mental health, colours, sexuality, vulnerability, critique, gender, pop culture, survival, spinning, anxiety, emojis, text, feminism, tarot, urgency, queerness, art history, glitter, pizza, and death.

I really find it both overwhelming and calming, but cannot imagine how others might see it.

© Jess Mac
© Jess Mac

I’ve reblogged a lot of your work on tumblr or facebook. They have often given me the opportunity to make a good and compact statement. For example I’ve posted a gif of Jess Mac to say something about feminism or the election. They are perfect for making statements, because they are serious and humorous at the same time. Are you aware of this dimension of your gifs? That they are a tool with which your followers can express themselves?

Wow, no! This is great. I mean, I spend a lot of time working as an activist and artist, and am quite politically engaged. So I spend a lot of time reflecting of human rights in today’s world, and my digital art/gifs are one of the ways I make sense of the complexity of feelings associated with these difficult realities.

What is the status oft your tumblr-blog in the context of art? 

This I’ve never been able to make a decision on. If I call it art I feel like I’ll lose all the flexibility and fun of it, but I do think of the whole thing as a durational project, but it is also just an obsession. It feels a bit like a sketch book, except i’m sketching with the internet. I haven’t really integrated this digital work into my art „career“, though I have taken part in a few exhibitions and panels. I once built a large scale sculpture out of cardboard with oversized printed digital stickers on it, but no one wanted to show it. This evolved into a participatory, masked protest piece called URL><IRL.

I’m very critical of art and it’s complacency with neoliberal capitalism, so I have other projects that are more intensively political in the articulation of this.

© Jess Mac
© Jess Mac

The actuality of your tumblr posts makes them transient. They are not made for eternity. This, of course, is a general aspect of communication within social media. But is this also a feature that you demand of your art, and perhaps even of contemporary art in general?

Yes, I realize that the internet makes my images readily available for online consumption. I once saw that one of my uterus gifs was used to illustrate another friend’s work in Glamour magazine! We had to write them to give me credit. Lol.

I guess for me this work doesn’t really succeed at being contemporary art, because it’s too crappy. I mean intentionally shittily made and frequently too ridiculous to understand. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to lend itself to prestige… But generally speaking I am not interested in seeing my work on Starbucks mugs someday.

Would you say the tumblr-blog as a whole is your main project? Or do you run it on the side? Or is it ‚just‘ the exhibition space for your art?

It is a side project for me, that sometimes appears to also be a main project 😉

I would say it is one project of many regarding my overall practice, but frequently people know my work only through one fraction of it. So for some people I am a community artist that works with women in conflict with the law, for others I’m an animator or performance artist, for others I am the creator of the graphic book The See, etc. Maybe my tumblr is a decoy? Or an alter-ego?

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© Jess Mac

You told me, that you are currently in a residency program in northern Germany. What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past ten years on residencies in Germany, but for the past few years I’ve been working with collaborators here on an anonymous collective project. So i can’t actually say…

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

© Jess Mac
© Jess Mac