Known throughout the world as ‘America’s Favorite Lady’, Katie Bush is a Canadian installation artist whose work is influenced by the invisible airborne choreographies of ever-encroaching surveillance systems, widely distributed judgements of morally-upright church herds, remorseless mall stampedes & unremarkable people having sex. Her art has been featured in BoingBoing, Rhizome, The British Medical Journal, Dazed & Confused and in exhibitions & film festivals around the world since 1993.
Her piece, Destory Evil , is a 90’s net art rooted site criticizing the sociopolitical implications of George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech. This piece resurfaces from the history of net art and hypertext as relevant in an era that Bush considers (dark times).
View Bush’s piece here.
DigA: Upon opening Destroy Evil, the frame is completely invaded by brightly colored graphics that can overwhelm the eye. What were your intentions in creating this visual chaos, and why do certain graphics remain dissociatingly stagnant while others move?
KB: Destroyevil.com is about polarizing patriotic forces and the combative suburban energies that show the most promise to (properly) loop in cyberspace forever. In this spirit, and on day 1, I restricted the color palette I could use and limited the site to mainly reds vs. greens & whites vs. blacks. This reinforces the idea of ‘againstness’. I was and still am also interested in exploring how these particular colors are used by those in power to command someone to do something or be something (‘stop vs. go’, ‘good vs. bad’ etc). By using the same eye-searing colors that governments, churches & militaries often use – I hope that this art piece can (one day) be as morally-upright as these celebrated institutions are.
With regards to how the site moves – the apocalyptic herds of micro-animations that pulsate, rest and then resume having visual intercourse on the evil landing page, help to convey a sense of hyper cluster fuckery which hopefully emboldens the viewer to feel as though they are looking down upon a world in ‘mega-God mode’ – surveying and judging every pixelated inch of life being lived in a zoomed-out / satellite view of true mouse-driven superiority.
DigA: This piece appears to have roots in net.art (I was thinking of Mouchette and other early hypertext works). Did early net.art inspire you?
KB: I started making GIFs and websites in 1996 because I wanted to animate a feminist (paper) zine I was making at the time (Destroy UFOs). It was difficult to find other artists working with the internet as their medium back then – because search engines weren’t really even a thing (yet). I remember finding incredibly inspiring treasures of work, exhibitions and conversations happening at http://ctheory.net/ and rhizome.org. Those communities and archives continue to inspire new possibilities in my work, even now and they almost seem even more important as time goes on.
In 1999, a really great professor/mentor (Sharon Grace at the San Francisco Art Institute) introduced me to Mouchette, Superbad and jodi.org (and about 25 other important sites). Up until that point, I had been working in relative isolation in Canada, so when she showed me these works I remember my breath was literally taken away and I felt less alone in a weird way and really lucky to be alive with this art & technology happening in my lifetime.
DigA: Although seemingly random, the opening page”This Evil Has Yet to Come” reveals a calendar linking to a unique combination of images for each date. Each page in the piece is associate with a date beginning on June 3rd and ending on June 23rd. Is there significance between the images and the dates?
KB: There are many different paths that can be taken on DestroyEvil.com – the user is encouraged to choose their own (evil) adventure and the site navigation can either be linear or nonlinear. It is like an advent calendar with inexpensive, tasteless chocolates leering behind each decorated window. It has taken over 15 years to create & get to this halfway mark in the calendar year (June), so this project will continue for another 15 years to fully complete (all 365 days/daze). The evil and the need to destroy it will surely continue to develop, as each time-consuming day passes.
DigA: Certain images repeat throughout the pages–guns, bombs, babies, medical procedures, etc.–and while some images seem innocuous, together they invoke anxiety. Can you walk us through your process in selecting the images and what you chose to repeat and what you chose to highlight in the central frame?
KB: The (mainly white) people of Destroyevil.com are waiting for things, watching things, consuming things, staring, ingesting, manufacturing, repairing, dying, injecting, cheering, swallowing, sanitizing, vomiting, replicating, coaching, hurting, denying, admonishing, inoculating, absorbing, incorporating, licking, vaccinating & cleaning unpleasant surfaces with manmade chemicals. Each animation is a lone, myopic portrait of a being trapped in the K-hole of their own repetitive mono-activity. As each animation continues to repeat, things often get even more odd, the longer they go on (and on and on). Behold! Look! Each is a handcrafted tiny soap opera exploding with spasming suburban pixel-bits – lovingly and lightly dusted with a healthy dose of military-industrial complexities that encourage both couch-bound apathy & insatiable consumerism.
DigA: Destroy Evil was created as a response to George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil military campaign, and you mention that it seems relevant now more than ever. How do you feel your work is recontextualized with Donald Trump and his love of military power?
KB: The same issues that inspired me to begin this project 15 years ago, certainly continue to exist and compound into the hideousness of our today. The ‘complexities’ of the Bush administration and ‘that government’ seem sadly quaint in comparison to the colossal shitshow of our dark ‘now’, now. I continue to add new animations each month. I also take/hoard/landgrab the urls of all the caveman sayings that Donald Trump retches up and spews out into our numb and number lexicon and I redirect them to destroyevil.com. Things like ‘drainingtheswamp.com’, ‘delicatesnowflakes.com’ or ‘agreatgreatwall.com’ (and about 50 others) all point to the evil that very much needs destroying [links are no longer available].
DigA: If you were to put a sound track to Destroy Evil, what would it be?
KB: Either ‘Moonlight Sonata’ for all of it or each animation would have it’s own unique, mini-life soundtrack made by Björk, that would sound like a selfless and compassionate pinball machine from 2038.