Q & A with Brad Necyk


Exhibition runs March 5 - 27 
Gallery Hours: 12pm to 5 pm, Monday through Friday
Opening Reception on March 19 at 8pm

Olivia Chow: This series is quite different than your MFA work - can you tell us more on this shift?

Brad Necyk: The work created during my MFA were cathartic personal explorations into my life, my family, my illness and trying to make sense of it all. I tried to look at them through theoretical research; studying the systems that I was part of, that I acted within and that acted through me—psychiatry, pharmaceuticals, suburbia, marriage, heredity and legacy. I could write and abstract it as much as I wanted during my MFA, finding ways to distance myself out of all those photographs, videos and stories, but now they sit like a weight in my stomach. I’m not sure what my daughter will think about it someday. This new work doesn’t sit in me but sticks to me, so it’s a different feeling. It’s not that it’s outside me, that I’m not implicated in it. The coal plants that fire my computers, the billions of mis-distributed wealth in each film and actor, and all the means of production and distribution that goes into this chair I sit in, in this room, are all implicating me in this system. Both bodies of work are in David Bowie’s song Sue "Sue, I got the job, we'll buy the house, you'll need to rest, but now we'll make it", or Father John Misty’s Bored in the USA “Keep my prescriptions filled, now I can’t get off, but I can kind of deal with being.”

OC: What is it about the Anthropocene that you’re interested in? How does it connect to the three videos in the show?

BN: I don’t think as an artist you can ignore the Anthropocene any more than artists could ignore the atom bomb, miles of soup cans, civil or gay rights or the limits of media discourse. The contemporary discussions around the Anthropocene are sticky and span across all disciplines. Mark Dion once said that we have a great test in front of us and he wasn’t sure we would pass it. Whether or not as a people we can break from a cycle of disavowal—thinking about it is like Hirst’s title The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living—it is certainly on our minds. It is soaking its way into our media—our films, novels, art, advertisements, bookkeeping, land agreements and so on. Plus you get words like swarming, mutations, radioactivity, caked layers of bedrock, hyperobjects, super massive black holes, holograms, sticky, ripping, acidification, ionizing and wind.

The films in the Thinking After the World series are a developing project of artifacts of our collective visual culture—films—that are edited to exist without humans. I wanted to visualize a world without humans in film because we don’t seem to get those spaces, at least they are not readily given to us—I want to pry them out and see what worlds unfold. Worlds outside of our worlds.

Just A Hard Rain Series 

Photo Credit: Brad Necyk

OC: The figure in your series look fragmented in a lively way, and also have a very painterly touch to them. What is your decision process on selecting these “scenes" and how are they created? 

BN: When I enjoy music the most is not when it is tight and well-constructed but when it is on the verge of falling apart—on auto-destruct mode. The same is for art, especially painting. There are a few instances when I like the formal dynamics contemporary painting and one of them is when the paint (material) and image are barely able to hold together; to exist in such a way that I can hardly form the aesthetic dimensions to take it in. That is what excited me about these images in Just a Hard Rain. When I decided to appropriate film stills and layer them to see the activity I didn’t know what to expect. I had this shot from Pulp Fiction and it just exploded when the computer rendered it. The figures looked like bodies reduced to ripping flesh and dust nanoseconds after an atomic blast. They were radioactive! Formally, however, they were flat. This is the first project since my undergrad where I physically went into an image and worked it, refined it like a drawing on a tablet—pushing contrasts, sharpening, adjusting colours, etc. And people say I don’t draw anymore…

 OC: So, do you believe in a Post-Apocalypse World?

 BN: There is a lot of baggage that comes with words like ‘believe’. So it’s an almost impossible question to answer honestly without contradicting myself. But contradiction is the most interesting part of art and philosophy for me right now. Things don’t hold together nice and tightly. It’s like violence. Violence cannot be totalizing in its structure, degree and, most importantly, in its narration, but instead local, disparate and fluid, but also viscous—it needs to stick and cling, not envelop and suffocate. These are violent times, a violent world. All worlds are violent though; through to our body’s immune system, to mutating DNA, to the atoms combining and recombining, and electrons moving between different energy states. Whatever objects we hold onto in our ‘world’ are subject to violence, disruption and revolt. It’s like how I experienced the TV series Fringe: a world of unimaginable biological warfare, time travel and parallel universes primed for collision. But I could deal with all this because after each episode’s mass destruction then resolution, the next episode started with people, houses, cities, families and businesses that were completely unaffected and, possibly, unaware of the devastation and nearness of their ‘worlds’ and Worlds end. In every episode there was a ‘world’ for me to return to and that’s why I was okay with all the violence in the previous show. It was structured violence. It wasn’t until the fourth season that I almost couldn’t watch it. There was no more ‘world’ for me to return to. It was twenty-some years later, still with the same cast, but the ‘world’ where Fringe existed was gone. I watched seasons one through three but ultimately live in season four. 

OC: How did you come up with the exhibit title Just A Hard Rain?

BN: Bob Dylan was asked if A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall was about atomic fallout and he said: 'no, it’s just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that’s just gotta happen.' A lot of my titles come from Dylan because I work with him in my ears, sometimes other things (right now radioactive music from Panda Bear or Father John Misty), but mostly him. I guess it’s just about weight, a weight that something has got to happen. I’m not saying what that is, just saying that it is.

OC: What can the viewers get out of this exhibit?

BN: The sense that something is going to happen. Like a hard rain or words like dam, seep or positive feedback loops.


 Please join us at The Drawing Room for an evening reception on 19th March, 8pm. The artist will be present.

Brad Necyk Bio: 

Brad Necyk received his MFA at the University of Alberta and is working through the mediums of photography, video, film and performance. He currently is the Artist in Residence for Transplant Services Alberta Health Services, a position which continues for the length of 2015. His current work, along side this residency, has been looking at ecology with a focus on specific objects within an ecosystem (plutonium-239, Junk DNA, viruses, Turing Tests, holograms) as strategic modes for engaging in artistic reproduction, mutations and revolt.  His other work has focused on (auto)-biography, psychiatry, pharmaceutics and biopolitics. He has been shown around Canada, including the current Alberta Biennial at the Art Gallery of Alberta, participated in artists’ residencies, delivered academic papers internationally, is a scholar in the Integrative Health Institute and is currently teaching a number of senior level courses in Drawing and Intermedia, both at the University of Alberta.