Extra Extra and Josh Pavlacky in conversation with Benjamin Young
Benjamin Young: Are you guys familiar with the concept of liminality? Liminal Space?
Joe Lacina: Sure, Yeah.
Young: Yeah. So like, things on the threshold but still between two ideas. I try to make liminal objects. They exist—they fulfill a ritualistic or spiritual impulse for the sublime that I have.
But also, it’s through the mechanism and apparatus of consumer culture and within the context of capitalism, like, late capitalism, in a capitalism where I can have anything I want If I could just figure out how to put it together. And the only way that I know how to make is one of buying and consuming, and associating images with something else. I’m seeking to take those very basic impulses of how we navigate and how we create our lives and actually give them value outside of that. That’s the only practice that I’ve ever known, and it’s starting to really grind on me. The only thing I know how to do is buy and look and consume. So I gained an appreciation for that world, specifically of objects, but I want to take it beyond that to something that actually has true spiritual or ritualistic meaning for me.
Daniel Wallace: Part of being a consumer is that there is always the next thing to consume. It’s not that you are a gatherer who will get all of what you need. It’s that you are consuming, you are filling the role. Same thing with a sublime natural space, it’s nostalgia for a time you’ve never known. So both of these things hold this place of continuous longing.
Derek Frech: Yeah, and that’s what I was thinking of, going back to liminality. We were talking about this liminal space, being in between these two things, nature and culture simultaneously, and not knowing each of them equally.
Josh Pavlacky: So then this recent piece, what’s the title.
Ben Young: E4E5
Derek Frech: Could you describe that for me?
Ben Young: Alright, so the piece is a shrouded figure in heavy grey felt, and you can’t see any of the figure at all—it is all wrapped. And the figure is driving a metal detector through his body.
Derek Frech: Samurai style?
Ben Young: Right, hara-kiri, he is committing ritualistic suicide with a metal detector, and this dog is watching. This absurd concrete dog is watching. I’ve been really interested in metal detectors because they’re this object that has this continuous cycle of loss and recovery. Only through the loss of someone else’s treasure or goods can someone else be profitable and be rewarded in their search, which is what is happening in late capitalism.
Lacina: I wanted to talk more about the hara-kiri. Do you see that as something that should happen? Humanity should adjust their trajectory to form more of a Hara-Kiri equilibrium with nature? Or do you feel that we’re doing that a little bit everyday with the toxins of our, you know, x-ray and metal detection and radiation?
Young: I feel like our destruction is ritualistic.
Lacina: Right, okay. Yeah.
Young: As a species we perform our own destruction. It has the same feeling of ritual to me, in the way that we discuss it on the news, in the campaigns that are created to stop it, the people or the rhetoric that are used to continue it. So, the connection to ritual and this greater extinction by choice is just something I wanted to present, not to comment on.
The second part of that answer is, hara-kiri is only up to an individual. So, an individual’s action has great ramifications for the community, but can only be performed by the person who’s actually committing it. I’m not trying to make a statement like, “It’s terrible that we’re killing ourselves and we’re committing suicide.” It’s more like, “We’re killing ourselves. We’re doing it ritualistically and with some understanding of what we’re doing.”
Ritual, in a psychological sense, is very much associated to obsessive compulsive behavior: when you have an anxiety about something, it’s manifested through repetition or a specific action. I view the Old Testament figure Haman’s choices and destruction of earth as that. And about exactly how we’re doing that, or why we’re doing that, or when it’s actually going to end, I’m not really that interested in that. I’m just interested in what it means for me and my community.
Benjamin Young is a Portland-based artist. Raised in Southwestern Arizona, he holds a BFA in digital Arts, worked in custom-fabrication, co-curator of Appendix Project space 2009-2010. Currently collaborating with Container Corps (Portland, OR) on a visual taxonomy of clouds.