Jared Kelley is a writer, performer, and video artist from Atlanta, GA based in Chicago, IL. His work focuses on distressingly uncomfortable meditative environments, repetition, and sleepy audience immersion. He studied Environment Design at the College of Fine Art at the University of New South Wales in Paddington, Australia and Fine Art at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is one half of the sci-fi relaxation collaborative Queersar. He has exhibited visual work and performance in Atlanta and Chicago, USA, Seoul, South Korea, Sydney, Australia, and Seyðisfjörður, Iceland and is currently dancing indefinitely in outer space. He is a co-director for Video! Video! Zine.
I grew up in an evangelical cult in north Georgia and watched endless television as a means of dissociated escape – which is probably why I continue to relate to life through an unending collage of film, video, and television. I chose these videos because they relate to very specific formative moments in the 12 years since I escaped the cult, went to college, lived in other countries, and formed the basis a still evolving queer identity. A video that resonates with me needs a reflection of a private moment outside of a convention – it has to show an isolated intimacy, an unobservable moment. Even the videos showing people dancing together in succession show them mostly dancing in desolate or austere spaces, away from the outside environment or an audience. This has spoken to most of my performance and video work – that I never have observers or audience members, I have participants. Everyone is participating in order to understand what it’s like to be missing parts of your personality and reclaiming them in your own time and on your own terms.
Chemicals – The Notwist, 1998
The stop-motion, flight/jump suited, junk-store inventor aesthetic of this video has permeated everything I’ve made since the first time I watched it. This video is the low-rent Pee Wee’s playhouse, which shows that basically anyone can create and immerse themselves in their own cobbled together future world if you’re unhappy with the one you live in now. The direction of this video follows in the tradition of Howard Finster, leveraging a borderline psychosis to create the world you need instead of the one you’re given.
Slave to the Rhythm – Grace Jones, 1985
This should be required reading for everyone. I can’t imagine a video that captures a specific moment in time so thoroughly – condensing the momentary aesthetic with rich subversive historic undertones. Growing up in the often frighteningly racist reaches of rural Georgia, this provided a melancholy optimism about the state of mid-80s culture. Often I feel like there's more work to do now than there was even then.
Dayvan Cowboy – Boards of Canada, 2005
I first heard of Boards of Canada in 2006 in my first day in a freshman dorm at Georgia State. You could use a program to download anyone else’s iTunes playlist as long as they were on the same network, and someone in the building had their new album the Campfire Headphase. I immediately fell in love with this song, and the video which shows Joseph Kittinger’s 1960 historic free fall, Excelsior III, from a balloon suspended capsule 102,800 feet in the air. The song and video capture the most extreme situation and the most quiet moment. It’s a specific, isolated, optimistic nostalgia, watching Kittinger’s limp body falling like a stone toward the Earth – like looking into the future at someone that is looking back at you.
Felix Baumgartner's Record Fall / Dayvan Cowboy by Boards of Canada, 2012
Felix Baumgartner broke Kittenger’s free fall record in 2012 after falling from a height of 127,852 feet. I was at Dancing Goats coffee shop in Atlanta when this happened, sitting in a rocking chair on the patio watching the ascent on my phone with headphones. I was so excited that in the countdown to his fall, I turned to the woman reading next to me and shouted, “He’s about to jump!” It took Baumgartner an extra two minutes to decide to jump – with Kittinger as his mission control director asking “Are you okay?” and receiving no response from Baumgartner. The suspense was broken when he resolutely stood up on the ledge of the capsule, confirmed he was ready with a symbolic salute, and released his hands from the side handles starting his fall. I realized then that he was scared – that people who make it that far and literally climb that high can still be scared. This was a revelation for me. When he left the capsule and the live video showed him falling with the curvature of the Earth in full view, tears welled up in my eyes. I still can’t imagine the isolation and fear and exhilaration that someone experiences in this moment – but I use this video to relate and attempt to find my own atmospheric ledge to willingly and resolutely fall from.
Boys – Leigh Bowery, 1987
I was way, way late in becoming aware of Leigh Bowery – but I can’t imagine a life before seeing this video. Bowery’s ‘Boys’ was such a dramatically different, irreverent spectacle from every other depiction of gay culture from that era I’d seen. The personalities are unselfconscious and confident and in a state of reverie – it reminds you that identifying as queer is really one of the coolest things that can happen to you.