The Meme Is A Virus: An Interview Of @JERRYGOGOSIAN

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Misery loves company, and the art scene is full of miserable people. In our vast, virtual memetic culture, @JERRYGOGOSIAN is dissecting the great unregulated art market and its strange ecosystem of fear, lies and egomaniacism. Everyone knows she, or he, is on the inside, but the constant guessing only fuels the fire: Who is @JERRYGOGOSIAN?

 SUMMER BOWIE: You’re making memes about a very niche world that takes itself very seriously, but do you think it’s the very fact that you’re allowing serious people to laugh at themselves that makes it resonate so deeply?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: At every level of the art world I’ve ever occupied, I like to remind myself that I’m not curing cancer, disarming landmines, or figuring out what to do with nuclear waste. When I was an intern, there was this other intern that would cry everytime we got bitched out by the director of the gallery. I would stand there holding my breath and pinching my leg so I wouldn’t burst out laughing. Like I’m spending my time working for you, for free, on menial tasks so you can go to Nobu for lunch and get a pedicure in before your event tonight at MoMA and then you talk to me like I’m an imbecile and expect me to obediently serve you? LMAO. I might just make a “few more mistakes. Oops!” I’ve always been irreverent to the art world structure, especially the hierarchy because it is genuinely absurdist.

BOWIE: Which of your posts has garnered the most engagement, and do you have any theories as to why? 

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: People love the character profiles that I write. They’re all amalgamations of real people I know in the NYC and LA art world. I don’t have to try to be witty or smart. As we all know, the more you observe it, reality trumps fiction any day. For every character profile I write people either comment “that’s me” or “I know her.” Despite these descriptions seeming pretty specific, there are some overarching caricatures in the art world that may or may not have been articulated until now. Some people have accused me of being harsh on my characters and I’m just like “no, no, that’s like the combination of four people I love.” I write about each one with so much affection. We’re all idiosyncratic and predictable at some point. I think it’s cute.  

BOWIE: Have you noticed any topics that trend more than others?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: Like any good propagandist, I’m tapping into an unconscious, herd mentality system of fearful, false beliefs. In essence, this page wouldn’t function without insecurity. People are obsessed with the following: exclusivity, FOMO, class, financial competition/disparity, and the art world pecking order. Ironically,for me to make these memes, I’ve got to be pretty honest with my own internal dialog about the art world. I don’t exclude myself from insecurity, but I’m highly sensitive to what it looks and sounds like because ultimately I’d like to spiritually transcend this rung of middle school hell. The realer the post, the bigger the response I receive. Insecurity is trending on the semiotic level disguised as cultural cache, flippant coolness, excessive wealth, recklessness, art world privilege, and jet setting.

BOWIE: Like anyone who indicts with mockery on the Internet, you’ve received both praise and angered criticism for your posts. What are some of the assumptions people make about your identity or perspective?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: I keep trying to remind people that Jerry’s page is not the court of public opinion. I’m one person putting images to text based on my lived experiences and observations. If it read any other way, it would be disingenuous. I’m not going to larp in the digital realm to please every demographic that comes across

To date, I’ve been called a misogynist, racist, sexist, a MAGA supporter, a white feminist, a classist rich bitch, an art bro, and the list goes on. Bare with me here, but there is some major “Yanni/Laurel” cognitive dissonance going on politically which spills over into the art world. I’ve had to nicely try to explain to people in my DM’s that if they can’t decipher the court jester pointing his finger at the king and calling him an asshole, then I really can’t help them develop a sense of humor.

BOWIE: Do you take any of those criticisms into account, or do they affect your perspective in any way?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: Someone attacked me the other day for not investigating whiteness enough. I had no good response other than to challenge them to make a funny art meme page which they felt better “investigated whiteness.” What else could I say?

My skin is pretty thick from all the angry gallerists I’ve worked under. I can also play rhetorical gymnastics like the best of them. At the end of the day, none of these people know who I am IRL. They can project their feelings onto this fictitious character, but alas, it’s all micro-fiction coming from one subjective experience. My therapist tells me I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings. She's making more money than me, so I’ll respect her authority.

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BOWIE: The role of the art critic has changed dramatically now that we live in a world dominated by social media. I constantly hear the critics referencing art history, theory, and words of wisdom from venerable curators. However, this is a rare occurrence with artists or even gallerists. Do you feel like artists and gallerists are still reading criticism—apart from what’s written about them personally?

