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6 Questions for Jonathon Baker

January 14, 2005

Winged Bomb
“people have to question things, and far too few people do that any more”
– Jonathon Baker

1.Where are you from? Where do you live now? How have these places impacted you as a person and as an artist?
JB: I am from Rugby in England, and still live there now; it’s a very dull, nothing-to-do town, with the dubious honour of having the most pubs per square mile, we only got an art gallery very recently, and that’s not open to artists of the likes of me. Despite such limiting factors, the town has affected myself and some others greatly, in the sense that places like this have a tendency to create some fairly interesting people, and from my personal experiences, Rugby is no exception.
Liberty Under Control
2.Who do you see as your audience? How do you go about getting your work out to people?
JB: I don’t really know who I see as my audience, fellow artists and art-students I guess, as that’s who I get emails from the most. My major method of getting my artwork out to people is my website, I also do a fair amount of magazine work, CD covers for the odd band.
3.Can you discuss collage art. Your first experience with it. The process of constructing a piece. How it comments upon the political and cultural spheres.
JB: My first experience with collage art that really stands out, is from discovering the political punk band the Dead Kennedys. The inserts within the sleeves were so refreshing to me, so biting and absolutely perfect for political satire, it electrified me, setting off a compulsion that has gone on for nine years now, nearly ten. It’s at the point that I get quite upset if I haven’t created anything for a few weeks. As far as constructing pieces go, it’s only ever occasionally that I approach it with a set idea in mind; for the most part I tend to flip through old books and magazines, trying to see if a particular picture will set an idea off. Usually the political work will have a set concept in mind, after that, the hardest work is finding the right pictures.
Collage/montage art is ideal to speak about and reflect upon culture as it takes elements of said culture and puts it among other alien elements, everything is out of place and isolated to show what it is; but it also takes other peoples lies, such as adverts/propaganda, and contrasts them with the truth, it is one of the ways that art for instance, can attempt to help speed up our continuing evolution, which unfortunately seems to be slowing down. For us as a species to grow, people have to question things, and far too few people do that any more, they’re too content to have someone, (the media) to bring them information, that’s if they want it. As Jello Biafra has said, “Don’t hate the media, become the media!” More of us should be spreading information.
4. I was really taken by your Great Dictator piece. It is one of the only posters of Bush that actually makes me feel sympathetic for him…even now after the election and the seemingly countless clip art images of him. At this point how do you feel about using Bush’s image?
JB: Actually I have done many pieces about Bush junior; I sent only that one because I didn’t want to appear obsessed! I am happy with the piece, although, it’s an idea that has occurred to many people, the same goes with my “Don’t mess Texas!” piece. I certainly don’t feel sorry for him, what with the ideas he represents, and the company he keeps. Also politics is the one profession where you are guaranteed an artistic pillorying, he knew that when he ran for governor, let alone president; what was unexpected was the force of the attack, and the united artistic front. Any satirical artist needs a good enemy, and this guy’s the best world leader since Reagan, we artists have never had so much fun.
I Saw It All Coming
5. A lot of your work contains religious iconography. How did this interest develop? Is it harder to do this now that religion has seemingly become (or perhaps it always is) such a problematic issue in American politics? Also can you speak about the image of the family in your work, which is another theme that has been granted a new level of purpose by the present American administration?
JB: Actually the religious stuff is partly by accident, as some of my source material comes from old kids bibles, as they have some of the best pictures, but there is an element of trying to subvert what I consider an oppressive institution, that can hamper our development. People can believe what they want to, but it shouldn’t go much further than that, huge institutions with that kind of money and power can’t be good, anybody that thinks too much can a real threat to their orthodoxy. I’ve never had too much of a problem, although the Watchtower bible association have threatened to sue me in the past for copyright infringement.
I Bring You Death
As far as the image of the family goes, the politicians in America still wish for you to have this 1950’s Norman Rockwell ideal, which of course is a bubble I enjoy to (pop) burst, my piece “I bring you death” is a Rockwell piece, although that’s something that I found out later on. Over here in England, the only people who are so obsessed with trying to preserve some fairy-tale concept of “Britishness” are the far right, and it involves cricket for some bizarre reason.
6. Lastly — how do you pay the bills?
JB: Grudgingly! Unfortunately I’m still tied to the day job, and don’t see my way out of it for a long time.


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