James W. Bailey, a local artist, participates in the Artist Interview Artists Project. Below James responds to another artist's five questions (Matt Hollis from Washington, D.C.). In order to participate, James had to provide me with five questions for some other artist to answer. The assigning of questions to artists is completely random. If you're an artist and interested in participating, let me know.
TO: THE READERS OF THINKING ABOUT ART
FROM: JAMES W. BAILEY
RE: “INTERROGATING MY MEANING”, “POSTMODERN ART TERRORISTS FROM FRANCE AND THE IMMINENT THREAT THEY REPRESENT TO NATIONAL SECURITY” AND “MY POLITE AND DIRECT ANSWERS TO FIVE PRESSING QUESTIONS FROM AN ARTIST”
*SPECIAL NOTE FOR FOX NEWS AND WASHINGTON POST STYLE SECTION FANATICS: THE FOLLOWING DOES NOT CONCERN ANY SALACIOUS STORIES ABOUT A PRETTY WHITE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS WHO RAN AWAY FROM HER WEDDING AND LANDED A $500,000 BOOK DEAL, WHO VANISHED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH FROM ARUBA OR A SPIT OF SAND IN THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE, WHO SLUTED AROUND IN THE POLITICAL POWER CIRCLES OF WASHINGTON, DC, WROTE A 3rd GRADE LEVEL TELL ALL SEXPLOIT MEMOIR AND GOT SERVED WITH A SUBPOENA BY AN ANGRY WHITE MALE EX-BEDMATE DURING A BOOK SIGNING OR WHO PAINFULLY STRIPPED HERSELF OF HER OVERLY BURDENSOME UPPER CLASS STUFF AND PUKED HER GUTS OUT IN FRONT OF THE CORCORAN PRIOR NEARLY COLLAPSING FROM SUN STROKE.
As many of you are aware, the massive wave of illegal immigration of postmodern art theorists into this country continues to remain unchallenged by the federal government of the United States of America; indeed, these violent deconstructionists/destructionists easily stream through customs at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City after jumping off chartered Air France jets from Paris with barely a passing inquisitive glance by the authorities who are charged with protecting the citizens of America.
Our government, as a matter of unwritten policy, has for some time now routinely turned a blind eye to this problem because the powers that be in Washington, D.C. understand only too well that illegal immigrant French-speaking postmodernists exported from Europe to America are only too eager and willing to take those relatively few high paying ivory tower tenured positions at elite university art departments and contemporary art museums because most other hard working English-Spanish-Korean-non-art-theory-speaking-you-name-it-other-than-French-art-speaking-with-the-exception-of-French-speaking-Cajun-fishing-hunting-trappers-who-float-around-in-their-pirogues-in-the-swamps-of-Southwest-Louisiana-daily-beer-drinking-American-Idol-watching-average Americans are simply unwilling to voluntarily give up their undependable minimum hourly wage jobs with no health insurance in order to live the privileged cloistered pampered life of the upper class New York City art elite – plus, the truth be known, no matter how much they might be paid by a prestigious university or respected museum, the average non-French art speaking American would honestly much rather spend his or her measly amount of non-compensated down time from work actually enjoying a brief moment away from their mundane mind-numbing jobs that exist to support the furthering of the immoral interests of the lobby(liar)ist bribed Congressional bi-party Demo(ted)crat-Repu(nant)blican capitalist system of repression rather than having to spend the tens of thousands of mind-boggling hours needed in order to learn how to fake the ability to speak and understand the invented language of postmodernism so as to even have a shot at being employed in such a vapid, shallow and hollow pseudo-intellectual industry in the first place.
