Artist Statement

“Anyone who listens to an artist should have their eyes examined”
-Claes Oldenburg

Justin Riley
(the art of)

I am currently interested in the relationship between the artist and the audience. What role do these two groups play, and what connections can be made between them? Combining technology, installation, and performance broadens the scope with which to create these interactive qualities. My work investigates the blurring of boundaries between life and art. From an existential perspective, I connects the thinking observer with their creative energy through an interactive experience. Through shifting focus from the object to the interaction, I facilitate the potential for people to be creative. I shift control away from my own definitions to the definitions of others. This allows for the viewer to fully participate; they can become an integral part of the evolving piece. The end result is the creation of a social dynamic that challenges and connects people into a physical thinking space.

I first became interested in interactive public art in 2000, when I worked on a project called the “World Peace Prayer Fountain.” The fountain is a bronze globe, ten feet in diameter, which “floats” on a reflecting pool. On the surface of the globe, sculpted in relief, is the phrase, “May peace prevail on earth,” translated into over 100 different languages. The fountain rests on ball bearings so that anyone can spin the sculpture if they like. After working on this project I became hooked on the idea of public art. I felt as though this was art that had real purpose. It was about putting something positive back into the world.

As a DJ, I found that there are similarities between interactive art and the art of a disc jockey. When playing music for people, one has to respond to the audience and a connection is definitely made. I also found a way to use interaction as a video jockey. I prerecorded videos of my friends while they were at work, and then invited them to interact with these videos at a dance party. Once they showed up at the club, I would cue up the prerecorded video of that person and they would be able to “scratch” (manipulate) the video of themselves using a special record and standard turntable. This video was also mixed with other visuals controlled by a local veteran video jockey and myself. This was an exciting project because I learned that if you can incorporate an interactive element into something such as work, or a dance party, it changes the context in such a way that allows people to experience a common event in a completely new way.

Before moving back to the U.S. I traveled to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for three months. While traveling in these countries I created interactive sculptures from local found materials. A potentially dangerous mistake occurred while I was working on a large found object sculpture, called “Eye of the Sun.” I had been working on it all day and was in a hurry to get somewhere, so I put all the unused pieces under the sculpture. Later I realized that there were some sharp and jagged pieces that could be dangerous, especially in the dark, and around children. I woke up quite early to fix the problem. To my surprise, the whole sculpture had been dismantled. I located the owner of the beach resort and explained what happened. She understood and gave me permission to put up the sculpture again after I reassured her that it would not include dangerous elements. I came back the next day and someone had interacted with the piece in such a way I had not expected, but was delighted about. The bottom of the piece was close to the water, and when the tide came in over night, parts of the piece were carried away with the tide. Among these objects was a sandal, which someone had retrieved and placed on the sculpture in an aesthetic way. I was quite satisfied because audience participation is what I am most interested in when doing public art. I also learned that when it comes to working in the public realm, one has to pay attention to every detail and be extra sensitive when it comes to safety.

I have investigated a variety of media: sculpture, painting, photography, video, and installation.   At the root level my sculpture is influenced by dadaism, surrealism, and cubism.   My paintings explore the illusion of three dimensional space while using a variety of bold colors.   In the combination of painting and sculpture, I have been experimenting with the juxtaposition of geometric order versus the fluid organic, and the transformation from two dimensional to three dimensional.   The reason for this latter experimentation is the realization that nothing is truly two dimensional, it only has the illusion of being that.   When capturing a photograph, I survey a public situation and pull out certain political issues within that given situation.