OK: I think many would call it what is referred to now as “Social Practice” but I do not use that term regularly. I create participatory-based public art and mixed media work that focuses upon the abstraction of social interaction within society, which I communicate through public art, photography, video and film.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
OK: I draw inspiration from my everyday experiences and interactions with people and the environment in which I am living. I am constantly looking around, listening, and exploring. I never travel anywhere with headphones on because I may miss something. And I always carry something to write with and a camera.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
OK: I regularly collaborate with long time friend and my co-founder of the public art collective, Illegal Art (IllegalArt.org), Michael McDevitt. All of our ideas come from a specific moment within some sort of daily experience. For example, I remember when we came up with the idea for the project, PERSONAL SPACE. Michael had crossed through a DO NOT CROSS yellow tape barrier that morning. He had thought, “I need that for myself.” Later on that same day when he was sharing the experience with me he said, “ I want something like that to create space for myself, like “Artist Space”. I said how about something everyone could use on a daily basis, especially in a place like New York City where no one has any space. “How about “Personal Space?” A month later we had produced rolls of yellow crime scene tape printed, PERSONAL SPACE. We threw events and hands rolls of it to the public to wear it or install it where they saw it was needed.
When creating on my own I get inspiration from similar experiences or I create a response to a certain issue or subject that I think is important. Right now I am editing a video where I interviewed over seventy 6th graders about how they knew they’re doing their “best”. It is something teachers say, as well as coaches, partners, and friends. “Do your best!” What does that mean? I wanted to find out.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
OK: To have insight into the stranger next to them on the bus, U-Bahn, in traffic, and the openness to care about what they think, feel and in general, who they are.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
OK: My biggest consideration as a part of my lifestyle as an artist is time. I don’t know any other artists or creative people who do not have this same struggle. Days go by faster and faster and the ideas keep coming. It is a daily consideration, when I work and on what. And when I am working on something it feels timeless.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
OK: There is always structure to my project, meaning I have do have a set direction, but even so, I rarely do projects where there is some sort of a predictable ending. I like to create the guidelines and then see where it goes. It is like walking down a road and you are not sure where it will take you. It is the fun, the excitement and the adventure of following the creative process when making work about society, especially when the work involves the public’s participation. That’s where the joy lies.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
OK: You do not need to do every project. It is okay to think of something and then let it lead into something else. But you must trust the moment when you think, “Okay. I need to make THAT happen.”
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
OK: Of course. It creates my perspective on how I see and experience the world.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
OK: Trust in ones self.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
OK: One thing?! Through interaction with the public I find that my view of humanity has been enriched in a positive way. Also, the excitement when a project comes to fruition. It is satisfying.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
OK: My community of friend’s and family, many who are creative people, are truly an inspirational bunch, especially Michael McDevitt. We have collaborated since 2000. When we lived in the same city (2000-2012) we met every Monday evening after work to think of, discuss and plan our next projects. I love collaborating with people that inspire me. I recently collaborated with photographer John Delaney as well. A few others to mention: Allan Kaprow, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Alfredo Jaar. Right now I really like looking at the photos of Q. Sakamaki on Instagram, a photojournalist.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
OK: I find it useful to create work that can reach the public in an entirely different way. A past Illegal Art project we did was based on lost and found items and it was created entirely of the public’s voice recordings through calling a 1-800 number. But technology, and especially Social Media, can be distracting, costly (time and money) and confusing. It is good to use it in small chunks and not let it take over your life.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
OK: Everyone has a unique way of seeing the world but I think those who trust their creative bend see many things as opportunities rather than roadblocks, annoyances or mundane everyday experiences.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
OK: I love to travel. After 15 years in New York City, my wife and I moved to Berlin last summer (2015). We love it here. Other favorites: Istanbul, Oaxaca, Tel Aviv, Lecce. I love the regions of Umbria, all over Sicily, Baja California Sur, the Eastern Sierra of California.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
OK: I don’t. I love many authors and many books. I keep Zen Telegrams, by Paul Reps, next to my bed. No matter how many times I read that book I seem to always find a new poem. Is there something magical about it or am I just tired when I read it at the end of the day? I can’t figure it out. I am looking at a catalog by Carlo Mollino right now and just finished Regarding The Pain of Others, written by Susan Sontag.
OK: I am currently getting settled in Berlin and seeing where my opportunities lie and how this environment is inspiring me. I am planning on applying to some residencies in Europe and commissions and see where that leads me. And to continue to take photos everyday, and to sit at the kitchen table in the evening and write, gather ideas and think about new work.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
OK: It is an exciting way to see the world and experience everyday.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
OK: My daughter is two-years-old and she dominates the airwaves in our apartment. So I am pretty sure the the last song I listened to was Mariposa Ole, by Barbara Brousal. It seems to be playing nonstop.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
OK: Keep it public.
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