Be that as it may, it is a well known fact in the visual arts intelligence community that many among the current wave of illegal immigrant postmodernists have intimate financial, philosophical and political ties to elements of Al Qeada. J.T.’s Artists Interview Artists program is an exciting new venture and he is to be commended for undertaking this innovative project. However, my routine security protocol, established after 9/11 in order to protect my very life from potential acts of art terrorism that may be committed by the cabal of postmodernists that are running loose in this country, is to require that the following Application for Authorized Contact be completed by a potential postmodernist seeking to “interrogate my meaning” prior me agreeing to engage in any form of contact with such a suspect. Because of personal time constraints, and in the cooperative spirit of wishing to advance this project, I have agreed to wave the normal required timely submission of a completed application prior answering the questions that have been submitted to me as part of this project.
I thought all should be aware of the usual steps I undertake to protect my life and name from being traduced by potential illegal immigrant postmodernist terrorists. I maintain an anti-copyright on the following and encourage all to freely adapt the Application for Authorized Contact for personalized use in other applicable areas as well. For example, I have had many associates over the years report that it is the perfect vehicle to use to vet a potential boyfriend, girlfriend, marriage partner, live-in partner, or even a potential art dealer or gallery owner, prior engaging in a real, substantive and legal relationship of any nature.
People who have nothing to hide will not object to completing the application – indeed, they will happily do so with a big cooperative grins on their faces, warmed in the heart, mind and spirit by the reassuring knowledge that you truly desire a deep, affectionate and genuine relationship with them. My advice is to watch out with a hawk’s eye for those conniving back-sliding moon-walking double-jive-ass-b.s.-talking backstabbing fools who balk at completing it. As the old timers in Mississippi say: “A blind man who steps on a blind rattlesnake needs to have his eyes checked.”
James W. Bailey
APPLICATION FOR AUTHORIZED CONTACT
The following Application for Authorized Contact must be completed fully, accurately and honestly before any authorized form of contact or any type of communications between the Applicant and James W. Bailey will be allowed. Application must be submitted for review and approval by James W. Bailey at least seventy-two (72) hours before Applicant desires any contact or wishes to engage in any form of contact or type of communications.
The approval of this Application for Authorized Contact is required in order to protect the integrity, veracity and honesty of all forms of contact and all types of communications that may take place, exist or come into being between the Applicant and James W. Bailey.
If Applicant's Application for Authorized Contact is approved, Applicant agrees that all forms of contact and all types of communications between Applicant and James W. Bailey will be honest, accurate, complete and truthful and without any form of deception, fraud or trickery, manipulation, intimidation or subterfuge. Applicant further agrees that should this Application for Authorized Contact be approved, that pursuant to its approval, the Applicant will immediately notify James W. Bailey in writing by certified mail of any acts of commission or acts of omission that may adversely impact the continued Authorized Contact under the terms of this application.
The following questions need to be answered fully, completely, honestly and accurately:
Full Legal Name: __ Any Aliases Used: __
Social Security Number: ___Other Social Security Numbers Used: ___
Home Phone Number: ___Work Number: ___ Emergency Contact: ___
Present Legal Residence: ___ Length of Time at Residence: ___
Previous Residences for the Last Ten (10) Years: ___
Previous Home Phone Numbers for the Last Ten (10) Years:___
Agent for Service of Legal Process and Address: ___
WORK HISTORY: List below all employers for the last ten- (10) years. Include addresses, phone numbers and supervisor's name: ___
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND: List below all schools, colleges, universities or other educational institutions including terrorist training camps that you have attended since grade school: ___
CRIMINAL HISTORY: List below all detainments, questionings, arrests, convictions, pleas or plea bargains for any misdemeanor or felony offense for which you were charged or not charged, and/or prosecuted or not prosecuted: ___
If you answer YES to the following questions, please provide complete details:
Are you now or have you ever been an employee or agent of any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization? ___
Are you now or have you ever acted under color of law for any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization? ___
Are you now or have you ever been a paid or non-paid informant, confidential source of information, or under-cover operative for any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization? ___
Have you ever in your life lied, mislead or falsified a statement to another person about any issue of material fact? ___
Have you ever in your life misappropriated, pilfered or stolen any private or public property from any person? ___
Have you ever engaged in any form of fraud, deception or trickery in regard to any form of contact or type of communications with any person or persons for any reason whatsoever? ___
Have you ever legally or illegally recorded, videotaped or in any way surreptitiously monitored any form of contact or type of communications between yourself and another person or persons? ___
If you agree to the release of the following requested files, please be advised that some agencies may require that notarized documents and/or fees be submitted or paid in advance of the release of requested files that pertain to you that are in their possession and/or under their care, custody or control. All such fees and/or expenses are for the account of the applicant.
