Briefly describe the work you do.
Over time it has become harder to pin down what my work actually is. In it’s more common manifestation, it exists as sound and/or video installation. As I create, it is my intention to create experience and/or affect the viewer.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Looking back, I would say my family has had a great influence on my artistic practice. Growing up I was exposed to my mother’s and father’s creative passions, interior design and farming respectively, that they have pursued throughout their lives. Being surrounded by such dedication to ones interests has instilled in me, the ability to change, adapt and choose to follow my dreams, whatever they might be.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I would consider “being in the studio”, the same as “being with myself”. Over time, my studio practice has become evermore theoretical in nature. As the studio has expanded to include writing, curating and collaboration in addition to making, I consider many of my favorite activities as part of the studio practice and I use them to mine and shape ideas as well as balance my life. For example, after a prolonged period of writing or sound editing, I will work on the house or build some furniture to unwind; in that intense period just before an exhibition opens, I will franticly organize to let the ideas and thoughts gel in my head or escape them all together for a moment; I will listen to podcasts in my spare time to let my mind wander or for research; hanging out with friends affords an occasion to talk about my thoughts and to hear them aloud; collaboration is a chance to learn something new, to work outside of my comfort zone or the opportunity to work on something larger than myself.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I first started, I never really thought of the artist as communicator, as having a larger voice or the ability to affect others. As the years have passed and I continue to work, I have begun to see it as a way to affect the viewer, not just to share my experiences but also to create a collective shared experience.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
As my studio practice has grown to involve so much, I do not have any specific time that I work. Generally, I do things that I enjoy, listening to podcast, talking to friends, building (whether it be making furniture or remodeling a kitchen), all of it impacts the final product. A studio practice in the traditional sense tends to happen in very intense short bursts and usually under pressure. The deadline motivates and forces resolution.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Over the years, the work has not necessarily changed, but grown. Through my experience in grad school, being involved in the greater art world and surrounding myself with some really great artists, my interests and work has grown to include collaboration, critical writing, curating, etc… While I have not totally abandoned myself as content and performer in the work, I do tend to seek out opportunities to work with others with greater frequency.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Like a lot of other artists most everything I do has some influence on what I make. While I can’t think of any one writer, person or artist that has had a direct impact, I am a huge fan of John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, Matthew Barney, Janet Cardiff and Ragnar Kjartansson to name a few. I also love to while away the time with some Radio Lab or any number of podcasts. More than that, I would say that my experience in grad school and the friends I keep have had the most impact on my work.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
If I were not an artist I would still be a maker, building really puts me at ease and is really satisfying. I could be a furniture maker, a contractor or an investor who is flipping houses. Even now, I find myself getting lost in Real Estate, HGTV or reverse engineering a Mid-Century chair.
About John Blatter
John Henry Blatter currently resides in Richmond where he maintains a studio and works at Virginia Commonwealth University. Blatter’s audio/video installations and collaborative works have been exhibited in New York, Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Omaha, Pittsburg as well as internationally in British Columbia, Basel and Istanbul.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.