Interview by David Cocaggna
Mario Zoots is an appropriation and network artist using the internet as his primary tool for the organization and display of his works. Living and working in Denver, he also is co-founder of the underground publishing outfit, Drippy Bone Books based in Los Angeles, Denver and Amsterdam, which highlights photography, comix, collage and ready-mades in it's various print incarnations. Zoots is also part of the home recording lo-fi synth-pop sound project Modern Witch.
I stepped on the back of Mario Zoots' shoe once. He turned around, gave a classic smirk, said hello. I asked him what was going on with categories, his genus and kingdoms. With deliberate shyness he replied, "I don't know. They are always changing with new information, new dialogues and dialectics". He did mention a Hulkamania t-shirt on eBay and that he had plans for staging the development of a new metamorphic rock that could potentially become crystalized. I only had a "hmm" as a response. Thankfully when I questioned him this time around we both had a lot more to say.
Your work incorporates a fairly constant element of appropriation and re-invention. What makes this aesthetic so prevalent in your pieces?
I am very interested in process and materials as an artist. I am attracted to photographs in pop culture because of the psychological elements that already lie within these images. We each have different feelings when we come across an image, and to take these images and deconstruct them and reorganize them, it gives the image a 'new' meaning to each viewer that comes across the work.
Coming from a culture of 'Zine philosophy and imagery, what directions do you see 'Zines headed, considering their relatively older age in the post-modern art world?
We are going to continue to print zines, Drippy Bone Books is just getting started! I think zines are the perfect format for what we do, and I'm interested in reproduction and multiples. Zines allow us to curate our favorite artists and to distribute them to our underground network. My fiance Kristy has been a really huge influence for me and zine making. We met through the Denver Zine Library, so zines will always have a special place in my heart. Local zine makers Ed McDonald, Noah Van Sciver and John Porcellino have been holding it down for years and have been a big influence.
In the last decade or so, video and tape have been handled more and more by artists returning to an aesthetic of analog accessibility. Any explanation as to why this is the case for you and also who do you look to in developments of this style?
I enjoy home recording, and at first Modern Witch started out as a noise project. We recorded our first release with a vhs camera. I would set up the vhs camcorder right in the middle of the room on the floor. We would place all of our pedals, cords and microphones right on the floor as well. I would hit record and we would just improvise, those are some of my favorite recordings from early 2008. Kristy's voice is so beautiful. We then started recording to cassette with a tascam 4-track with more room to clean things up and to write actual songs. And once Kam Kahn joined Modern Witch we have really started cleaning up what we do, recording straight to computers. We like to mix it up, i will record with anything. We are working on a 7" right now. That's where I want to go with recording, straight to vinyl! I've always loved record sleeve art, and I want to make the art for the Modern Witch albums. I like the idea of an object like a record or a cassette for our music, a piece of art you can hold in your hands. I have hundreds of albums on my itunes, and most of them i have just downloaded and i have no idea what the art looks like for the albums. I want to make the art a strong part of what the music is about.
At this point in the visual and sound art worlds, pornography does not carry the same weight it once did. What can still be done with what was once obscene?
I work with pornography a lot because it's very accessible. You always can find a box somewhere in an ally or at a garage sale for real cheap. And pornography is just one of many media I use. 8 pieces of mine were just published in the new ROJO®ever chaos continuum . The work I gave them was from mid ninties playboy magazines. The pieces are a part of my subtractive collage series. I remove the focal points from the photographs, such as the breasts and faces, but I do leave the eyes. I leave the image beneath to show through whatever it might be, pure chance. There is a really strange result to these, by leaving the eyes of the models in the photographs your left with this hollow body and very strong gaze that connects you to the model. The way men look at women, the way women look at themselves, the way women look at men. It gives pornography a whole new meaning.
Crime, obscenity, and their artistic values & boundaries are blended with frequency into what you do. What do you seek to invoke with 'Zines, videos, and cassettes?
I have always been interested in defacing, from my early days as a graffiti artist to now being a collage artist. I like the idea of multiples, with making zines and cassettes this is possible. Again it's just that thing you can hold in your hand and actually feel. But we have been doing that, and what I really love about the projects that I am involved with is that they are always changing and there are never any rules.
Living in Denver, what benefits are there in an art community that is a big city with a sort of smaller feel to it?
Denver is a great place to live and work as an artist, it's cheap to live and I feel like in the last couple years things are really starting to take off, more galleries, better museums. This summer I will be living and working from Amsterdam with my fiance Kristy. I'm really excited for that! Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, I love the Netherlands. I hope to make technology a larger part of what I do, I plan to make more interactive installations and work with more Internet and Video pieces. There will be a small taste of this newer work at Illiterate on Feb. 5th.
Cheesily enough, anyone you want to thank, make mention of, or threaten before this interview ends itself?
I want to say I love you to my girl Kristy! I want to give daps to the SWS graffiti crew and a big shout out to Denver, I love you too.