Alum Interviews Alum: O’Reilly and Keyser in Conversation on bmoreart

Below is an excerpt from an interview between Bart O’Reilly and Todd Keyser, in which they discuss Keyser’s most recent photographic interventions, painting, new media, and appropriation. Read the conversation in its entirety on bmoreart.com

Bart: This is something that you are getting at and how can painters extend painterly concerns into new media?

Todd: The main thing here is to ask yourself: what is the nature of one medium to another? For example: what makes a painting a painting? You go through these questions in your mind as your reflecting on what you’ve just made. One has to ask themselves: what do you allow yourself to do and why are you doing it? So for me in this case, I was painting my way through these various images that I was photographing myself – this felt more appealing to me instead of ripping the images from internet – the process of constructing these overpainted photos became more compelling and time consuming. And by bringing painting into photography the paint can then act as an intervening agent, followed by the reflexive observation: the space and materiality in the digital photo gets altered profoundly. Strategically, the paint is used in a limited way by painting in one basic shape onto the photograph and that painted intervention then has to be dealt with by the beholder. The results of these works reminded me of the theatricality of minimalist sculpture or painting. I find that rather interesting.

Bart: What you are doing involves an element of digital sampling but it does not feel like straight Postmodernist appropriation.

Todd: One aspect of what makes these works feel a little less appropriated is that I think the images feel chosen rather than quoted. Like there is a purpose behind all of this. The way I go about choosing the image is that I walk around the park and other areas in my neighborhood in West Philly and respond to real places that can either become a stage for these painted shapes and or have the shapes interrupt the artifice that I’m locked into, like a perfectly manicured lawn, a well kept park etc. Or just something that denotes naturalization. I feel that when I take the photograph myself rather than rip it from the internet there is a complexity and a richer dialogue that happens as a result of this. I therefore claim authorship for these choices rather than having it created for me by someone else’s decisions. This is something that happened over the course of a few months (February – August 2013). If I’m appropriating anything it could be the painted geometric shapes. But even then, I try to be sensitive to how I use them and this sensitivity I believe undercuts the function of quotation in the postmodern sense. So these do somehow, as you say, resurrect some attributes of the earlier modernist ideas like alienation effect and making strange and the later ideas of objecthood.

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