 @JERRYGOGOSIAN: I don’t think people honestly read art criticism anymore unless they’re in grad school or they’re an actual art critic. I think people use art journalism like Yelp reviews, skimming it over for a few names and key buzzwords before clicking over to PornHub. I mean with rare exceptions, isn’t most art journalism and fluffy “critique” pay to play at this point? Don’t get me started on Artsy, Artnet, Art Forum, Art in America, etc. In the “deep fake” state we live in with 24-hour news media cycles and all-consuming social media platforms, I’m not sure you can really trust anyone other than yourself to truly be critical.

BOWIE: Your Instagram handle is clearly an amalgam of @fuckjerry, Larry Gagosian, and Jerry Saltz. How do you feel about these titans of the Internet and art world, and what do you think the future holds for them?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: I’m sure they’ll all be human centipeding in hell, but in this life they’re living like gods. Larry Gagosian is the scariest man on earth and I wish he was my father. I’d like to inherit his empire and then slowly, but surely, dethrone half of his artists and celebrate alternative versions of the art world narrative. His gallery has constructed what most people believe contemporary art to be through market manipulation and monopolization. I admire and resent him for that achievement.  @jerrysaltz I met a few times in NYC. One time he walked up to me and asked me if I was (me IRL) and I said “Yeah, why?” He said, and I quote, “You’re a real artist, ya know that? You know how to frame perversion and that’s a gift.” I’d have wet my panties if  John Waters or David Sedaris had said that to me, but I guess that was my Jerry Saltz review and I’ll take it. He’s got charisma and hates Trump, but he could tone down the pussy stuff on his Instagram.

BOWIE: I want to talk about the phenomenology of the 21st-century meme. Do you think it’s a sign of human advancement that we’ve whittled complex ideas down to a few words and an image, as opposed to a short fable like Adam & Eve, or is it a reflection of our devolution that the average reader no longer has the capacity to weigh the many complexities of our world?

 @JERRYGOGOSIAN: I love this question! First off, never underestimate the power of a cave man’s grunt, Cesar’s thumbs down, or a death stare as powerful and effective forms of communication. Simple is always best. Why should the efficacy of a meme be classed any different? If anything, it takes high forms of cultural literacy to put together the puzzle of each piece of micro-fiction that writes each joke.

I think there is an art to reading and writing memetic language that reminds me a lot of “reading people, style, or situations” a la Paris is Burning <3 If you can keep it real, do it fast, and crack the funniest joke it feels like a genuine discourse (on Adderall.) It’s semi primitive in its output, but highly effective for spreading information quickly and sharing sentiments.

BOWIE: Do you feel like you have any agenda when it comes to your participation with the art world?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: I used to want to be Larry Gagosian’s arch nemesis, but I’m a little more zen about it these days. My only agenda is to make people laugh and give people a gentle reprieve before they’re demeaned for misprinting a price on a checklist while working for minimum wage or being asked to give a collector free psychotherapy on a sales lunch.

Some of the lesser liked, but very real memes tend to be about my spiritual connection to art and my inability to escape it. Despite all the shit I talk, paintings regularly make me cry, I read poetry out loud, real artists are angel/aliens I’m blessed to know, and I watch long, boring European cinema with great delight; allowing it to depress me for days. I am a sap who loves art more than anything else in the world. It has completely taken over my life.

So my agenda is basically to just talk about all my complicated feelings to an audience that needs a chuckle.

BOWIE: If there were one thing you could see change within the art market, what would it be?

@JERRYGOGOSIAN: Only one? (sigh, ok) I’d cancel fake art. Andy Warhol was a genius, but I think he was intentionally misread by a bunch of morons who basically turned the zeitgeist of contemporary art into a market-driven hoax manipulated by charlatans. People, in earnest, are always telling me they want to “start the career of a fake artist” and I’m like “why don’t you give a real artist a fucking chance?”

And don’t get me started on the CIA creating abstract expressionism as a ploy to play Cold War espionage games and then I’ve got people telling me there’s something wrong with me when I feel nothing at the Rothko Chapel. I’ve sat there and done the staring thing for long enough. I once licked a Rothko in Washington DC. It did nothing for me.

CANCEL FAKE ART. Buh-byyyye.

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