Defining the 21st Century
“My work is about the 21st century. About the present that we’re living in and how we got here.”
American artist Josh Kline explores themes of labour, new technology, class, and racism in his alluring 3D sculptures, videos, and comprehensive installations. Read more …
Josh Kline found interest in video art during his years in college and worked as a video art curator for ten years in New York. “When I first got the job, for the first two or three years, I stopped making art. But in the end, I realised that I was still driven to make art.” While Josh Kline’s work takes on many different mediums, “except painting”, as he says, it all still grows out of the moving image work that he has made—even the 3D sculptures of, for example, a FedEx employee’s hand. “You’re basically working with it in video space,” Kline explains: “These are essentially solid videos. Solid photographs.”
In 2014, even before the world knew much of software such as ChatGPT or Deep Fakes, Kline used face-swapping technologies in works such as ‘Freedom’, where actors’ faces have been replaced with the faces of protesters from the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I don’t work with new technology just for the sake of working with new technology,” Josh Kline says and continues: “I’m interested in these technologies because they are shaping the world that we live in. By working with them, I can both understand the technologies and what they’re doing to the world. But also understand where they might take us.”
A theme that repeatedly appears in the work of Josh Kline is labour. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was an idea among artists that there should be no separation between life and art, which “comes together most clearly in Warhol,” as Kline says. However, this philosophy spread to other parts of the creative sector, “which means working all the time.” Kline explores this in the work Creative Hands (2011), where replicas of the hands of creative people are displayed on drug store-like shelves. The hands are holding onto objects such as Advil and hand sanitiser. In the work Unemployment (2016), we see life-like figures of unemployed, middle-class workers lying on the ground in clear garbage bags. The work is about mass unemployment due to AI and is set in the future: “While fiction foes play a role in a lot of my work, I’m also interested in reality,” Josh Kline says and continues: “I wanted to work with real people that were coming out of professions that were predicted to eliminated by AI.”
“What would it mean if America became a different country?” This is an essential question when exploring the work of Josh Kline. Works like Personal Responsibility (2023) and Another America Is Possible (2017) investigate the United States’ dystopian and utopian future. “America is splintering apart right now. It’s going to have to become something else,” he says and continues: “I don’t think the future has to be a dystopia. It seems likely given that the world’s governments are working very hard to bring a dystopia into being.” The future is indeed present in the art of Kline: “A lot of art is rooted in the past. But I think art could just as easily be rooted in the future. Have a relationship with the future. Art can be locked into any time that is of interest.” And I’m interested in the future. Where we’re going.”
Josh Kline (b. 1979) is an American artist and curator living and working in New York City. His work centres around the way technological innovations impact human lives. Josh Kline has had numerous solo exhibitions, including shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2023); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2023); LAXART, Los Angeles (2022); Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2020); and 47 Canal, New York (2016). He has also participated in group exhibitions at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (2023); Centre Pompidou Metz, France (2022); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2019); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); ICA Boston, Boston (2018) and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Josh Kline was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at his studio in New York in connection to his solo exhibition “Josh Kline: Project for A New American Century” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Camera: Sean Hanley
Produced and edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling, and Fritz Hansen.
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