Will you consent to a release of your present and past personnel work files? ___
Will you consent to a release of certified copies of your last ten (10) years local, state and federal income tax returns, including, but not limited to, any business or corporate filings you may have made? ___
Will you consent to a release of your medical history files? ___
Will you consent to a release of any and all files pertaining to your criminal history? ___
Will you consent to a release of any and all files pertaining to you that may be in the possession and/or care, custody or control of the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Administration or Interpol? ___
The following affirmations are required:
Do you swear or affirm under oath that all forms of contact and all types of communications that may take place between you and James W. Bailey will be honest, truthful, accurate and with out any form of deception or trickery? ___
Do you swear or affirm that all forms of contact and all types of communications between you and James W. Bailey will remain private, privileged and confidential unless expressly released in writing by James W. Bailey? ___
Do you swear or affirm that you are not acting under color of law as an agent, investigator or undercover operative for any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization for the purpose of collecting any information that may be used against James W. Bailey in a court of law or for the purpose of assassinating his life or traducing his name? ___
Do you swear or affirm that you are not acting as an informant for any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization for the purpose of collecting any information that may be used against James W. Bailey in a court of law or for the purpose of assassinating his life or traducing his name? ___
Do you swear or affirm that you will not record, videotape, film or in anyway surreptitiously monitor any form of contact or any type of communications that may exist, transpire or take place between you and James W. Bailey? ___
Do you swear or affirm that you will immediately notify James W. Bailey in writing by certified mail should you be approached, engaged, employed or enticed to engage in any of the above activities by any private person, party, employee, informant, undercover operative or any other entity with any ties whatsoever to any governmental entity, agency or department or terrorist organization? ___
I, ___, hereby swear or affirm under oath that I have read the above application and that I understand it fully and have completed it honestly and accurately.
I further swear or affirm under oath that should any changes take place in my life that would adversely affect the truthfulness and accuracy of the above answers, especially any such changes that might adversely affect any interests of James W. Bailey, that I will immediately notify James W. Bailey in writing by certified mail of any and all such changes.
APPLICANT'S FULL LEGAL NAME - PRINT: ___ SIGNATURE: ___ DATE: ___
APPLICANT'S LEFT THUMB PRINT: ____ APPLICANT'S RIGHT THUMB PRINT: ___
REVIEWED BY JAMES W. BAILEY:
SIGNATURE: ___ DATE: ___
APPROVED: ___ DENIED: ___ COMMENTS: ___
5 ARTIST QUESTIONS SUBMITTED TO JAMES W. BAILEY
1.) What question do you hate being constantly asked about your work?
JWB: Favorite hate crime question: “Why don’t you do larger prints?”
Background: My present body of “Rough Edge Photography” is primarily confined to the classic drug store style processed 4” x 6” black and white print format. These images are derived from source negatives that are exposed through found 35mm point and shoot cameras. The found cameras, source negatives and prints are all subjected to intense physical violence, including pin pricks, scratching, tearing, cutting, baptism in caustic chemicals like gasoline and bleach, and it all gloriously culminates with art things (including the found cameras) being righteously set on fire.
