His career is going so well that counting off his achievements can get tedious. He’s on every new media panel. He’s invited to write an essay at every new media event. His shared Tumblr, The Jogging, is ubiquitous on art-world interwebs. He is, by definition, an art star.
Troemel may be best known for his Etsy project, which brings together food, mass-produced objects and/or packaging, and, increasingly, liquid of some sort. He’s also buying up stuff on black market site The Silk Road and obscuring his purchases with “bubbling,” a technique often used to obscure genitals in porn.
Perhaps the best way to keep up with Troemel, though, is to follow his ongoing discussion group Chat Room at BHQFU. So far, the group has met with UbuWeb founder Kenneth Goldsmith, Yale art history professor David Joselit, and is anticipating discussions with scholar Boris Groys and artists Andrea Fraser and Seth Price.
What neighborhood do you live in?
I’ve been a Bushwicked Klown for the past two years and artist-in-residence at Tandem Bar for the past year. Bushwick is sooo cute! I love the street artist who does scatter pieces of chicken bones and human (?) excrement everywhere in Bushwick—that guy (OR GIRL) has really been getting their message out to the masses in a creative and random way.
Is there an artist or exhibition that’s had an especially significant impact on your development recently?
Shoenice22 on Youtube is a Gulf War veteran who has amassed 50,000,000 views for his ability to consume seemingly inedible products—such as a stick of Old Spice deodorant—in astonishingly short spans of time. Shoenice’s on-camera demeanor is a damaged form of machismo, with a Joker-esque delivery of invented catchphrases and bold promises to feed the starving children in Africa once he gets enough followers. Nearly all of his videos feature a brand-name product, held up to the camera during a couple minutes of banter before being consumed with an aggression and disregard for health that can trigger a gag reflex even from the safe viewing distance of a laptop screen. Though charming and witty, Shoenice is ultimately a tragic and self-sacrificial figure, a court jester performing to appease his own conception of fame: a person who is willing to commit not only his time in the present moment, but his future body and health to the pursuit of attention. He is fully dedicated to the life of a social media avatar and over-the-counter products are his chosen weapons of martyrdom. Despite all the free promotion Shoenice provides for the companies who manufacture the products he chokes down, one gets the sense that this is not the type of unpaid labor companies would like to encourage. Shoenice’s violent consumption stands as a hyperbolic vision of what we each do to our own bodies as we spend our lives munching Doritos and sipping Absolut mixed drinks. We empathize with Shoenice because we understand the grotesque nature of his consumption as an extension of our own gluttony and complicity. As alpha consumer, Shoenice brings shame to the act of consumption and the products consumed. He vulgarizes the names of those products in a spectacular, if unintentional, act of present-day subversion.
You run a popular Tumblr called the “The Jogging.” On it, you’ll see images such as an arrangement of geometrically shaped cheese, followed by a kid proudly displaying a hoof trophy with the caption “Not for sale,” followed by a studio shot of some mustard on a bit of hamburger foil wrap. I’m not sure how to describe the sensibility of the blog, but it does seem to be a monument to absurd and extreme culture. What are your objectives for the blog?
Viewing a newsfeed or dashboard today requires a permanent sense of disinterest on the part of the viewer—to give any one update or image too much attention jeopardizes your ability to understand the news feed as a dynamic whole unfolding in real time. Artists like Lil B or Jogging flip this viewing mode into a mode of production, creating an excess of work that any one viewer probably doesn’t have time to view in its entirety. I call this mode of production athletic aesthetics, because its practitioners don’t present final products so much as they exercise creativity in an ongoing broadcast format. Part of this way of producing is a response to the now unlimited amount of space to be taken up online—there is no gallery wall or CD with a limited number of songs to be placed on it. A lot of smart people have told me they “tried looking at Jogging for a few pages but didn’t get it. Is it just a bunch of random images?” I usually tell them it’s important to watch the feed unfold rather than focus on an individual image. Last night I realized part of the reason these intelligent but frustrated viewers might have trouble getting it is because they’re ultimately not the ideal audience for the project. The ideal audience for Jogging isn’t art experts but Jogging’s contributors– these are the only people who follow the project’s visual vocabulary close enough to discern and find meaning in the patterns in content because it’s a conversation they themselves are creating as they go along.
“But of course the Internet can also become—and partially has become—a space for the strong images and texts that have begun to dominate it. That is why younger generations of artists are increasingly interested in weak visibility and weak public gestures. Everywhere we witness the emergence of artistic groups in which participants and spectators coincide. These groups make art for themselves—and maybe for the artists of other groups if they are ready to collaborate. This kind of participatory practice means that one can become a spectator only when one has already become an artist—otherwise one simply would not be able to gain access to the corresponding art practices.” — Boris Groys
Jogging is already more than a Tumblr– we just did a series of stock photos with Dis Magazine, we’re doing a residency for making art objects with The Still House group, we’ve hosted a party in Miami with Stadium Gallery, we’re making music videos, producing slam poetry championships, working as a covert advertiser for Tumblr (they give us brands to feature in our sculptures), making our own line of mixed drinks, and much more. The Tumblr is a home base for all of these things to be archived, but the project is branching out.
What is the connection between an object obtained via the Silk Road and the process of bubbling? Are you breaking a buyers code when you sell off seller information from a black market site? Does art-making come with its own codes and moral responsibilities?
I have a body of work called Silk Road Objects that’s separate from what I do with Jogging or my Etsy store. In this Silk Road project I buy items from an anonymous online black market and present obscured versions of those objects that both reveal and conceal their image. Bubbling is a process that uses the negative space from a series of circles placed over an image to reveal/conceal certain details. It’s usually used for porn so that people imagine the person depicted to be nude despite not seeing their actual genitals. It’s a process of addition by subtraction, the viewer creates a fantasy based on what they cannot see. When I present documents of drugs, fake IDs, lock picking devices and more I want to place the viewer in the same position of trust I was in when I anonymously sent my money hoping to receive the items depicted for sale.
How has the reading class you’re running at BHQFU influenced your work?
When I’m reading I’m also writing– so I’m glad to be producing essays again. [These essays are part of Troemel’s body of work.] Chat Room is different from the speaker series because the guests we have don’t deliver lectures– for two hours the participants in Chat Room are able to discuss ideas with writers in a conversational format. We usually start by addressing the text but this inevitably veers into other conversational topics. After an hour of talking about the history of Argentine media art with Daniel Quiles our conversation veered into the career of James Franco for half an hour. It’s informal, fast paced, and the conversation can cover many topics.
shrink wrapped BRUSSELS SPROUTS (cool wranch) Let’s think about necessity, is this what you want- Yes please right now right now