00:00:00 [Start of Recording]
Jon: Hello World!
Flip: Hi! Did everyone get a—hey alcove. It looks like we’re a full house, which is pretty sick. Uhm, is the audio coming through?
Jon: Can y’all hear me?
Flip: Uh, yes. We got audio. Right? Well, thanks so much Jon for being here and letting us screen your new film Punctured Sky. It’s a pleasure.
Jon: Anything for you Flip. Anything for Do Not Research
Flip: [laughs] It’s a banger of a film and it’s been making the rounds, right? It’s in Italy now or something?
Jon: Uh, yep! It’s in Milan!
Flip: Awesome, I guess we can just jump right in. Yeah, why stall any further? So when I shared this movie with—when I shared the announcement that we were going to be screening this in the Discord, I also shared your film from 2011 or 10: You, the World, and I. Which, as far as I understand, it came around the same time that you were doing the Google Earth images. So they were sort of corresponding in a lot of ways. In You, the World, and I, there’s like this driving force that’s very similar to me to the driving force of this film, which is like this lost digital artifact and like searching for it. In the Google Earth video, this question comes up of: if a thing is not documented anymore, if its documentation disappears, does it stop existing? Then, Punctured Sky explores a similar kind of thing: a longing for something or a search for it, but the experience that the protagonist is searching for this time is distinctly different from the images of the ex-wife in the first video, as well as layered with this shared experience of the game that may have happened, may have not happened. It’s a weird sort of in-between space where something happened, we just don’t know what the game was. So I’m wondering if you could talk a bit about the driving force of the protagonist in Punctured Sky to find the game.
Jon: Sure. I mean, just to say a little something about Punctured Sky—and I think there’s actually a film in between them that’s also relevant and similar in that it’s also a voiceover narrative about a character who’s exploring his obsession with video games and memory, and how memory is basically how we construct our identity, or one of the aspects of which. So I see Punctured Sky almost as the follow up to that one as well. In a way, both together. I mean, throughout my work, especially these videos works, I’m interested in the self and how we construct selfhood. So the inner life more than anything else—consciousness. I think part of what it is to be human is that we construct our identities and our self, our concept of ourself, through these self-narratives we create through our own memories of our life.
So what happens in a world when there’s less and less coherence to this sort of self-narrative we have? Where a sense of context and meaning has evaporated and, you know, throughout the history of modernity that’s been exponentially getting more and more to be the case. So, now, we’re at a point—almost at the logical conclusion, although, like in an exponential graph, it’s gonna get—the line is so crazy, who knows how—we can’t even conceive of the future. But, there is now a feeling, you know, a sense of consensual reality, where reality itself has been completely evaporated, evacuated. While hand-in-hand is that is your own concept of yourself, right? If you have no project, like meaningful projects in life and no sense of where you are in history; your life feels like a fragmented series of episodes and on top of that, if your memories of the past themselves get thrown into question or you can not even validate that it happened anymore. These things are fundamental to like everything, you know? Like, who we are.
In You, the World, and I, I think there’s an interesting thing that they all start with a sort of sense of something being lost, right? Like you said, it’s actually not my wife, it’s my girlfriend and it’s based on a true story. So I lose my girlfriend and rather than maybe an earlier narrative, the search would actually be to recapture your love of your ex: to find your love and gain her back. Which is like one of the earlies myths, you know; Orpheus trying to get back Euripides from Hades and he succeeds withthe power of his art, his lyre. But then, he breaks the rule, looks back, and loses her forever. So like that—the classic quest of reclaiming your lost love? You know, it’s eternal throughout human history. But in this case, you know, the Google Street View version, he’s not—the narrator’s not even trying to capture his love, he’s trying to capture a record. It’s like one step further alienated and the record of his love is not even captured by him. It's captured by this anonymous, neutral, robotic—seemingly robotic Google camera. And that’s never enough, you know? Even once he finds it. It’s never enough and then there’s a sense of melancholy. Which I think also goes hand-in-hand with modernity.
In Codes of Honor it takes—it’s exploring video games like I do in Punctured Sky, and in Codes of Honor, you have a character who’s trying to find redemption in the lost years he’s spent playing video games. Which, at this point, seem like a huge—especially for someone who dedicates their life to video games, like pro-gamers, you know? This was before Twitch where you can actually become a celeb: a video game player celeb. So I don’t know how it would read now, but I like the idea of this character who dedicated their life to something that inherently has no value of it in society, or at least not back then as much. In a way, the most meaningful period of their life was spent playing this game that, on one level, feels like a giant waste of time, but on another level, those were the greatest, happiest, you know, most meaningful period of the person’s life. So it’s just exploring that ambivalence towards memory. Especially when your memories are taking place in an immaterial space like a video game. So, again it’s about memory and identity and how we construct those in a world that is more and more bereft of meaning: context in a sense of where we are in history.
