What brought you to wanting to get your Ph.D.?
At a basic level, I was looking for new challenges. I’ve been reading art theory for years as a source of enjoyment and would pass the time reading theory. I worked graveyard shift at a gas station through undergrad and so am likely one of the few people in the art world who taught himself the basics of modernist, postmodernist and poststructuralist theory while sitting around a gas station for hours on end every night for a few years (maybe I can get some scholarship $$$ from Amoco…).
Past a certain point, however, I felt I’d reached as far as I could go without a more formal structure, and without people who could steer me to new texts and ideas, not to mention someone who could correct me when I was understanding the texts wrong or weirdly (whatever “wrong” might mean when it comes to such material). I also wanted to read things like Kant, but knew I’d never find the time unless someone was there to make me do it in a tight timeframe.
More to the point, however, I wanted to contribute to the unfolding discourse of fine art in a more in-depth way than one can as an artist. I’ve been showing my work since the late 90s, and had come to notice that the artists are often relegated to the factory floor (so to speak), and what we do is then contextualized and made part of the discourse–or not–by historians and critics who are frequently not artists themselves. We provide the raw material of the artwork, but many times that’s where our contribution ends. Very often it seems that those who form the discourse–via journals, conferences, books–have a doctorate. On the other hand, the decades of art that remain the most complex and interesting, decades like the 1960s or 1980s that are still argued over and are still wildly influential, were also decades when artists had a greater hand in textually defining what the art world was about: artist/writers such as Donald Judd, Robert Morris and Robert Smithson in the 60s, or Mary Kelly, Peter Halley or Barbara Kruger in the 80s. If a doctorate helps one contribute to the larger art world, and doing so from an artist’s perspective keeps things weird and interesting, then I’d like to see what I might be able to offer as a practicing artist, writer and philosopher with a doctorate.
How did you find IDSVA?
I found IDSVA via web search. Since it was a relatively new institution–not to mention a new educational approach in general–I was a bit wary at first. It seemed like exactly what I was looking for, but rather than jump right in I kept an eye on the program for a year or two to see how things went, what the students were doing and so on. Now that I’m in my second year it’s been a phenomenal, life-changing experience; my only regret is that I didn’t start the program a year or two earlier.
Did you attend an info session or talk to anyone at IDSVA before applying?
My first interaction was when I mailed in my application.
Who are you? (!) What else have you done in life? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I am the son of a truck driver and a hair dresser, I have a beautiful wife and daughter, and am the first person in my family to get a college degree. I spent about five years after high school and before undergrad (circa 1988-1993 traveling via hitchhiking, train, bicycle, bus caravan and other weird methods (for instance spending most of 1990-1992 as part of a mobile commune, analogous to what Hakim Bey would call a Temporary Autonomous Zone), and had been to all 50 states (and much of Mexico and Canada) by the time I was 30. I started doing zines in high school in the 1980s and traded on my art skills while on the road, doing t-shirt designs, record covers and flyers in exchange for a couch to sleep on. One of my zines somehow managed to become somewhat popular among both the emerging late-80s/early-90s rave scene and the re-emergent Grateful Dead scene, which provided enough income for an itinerant–if extremely frugal–existence, not to mention a great nationwide network of underground weirdos to meet, collaborate with and stay with.
Jason Hoelscher “Who’s Afraid of RGB”
When I settled down I did so quite deliberately: getting married and starting college within a three month period; we lived in Denver for four years for undergrad, then in NYC for ten years (where I got my MFA). My wife Sonya and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary next summer, and are presently based in Savannah, GA. Sonya is a force of nature, with Masters degrees in literacy and in early-childhood education, and national certification in mathematics. She teaches a stacked 2nd/3rd-grade class at a Montessori school. I teach at Savannah College of Art and Design, where I’m “the theory guy” in the graduate painting department, teaching a combination of studio and theory courses. My daughter is a scary-smart sweetheart who likes ballet, choir and Taekwondo.
You’ve had some papers published recently in scholarly journals, not to mention your art showing all over the world.
One of the things IDSVA has done has been to unleash my desire and ability to write. Recent and forthcoming papers include:
Peer-Review Journal: “Autopoietic Art Systems and Aesthetic Swarms: Notes on Polyphonic Purity and Algorithmic Emergence,” Evental Aesthetics, Vol. 2, No. 3, Winter 2013
Anthology: “Site/Non-Site/Website: Presence, Absence and Interface in the Online Studio Critique,” in Stephen Knudsen, ed. The Art of Critique: Reimagining Art Criticism and the Art School Critique, 2014
Anthology: “Toward an Autocatalytic Aesthetics,” in Ian Verstegen and Roger Rothman, eds. The Changing Complexion of Theory in Visual Studies, forthcoming 2014
Magazine: “Pattern and Deregulation: Beauty and Non-Order in Contemporary Painting,” ArtPulse Magazine, vol. 4, no. 17, October 2013
Conference paper: “Transmodal Textuality: The Text as Multi-Coded Interface,” The Return of the Text conference, Lemoyne College, September 2013, Syracuse NY
Magazine: “Janet Kawada: Art in Time, Time as Art,” ArtPulse Magazine, vol. 4, no. 15, May 2013
Magazine: “MIT: In the Holocene,” ArtPulse Magazine, vol. 4, no. 15, May 2013
Journal: “Art Circuit: The Biennial Complex as Dynamic Chronotopic System,” Artcore Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, Winter 2013 [lead essay]
I’ve been showing my artwork here and there the last couple of years too, with solo and group shows in places ranging from Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Denver, Atlanta, Provincetown and a few other places. Onward and upward, and all that!