I subject my art to fire because I believe that God Almighty created the Devil who has inspired the creation of the greatest music, literature and art the world has ever known and because I have a deep fascination, born of my Mississippi Blues roots whose very soul was powerfully Slain in the Spirit of the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ on a steaming hot Delta August night in a humble Primitive American Baptist Church located near Sarepta, Mississippi, for the inspirational Hell Fires where the Devil freely chooses to live and work his infinite black magic in the unseen Hoodoo art realm that is made manifest for the human eye in the physical realm in a spiritually hallowed place popularly known by sinners and saints alike as the City of New Orleans.
I prefer to print my photographs in the 4” x 6” format because I love the personal intimacy of small scale photographs and the connectivity of such photos to the mythology of the traditional Southern family photograph album.
My trademarked answer to this I-get-it-all-the-time question is this: “Because no matter how large I might choose to print my petite terrorized and victimized fire-bombed disintegrated black and white images in order to appeal to the postmodern bigger-slicker-more-deeply-drenched-techno-digitally-enhanced-color-wonderful-photographs-are-better-than-God’s-own-rose-smelling-shit-Manhattan-art-elite-I-won’t-buy-it-or-positively-review-it-unless-the-image-is-at-least-three-times-the-size-of-my-alter-ego-art-ingesting-money-grubbing-soulless-hip-hop crowd, Donald Trump will always be able to drop his Brioni suit pant and his silk lace Versace thong underwear for men and prove before a national television audience on ‘The Apprentice’ that his dick is bigger than mine. I therefore courageously choose to embrace the humbleness of my naive angst-ridden quasi-reclaimed-revirginized feminine side and am propelled by it to desperately cling to the deluded belief that it’s not the size of the boat that matters, but the motion of the ocean.” I have this response line perfectly memorized and can issue it on command accompanied by a most threatening hostile blank defiant expression learned from Clint Eastwood’s performance in “High Plains Drifter” following its recitation.
2.) What helps create a suitable environment for making art (aside from tools)?
JWB: A really fucked up international news day! I’m serious. I thrive on international political implosions. It gets my creative juices flowing to see anarchy rippling around the planet. That and the predictable disintegration of a multiplicity of accumulated mainstream media proffered propagandistic edited imagery of such events sustain my religious belief in the power of the fraud of film photography to reveal the lie that is a truth that is a lie. I understand that some artists listen to music while they create. I’ve tried that, but could never really get into it. I get distracted by music because I'm too much of a music fanatic. I prefer to dream while listening to music. Because my photography involves the somewhat controlled use of fire (although I occasionally veer toward artistically suppressed acts of outright attempted arson), I prefer to work outdoors with three television sets cosmically connected to CNN, Fox News and the BBC during a serious international meltdown.
Wars in particular really stimulate my adrenalin. I get a lot of work accomplished during the initial opening stages of a war. And I'm especially inspired to create art during the opening days of a war in which the little son-of-a-bitch looks like for a brief moment that he might have the upper hand on the big son-of-a-bitch before the big son-of-a-bitch gets seriously pissed that he was caught off guard by a sneaky left hook delivered from out of left field from such an underestimated military midget and then proceeds to brutally counter by dumping down the nation's full arsenal from the bloated bellies of stealth bombers zipping around in outer space.
Particularly aesthetically inspirational wars, for example, would be the Mujahadeen kicking the ass of the Soviet Empire out of Afghanistan and the Zapatistas kicking the ass of the Mexican government in Chiapas during the early days of the conflict. Those events inspired a lot of art for me and many others. Once upon a time off the coast of Argentina, I once imagined that I might have found great inspiration to create some truly astounding art as motivated by the brave actions of a certain group of rugged penguins living on Islas Malvinas who I thought at the time would put up a stiff resistance to the British Navy’s efforts to reclaim the Falklands for the Queen. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be: those damn wimp-ass penguins collapsed faster than the Republican Guard in Iraq and fled to Antarctica as soon as the first wave of Argentinean forces hit the beaches in preparation for battle. The Falklands War turned out to be a snooze and I was completely uninspired by it to create a single piece of art and I still hate penguins to this very day.
