In anticipation of his visit to the Walker next week, Daniel Barrow was kind enough to answer a few questions.
1. What is your favorite VHS tape you own?
I have an extensive collection of 1980s Winnipeg public access television. In the mid nineties a big cable company purchased Winnipeg’s VPW station and one of the first things they did was toss the local archive of public access tapes. In 2004 I set about to recompile this otherwise lost history. I began kind of shyly looking up names in the phone book because I was pretty sure that the producers of these shows had kept copies of their own work at least on VHS. ALmost all of them did and so I created a whole show about my most prized collection of VHS tapes which I titled Winnipeg Babysitter.
2. When you’re creating new work which comes first, the image or the story?
I generally begin a new story with a series of seemingly unrelated visual gags. I’m an “idea person” and always have a lot to work with. I stack those ideas in various configurations and then write a story around them. My hope is always that the best visual ideas will rise to the surface and the dumb ideas will sink to the bottom of the pile to comprise the background. It generally means that my narrative are very dense and detailed.
3. If you had to describe your aesthetic in one word, what would it be?
4. Your story is features the story of a garbage man—is there an odd job you have always wanted to do, and/or do you find yourself living vicariously through your characters?
I’ve never wanted to be a garbage man but I can certainly think of worse jobs. A real garbage man was nice enough to let me ride with him in his truck one morning, when I was developing the story. It was a pretty interesting gig and I was fascinated by the strange architectures businesses constructed to enclose their trash. If you go behind big malls you will see rows of little sugar shacks that house an assortment of incredible, sticky and weird oddities.
But the idea was really to create a portrait of a failed artist. The fate of being a garbage man was a cliched paranoia amongst teenagers when I was growing up. In art school particularly I think a lot of kids are there to stave off the idea of being career minded.
5. You create your work using some low-tech tools, what would you do if you were given access to a huge budget?
I think I would really like to try working with a huge budget but it’s very important to me to stay connected to the process of making the art. I can only imagine that bigger budgets usually involve bringing in crews of people to realize one’s ideas. I could do it but I think I would need to be very strategic and have some skilled advice.
6. What is one of the most unexpected influences on your art?
My primary references are to film and comic books. I guess the most unexpected influence might be public access television. Certain programs really branded themselves on my mind as a kid and were my first introductions to a DIY aesthetic and authenticity in art.
7. Which artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?