Jason Revok pays homage to Detroit’s assembly lines with his MOCAD solo show
Art in the age of machines
Installation view of Jason Revok, The Artist's Instruments, 2022. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit & Library Street Collective
Artist Jason Revok was heavily influenced by the early culture of graffiti writing, working predominantly in this style of public mark-making for the last three decades. However, the California native’s relocation to Motor City has shaped a new body of work on show at MOCAD, inspired by Detroit’s industrial heritage.
Transitioning from West Coast to the Midwest encouraged Revok to examine what propelled Detroit through the 20th century – namely, music, automation and assembly-line factory production. Revok has designed a series of technical ‘instruments’ that act as an extension of his body, using them in concert with his hands to create ‘spirographs’.
‘A lot of the work involves this almost kind of merger of man and some kind of crude machine where it’s powered by the movements of my body,’ he told Detroit’s Metro Times.‘It’s a very crude and imperfect kind of mechanical process where the shortcoming and failures of my body and ability to continuously repeat these motions over and over again create these little errors that are out of my control, and break up these mathematical patterns.’
Also on show are Revok’s aptly named ‘tape loops’, which draw inspiration from William Basinski’sDisintegration Loops audio recordings. The avant-garde composer was digitising decades-old sound clips recorded onto magnetic cassette tapes when he discovered the tapes became noticeably degraded and eventually crumbled as they were looped. Revok has applied this method of ‘loop degradation’ onto canvas, using a taped roller that gradually wears down, leaving imperfections on the surface of the painting.
These intricately patterned assemblages evoke the landscape of Detroit while posing the question: how should artists practice in the age of machines?