Jonathan Ellery: A Bewildered Herd
Is this book a comment on democracy?
Yes it is. It is also about my disappointment with the notion of a democracy. The title of the book comes originally from Walter Lippmann (Public Opinion, 1922 – mass man as the bewildered herd, spectators not participants in a democracy) whose words were paraphrased by Noam Chomsky in his book Media Control (2002). It seems to be so easy to control a herd, to feed them what they need to hear. Whether it's the truth or not doesn't matter.
Is the United States a democracy?
I guess so. What that means anymore is up for grabs. A collective intellect isn't winning the day. In fact it's now seen as a negative in the mainstream narrative. I think the idea and functionality of a democracy needs to be worked on because as it stands, it's failing. Not only is it failing, it's becoming dangerously problematic with some devastating repercussions potentially coming our way. Having said all of that, I do feel positive and believe that it's solvable.
What is freedom to you?
To live my life outside of a preordained construct that was given to me by the family I was born into, and the country I was brought up in.
Why duck tape?
I love working with duck tape and it's inherent aesthetic. As well has having both utilitarian and ubiquitous qualities; it also comes with some dark 'luggage', restraint, kidnapping, sexual deviancy…that sort of thing.
What do you believe in?
Fuck me. That's a big question. The truth. That will be my answer.
What don’t you believe in?
Fairies at the bottom of the garden, gold at the end of rainbows, unicorns, and sex after ten years in a relationship…
Do you feel a social responsibility with the medium and reach you have achieved?
Not really. I try and interpret things in my own way and hope to communicate with as many people as possible around the world. I don't seek to influence. I enjoy the conversation and mischief making along the way.
I have a feeling that you work at a relatively quick pace from the moment you get the idea until you make it happen. Please tell me if I’m wrong?
You're wrong to a certain degree. With A Bewildered Herd for instance it's been in my head now for over two years, but has funnily enough come out slap bang in the middle of Brexit and Trump. I guess it may look as though I'm responding to the now, but in reality it started quite some time ago.
What is your fascination with books? Which book haven’t you done yet that you know you have to do?
I have always loved books. It's something I feel I can do well and feel intuitively comfortable doing. I like impossible books, almost as an act of defiance. I like books that a regular publisher wouldn't touch with a bargepole. I like the stamina that's required.
Do you practice self-censorship? Is it part of the art in your work to ask/tell just enough?
I try not to censor, which in a way is central to my work. I don't really worry about upsetting anyone, though my intention is not to upset people. However, the truth or a reality that someone doesn't want to hear can indeed be upsetting.
I’m curious about your fascination with the cock ring? Please explain it to me, do you recommend the use of it?
I had a show called The Human Condition, which was exhibited in London in 2011. It consisted of a vey long, simple, white cabinet in which there was a single line of rings. At one end of the cabinet were rings that you would wear on your fingers; children's princess rings, engagement rings, wedding rings, a ring passed down through a family, or an indulgent expensive bling ring. At the other end of the cabinet were rings that you wear on your cock or around your balls. These rings are very sexualized and used for sexual and visual gratification. I was interested in the friction between these two sets of rings. Soon after, I did two very large-scale cock ring sculptures, which voiced my cynicism towards certain aspects of the art world. The first was cast in iron and was called 'The Charles Saatchi Donut Cock Ring'. The second I used spun aluminum as the material and it was called 'The Jay Joplin Heavy Metal Cock Ring'. I'm still very fond of them both.
Does your family understand your art?
My mother has a growing appreciation of it. My brother, not so much. My niece and nephew are showing some positive signs, which makes me happy.
What is your next project?
It's called Populism/Ellery. It's a book with over eight hundred pages available from Browns Editions in May. It's political in nature and is quite ridiculous.