So now you take Punctured Sky where,not only—it’s not even about the loss of the object. Like an image, photograph, of a lost love; it’s actually now even further. The memory itself is being thrown into question and in a world, at one level it seems nothing can be erased, right? You can’t—you know, you could find a tweet from decades ago that could destroy your life and so you can’t escape who you are ever because everything’s documented now. But on another level, especially now with the tech oligarchies controlling all data streams—unlike Roman Ruins, they leave no trace once they’ve been deleted. You know, memory and the past are more and more precarious than ever before. Like if you get de-platformed, you can cease to exist from history. So that is kind of the world of Punctured Sky. Well, could you repeat the question?
Flip: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The last part of the question, I mean—
Jon: Yeah, the last part.
Flip: Yeah,the driving force of the protagonist in Punctured Sky to find the video game.
Jon: Yeah. I mean, I think it relates to that—it’s like how can, on one level, everything be recorded but at the same time there be such a sense of—I mean, what happens when, you know—this is also one of my favorite things in literature in general is the unreliable narrator. When you start to question what narrative is the real one and then what happens to yourself when that happens. I think for most of us it’s a universal feeling even on just a banal level. Like if you have a memory of a favorite TV show or a film but you can’t remember exactly what it was, or even a song, and it’s on the tip of your tongue but you can’t find it anywhere. So we’ve all had that. I think that was one of the entry points and the other one was that I wanted to find a way to make a creepy pasta, like the vibe of a creepy pasta into a narrative film. So like I was kind of was pulling from these different things to do that.
Flip: Yeah. I mean there’s also the very obvious Joey Bearstein or Berenstein—
Flip: The Berenstein Bears.
Jon: Yeah, yeah.
Flip: Those things that were just—I mean I participated in some of them and I was even convinced, I think, convincing my friends that it was Berenstein not Berenstine, you know? Which I think is a, to your point, the sort of collapse—the sort of post-modern collapse of all context. I mean there’s so much in what you just said, but I think about—or lately I think I’ve been thinking a lot about Fortnite as this space of a crazy post-modern collapse in a similar way. Which is to say, all content falls into one sort of conglomerate space and you can be Rick from Rick and Morty behind a Spiderman glove swinging through like a Pixar town while shooting at Thanos, you know? And none of it really means much of anything until its smashed together.
Jon: And I guess, to also the point you’re making, I mean I said it in other words, but just to be clear, it’s also both. Like the technology itself—I mean everything’s technology, but specifically these new medias like video games and Google Street views of these virtual worlds. How they affect the way in which we perceive our past and history in general, but also reflect them, because I always say it’s not just like these technologies are the driving force in some fatalistic, deterministic way where like, technology changes and then human beings are just like the effect. It’s just this very direct cause and effect. Rather, I think they reflect transformations that have already occurred throughout modern history where they just make it very, very clear. That’s what also attracts me to artificial worlds is that in their artificiality and their sort of bluntness of being transparent as being virtual, they, in a way, more authentic and honest because they’re not. You know, everything is constructed on a level in society but there it doesn’t hide it. You know, it’s Brecht’s strategy in its place, right? The alienation technique. You want to make it always clear that you are watching something artificial. I mean that’s soon probably gonna be over where you won’t even be able to distinguish, but right now there is a sense in which I think these technologies reflect this sort of transformation into this contentless, floating, signifier world that we live in better than anything else in any other genre.
Flip: Yeah, I mean, the way that we always described these technological spaces, whether they be virtual worlds or companies, usually, or algorithms and stuff like that; always feels insanely—I don’t know, it feels like something bigger than us. It’s like us trying to construct a narrative similar to religious narratives or spiritual narratives, and I wonder if—this is actually a question from somebody in the chat that I think is really pertinent; they wonder if your relationship to spirituality has changed between 2011 and now?
Jon: Yeah, you know I’m a traditional Catholic now.
Jon: I’m Jesus Christ—
Flip: Oh, you too?
Jon: No, I think—I mean, as you grow older, I think its natural. You can see it amongst many, many writers; that what the idea of spirituality transforms. I mean, I was always more interested, like I said, in the inner world of human beings and how, you know, in the romantic poetic, lyrical tradition that takes form. Which is the spiritual side but not in a religious sense, more in like the artistic, spiritual sense. So yeah, no matter what it transforms. But I don’t think it fundamentally transformed on any level. If anything, things became more cute and there was a more spiritual idealism that was already seeing the seeds of this sort of decadent melancholy, even in the late aughts, but there was definitely—and this happens from the French Revolution to, I mean Rave culture—any culture experiences this. It begins with this sort of idealism and utopianism—Discord. You’ll see it happen in your Discord guys, just you wait.
