Q: Your series is called High Fidelity. There are some obvious connotations to that title, but what was the inspiration?
MK: While there is a pronounced reference to vinyl LPs, there is a conversation in each work about how nostalgia is an inaccurate representation of memory. Fidelity denotes how accurate a copy is to its source, but it also speaks to the concept of fealty. All of the pieces in HIGH FIDELITY are anachronistic in the context of their release history, but non-spatial in the continuum of my acquisition of them.
Q: Why did you choose these specific albums?
MK: This show is quite autobiographical. I am the youngest of six, and my exposure to pop culture came second hand from my older siblings and my neighbors and their parents. In lieu of explanation, I’d formulate narratives around album covers before I heard the music. This free-association would often pair the cover of one album with the music of another, and even after their true natures were revealed, my initial perceptions sometimes prevailed. As children, we all have a tendency to mythologize the things around us. HIGH FIDELITY is my memory of those childhood myths as a form of personal, pop culture propaganda. I’ve allowed myself to connect disparate eras in a hierarchy of personal preference, which I am sharing for the first time.
Q: The extent of juxtaposition varies in each piece.
MK: The 1970s and 80s were the apex in the history of the vinyl LP. The only clue to the content of an album was often the cover art, but sometimes that artwork was deceptive. My expectations and the record labels’ notions about marketing and the differences between the two are reflected in the degree of subtlety (or shock) depicted in each work.
Q: In that aspect is this a criticism of consumer culture?
MK: I think of this as a tribute to consumer culture. Once a thing is in the zeitgeist it takes on its own form, regardless of the intent of those who have produced it. Album covers are part of a gigantic marketing machine. Corporations dedicate as much time to choosing a cover as the band or artist took to record the album–each hoping to compel a purchase. Incredibly gifted photographers and illustrators are hired to realize that goal. Sometimes there is a disconnection between the imagery and music. I’m sure many consumers have made purchases based on cover art alone. This show is as much a tribute to those artists as to the musicians. The work of those art directors is absolutely emblematic of the era. If it is possible to be critical of the machine without judging the machinists, then I invite criticism.
Q: Does reliance on the work of others compromise that criticism?
MK: A culture uncriticized is a culture unincorporated. What is aesthetic without opinion? But an opinion and a critique are not the same. I am in no way interested in a deconstruction of iconography. This is a remix. I am producing work for consumption that is based on the culture that produced it, but I am not critical of the work that inspired it. This work is a confession, not a censure. All of the individual elements are personally gratifying to me. I am not detached from the subject matter at all. I have great, unironic fondness for the music and the images and the memories that those elements elicit in me. If this new work connects with the general public or the halls of academia then perhaps it transcends the notion of homage, but it would be singularly disappointing if my tribute were to be seen as infringement. There is a certain satire inherent in the work, but it is completely devoid of malice or cruelty. Album covers are advertisements for the music within, and this project subjugates the notion of publicity with a goal of greater awareness for all.
I see the act of appropriation itself as an art form. I believe it possible for a work of art to be both reliant upon and transcendent of prior work. Two truths in a vacuum may seem mutually exclusive, but we live in a world of many truths. The mitigating difference is aesthetic. Aesthetic is dependent upon context, but truly great art can and possibly should succeed on its own strength. Concept without craft loses its relevance in the moment it is created, becoming only a historical reference at best.
Q: This exhibition is very personal work, but it is attributed to a collective. How are the roles divided?
MK: The Panik Collective comprises multiple specialists to bring specific visions to fruition, and in that goal individual identity is immaterial. The principals behind each action will differ from project to project, which are decided by consensus. While I have taken the lead in this instance that will not always be the case. My duty and joy as a curator limits such indulgence. All participants are credited via their Panik pseudonyms.
Q: Why now?
MK: Technology is fundamentally prone to anachronism, and what was once archaic can come back into vogue. Vinyl has experienced a great resurgence lately, and the idea for this show has been kicking around in my head for a long time. The medium is timely, but the concept isn’t tied to current trends.
Q: Why the switch from curator to artist?
MK: Long before I was a gallerist, I made art. I made films, wrote music and prose, and greatly enjoyed creative experimentation–some publicly and much for my own enjoyment. My respect for the talent of others inspired me to forego certain personal artistic aspirations for a great many years, but the compulsion to create and collaborate in a more traditional sense has become a living, breathing necessity. I think that my personal taste has finally aligned with that of those in a position to champion it.
Q: Did you have a formal art education?
MK: Not traditionally. In fact I refer to most of the late 80s and early 90s as my “guerilla studies” or era of “stealth education,” since much of it involved sitting-in on classes at colleges and universities where I was not enrolled. I spent a bit of time at Emerson College in my teens attending classes with a friend who was there on scholarship. Later, in the 90s, a roommate taught at Art Center and another friend went to Cal Arts, so I attended specific classes to learn specific things until it was determined that I was getting a free education. I didn’t understand the importance of credentials at the time, or I might have officially enrolled and gotten my diploma, but I encourage the route I’ve taken. I have great respect for formal education in the capacity that one is able to learn technique and understand theory, but the business of education is troubling. The twenty years of professional experience I have as an art dealer, gallery director and museum curator have been the bulk of my education, and something that can’t be taught, but must be experienced. I’ve been invited to the MFA program at a few schools, and at some point I’ll likely go and do it. The beauty of working within the Panik Collective is that I have chosen my collaborators wisely and among us there are multiple BFAs and MFAs and at least one doctorate. You could say that we are collectively credentialed.