I also like to explore the relationship between natural environments and my work. For example, I like to burn my photographs just before the start of a major thunderstorm. I have also experimented (so far unsuccessfully) with attempts to set my photographs on fire by attaching them to metal rods that have been staked in the sand on the beach of the Mississippi Gulf Coast during a lightening storm. This experiment is inspired by the creation of fulgurite. Glass (a glassy object, to be exact) that is made as a result of a cloud-to-ground lightning discharge is called a fulgurite (from the Latin "fulgur" which means lightning). Fulgurites come in a great variety of forms and can be viewed as nature's own works of art.
My grandfather in Mississippi was really into this and showed me when I was a child how to attempt the creation of fulgurites. We used to stake rods all over his farm just prior a thunderstorm rolling across the state. My grandfather’s cows and horses were known throughout the county as being among some of the smartest damn animals around. When they saw us out in the fields staking rods, they knew a storm front was moving through and they would immediately move as a unified posse toward safer ground. The pigs, goats, chickens, dogs, cats and other animals, including my grandfather’s pet Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, were pretty smart too and would high-tail it for the barn or run or slither for cover under the house. If you’ve never seen lightening strike a couple of hundred plus metal rods spread out and staked over 60 plus acres of open ground, then you have definitely missed one of God’s ultimate hell-raising human assisted performance art projects. It will leave you breathless.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I’ve yet to achieve any success with the process with my photographs – but I’ll keep trying till I do, or am struck dead by lightening in the process of trying!
3.) How willing are you to remove yourself from the work?
JWB: Not at all and let me explain why: I hold a religious belief, probably inherited from my paternal Mississippi grandmother who was ¼ Choctaw Indian and who was extremely distrustful of cameras, that photography has the magical power to capture a living element of life, a flashpoint of the soul if you will.
The process of photographing a living person or “non-living” entity (an object or building, for example) at a particular moment in time captures an element of life of that entity in a fixated way that would normally be lost to history. I believe that photographic images that have been taken of the living or the dead literally capture an element of the life force that presented itself in that moment that was captured.
When this living element, or the particle of the soul of the living or dead, if you will, is captured, it has the capability of re-generating itself in much the same way that certain life forms can lose a limb and regenerate it. The process of film photography literally steals a portion of life and can regenerate an aspect of that stolen fragment of life through the presented photograph itself.
Having lived in the deeply mystical and spiritualistic environment of New Orleans for most of my adult life, I do believe in the life of the dead. The dead do live and have feelings and emotions, can experience pain and recall memories, and have the capacity to consent. I also understand how difficult this belief might be for many to grasp.
Morality in photography is a major concern of mine. I believe that photographers must act in a moral fashion with respect for the people and objects they photograph. This is an important issue for me. I personally don’t want discontented souls drifting around in the universe angry at me for what I have done to them with my photography. Some photographers don’t care about the morality of photography: paparazzi, for example, who gleefully photographed Princess Diana while she lay dying in a car in Paris. These are horrendous photographic acts of immorality perpetrated by reckless and amoral photographers who are more concerned about associating their names with their work and their work with fame and fortune than they are about the moral issues of life and death and the right of the living, as well as the dead, to consent to acts that portray them in photographic art.
The process of stealing an element of life through a photograph does cause, in my spiritual opinion, a degree of damage in the life force photographed. The life force may not know it, in the case of surreptitious street photographs made of a homeless person who is unaware they are being photographed as part of a documentary photography project, or the life force may fully consent to it in an emotionally suicidal way, such as may be the case with an under-age drug-addicted girl who might “consent” to being illegally photographed as part of a child pornography publication in order to earn some money to feed her habit.
I spiritually believe that both the photographs of the homeless person and the abused child taken with or without their consent capture a particle of their living essence. The photographs steal an element of their souls. The theft of that piece of their souls harms them to a degree.
