Week 23: John Clowder
“Oedipus and the Sphinx” (2012)
John Clowder is, quite obviously, surreal in his art tastes. He is also a game creator, responsible for some of the most thought-provoking, weird, confusing amalgamations of philosophy, art, and psychedelics I have ever seen. These include Gingiva, Middens, and an upcoming game called Where They Cremate The Roadkill which was funded via Kickstarter. All are free to download and can’t be recommended highly enough.
Clowder’s work plays with my love of vintage advertisement and scientific illustration, combining both with washed out color collages full of sharp edges, anatomically correct organs, fluffy creatures, and overgrown vegetation. They constantly encourage a fifth or sixth look, constantly draw into question what exactly is the reason for any of it.
When you add in the music of his video games (which Clowder composes himself), the undulating motion of the animation, and the incredible dialog, Clowder’s creations are something that almost feel like they surpass the strength of the word “art.”
One interview dared to call Clowder whimsical for his surreal worlds, illustrated by what are almost like 18th century encyclopedias of local flora and fauna. I would disagree all the way, but maybe that interviewer had a lot weirder fairy tales told to them as a child.
The mysterious, contrary public figure Clowder has created for himself makes for very intriguing interview reading and quote pulling:
“Not to make you uncomfortable but it’s almost like my audience is watching me undress through my bedroom keyhole. There’s something fetishistic and voyeuristic about art. I think it was Orson Welles that said that pornography could never be art, but I believe all art is pornography. The craving for any stimulation from an external source is highly masturbatory or self gratifying, in my opinion, whether it is directly sexual or not.”
This is a good description of what looking at–no, partaking in–Clowder’s art feels like: slightly dirty and forbidden, intriguing and hushed. It’s the kind of thing you keep turning over and over in your head at night, wondering if you got it right, if there IS a way to get it right at all.