The only thing the photographer can do to make the universe right with what he or she has done is to place the photograph that they have taken, which I believe to be a living organism, into a context of positive growth. And the great photographers, whether they know it or not, are photographers who have taken stolen elements of life as captured by film photography and have placed those living substances into a context where the photographically captured life force has been encouraged toward positive growth and appreciation by the people who see the photograph. It’s my goal as a photographer to aspire to this ethical principle of photography.
I also freely admit that my photographs themselves steal the souls of the living or none-living objects that I photograph. I am therefore constantly walking a tightrope with the ethical implications of what I photograph and how it might damage or adversely impact the souls of my subjects.
For me, the creation of my photographic art is a deeply spiritual experience. It would be very difficult for me to willingly remove myself from the work – it would actually be easier for me to deny the existence of God.
4.) Describe an insecurity you deal with in making art.
JWB: The insecurity that burdens me more than any other is the fact that I burn and melt the original source negatives into my finished works of art. Since the original negatives are destroyed, there’s no going back to the film based recordation of those photographic moments that exist in my art.
Destroying the negatives compels me to constantly question whether or not I have created the best works of art possible. Of course, my process is entirely experimental (I never know what the final work will look like). Once I’m satisfied with the presentation of the work (the emotional feel and physical look of it if you will), I then destroy the source negatives used to create it.
It’s a common experience for me to immediately start sensing a certain dreaded fear and palm-sweating apprehension while watching the negatives melt into the finished pieces of art. I often experience this feeling of “Oh my God! What have I just done?” The fear and insecurity being, I suppose, that if the pieces don’t present themselves in a way that I’m ultimately satisfied with, then I have no recourse to reprint them because the negatives have been destroyed. Perhaps the greatest insecurity is the fact my “Rough Edge Photography” photographic process constantly keeps the issues of life and death and life after death in the forefront of my mind.
5.) Name something from your childhood that comes up in your work.
JWB: One of the major steps toward the evolution of my experimental style of photography concerns an event that took place when I was a child. When I was 11 years old I was staying one summer with my grandparents at their farm in Mississippi. In the late afternoon one day, a man came running up to my grandparent’s house screaming that the home of a neighbor of my grandparent’s was on fire. All of us rushed in my grandfather’s cattle truck down the road to this Civil War era farm house that had smoke and fire rushing out of it. A group of men, including my grandfather, began to run inside the house to try and rescue any valuables that belonged to the family that owned the home.
At one point I mustered up the courage and ran inside myself. I was almost immediately overcome with smoke and heat. Being inside that burning house was the most frightening thing I had ever experienced up to that point of my life.
My dad is a retired fireman and I quickly recalled as I was standing inside this burning house that my dad always used to tell me from the time I was born that if you ever find yourself in a building that is on fire to drop to your knees and crawl toward a door because there is more oxygen near the floor of a burning room than at the ceiling. I immediately fell to the floor and began to crawl back to the front door. As I was crawling I saw a medium size cedar box with the top open on the floor. Inside the box were a collection of family photographs and several of them where charred, burned and on fire. I closed the top and made my way out of the house.
When I got outside I tried to gather my composure and just simply breathe after being exposed to all that smoke. My grandmother quickly came over and yelled at me for going into the house and handed me a glass of water. I quickly drank half of it and poured the other half into the box of photographs that were still smoldering.
I extinguished the fire from the photographs and spread them out on the ground and arranged them in a square, one next to another. It was the most haunting thing I have every seen. The charred remains of the genealogical image history of this Southern family. Burned remnants of mythology. Blackened eyes peering behind charcoal. Smokey residue smeared over lost memories. I have never forgotten the image of the collage I created that day from that historic collection of burned family photographs that spanned more than 110 years of time. There is no one photograph that could ever be taken that could convey the emotional impact of that collage that lay on ground before me as a child. I am constantly trying to recreate some semblance of that image in my work.