Jon: It begins with this idealism and then as history piles up, it turns more and more dark. It turns darker and there’s this sense of nihilism and then sometimes through the nihilism, you return a spirituality, maybe through organized religion, who knows. Maybe some weird conspiracy theory? I don’t know. So I’ve seen—and you know you can see it reflected in everybody’s work, including mine, this sort of beginning, you know Kool Aid Man, Second Life, Google Street view. Oh, this is amazing Web 2, everybody’s an artist. This is great. Finally, a new democratic platform for humanity and then the reality kicks in where, you know, Zuckerberg controls all—I mean Google. A few companies control all information and basically how we perceive reality and how we organize our thoughts. And we’re more and more polarizing and yada, yada, yada. It’s the same story we’ve all heard a million times.
So that movement from idealism, utopianism can be seen from every political—practically throughout modern history over and over again, and it’s kind of a spiritual journey as well. So what’s next? I don’t know. I think, you know, Web 3 is a bit of an illusion, but there is this kind of rejuvenate—it felt like there was a renaissance over COVID for the internet because of platforms like Discord where you can have—you can moderate your own content and kind of have kindred spirits find themselves more. When that was the case for me in the early aughts, when everything felt smaller and then everybody knew each other; but then as the internet changed, so did the sense of community. But then, I feel like there was a return to it somewhat. I don’t know if it has the same utopian feel. I think it does in Josh’s Discord a little bit more than other places.
Flip: Yeah, I mean I feel like that same arc I can map onto my experience as being a heavily online gamer since I was eight years old, right? I played Runescape to Final Fantasy, and the community and finding kindred spirits in these spaces like you said was really natural. Throughout the time that I played these online video games, it became distinctly different in the way that you create interpersonal relationships on them versus IRL; but also you get older, right? So there’s a couple of different things happening there. But I— Yeah, go ahead.
Jon: No I was just saying that’s another aspect to it, but you know, I’m a vulture so I can see the use. I’m able to understand what uh—
Flip: You’re a vulture?
Jon: But there is still a little bit of a transformation in what the Zoomers, you know, seek out than what Millennials did.
Flip: Yeah, yeah.
Jon: I think there was a change. At least the cool ones.
Flip: All those Zoomers in the chat right now are the cool ones, don’t worry.
Jon: I mean they’re definitely cooler than the Millennials.
Flip: Yeah maybe we can talk a little bit about video games because in this video, Joey’s the first one you meet and he literally gives you a quest. Punctured Sky is a quest. I’ve seen it and it starts this whole sort of open world moment and the world building starts really in that Game Stop—or, I’m sorry, in that store where Joey is painting figurines. Then, the rest of the interactions with different characters seem to function in a similar way; which is like they are NPCs that you encounter, they give you a bit of info and redirect you in your quest. There’s moments where you literally get into the video game, you go into GTA as part of your quest and you use the structure of GTA as a way to communicate some more quest guidelines. But, I’m interested in hearing you talk about how video games play into this film or just generally your thoughts on video games and narrative.
Jon: I mean first of all video games are by far the most important culture industry in the world right now. I mean, cinema is a joke and music used to define your identity if you were a kid around like what music you listened to. I think that’s much less the case, especially as SoundCloud and the music industry completely imploded and music culture is much more fragmented. I think there’s studies on this, you know, you used to be you’d ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up and one of the main answers was a star athlete or rockstar, but now the number one thing is a YouTube streamer. I’m sure Twitch streamer is right up there. So I think because culture—I mean, video games without a doubt need to be—if you care about the present, I mean video games are a ubiquitous part of that.
Also, with the gamification of reality, which becomes more and more transparent every day from crypto and NFTs to everything, and before that the attention economy and getting more likes; it seems self-evident to me that thinking of life like an RPG—I like the RPG more than other types of videogames because of the narrative element to it is like the perfect starting point and analogy for what it feels like to be—and whether one comes after—but there’s the chicken before the egg, who knows? But life is an RPG. [laughs] And the aesthetic—did you ask me that? I didn’t know you were gonna—but the aesthetic of the film comes directly from trying to create this sort of RPG, early RPG. Like nineties era or kind of a mixture of nineties and later era RPG, where you have these characters behind counters who are selling you potions and, you know, does that make sense?
Flip: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. No, it does. Is that era of games the era that you want to— a point of return that you’d like to come to? And if not—
Jon: Well, I do think that—I mean, one other theme that is a thing that we—I guess I briefly touched on it, that I think is really central is what’s been lost, right? Because there’s so much cultural amnesia and it’s getting worse and worse as things get more accelerated; yet at the same time we’re running in place and it’s this permanent sense of present. Like in, let’s say the poets writing in the early 20th century, you know, they’re always talking about what’s been lost. Be it organized religion, a sense of truth—like capital T truth, and the absolute: Yates, the center cannot hold. Now, we’re so far removed from that. Over a hundred years ago now that conscious—there’s not even—there’s zero—there’s not even a memory of what’s been lost. I mean, there’s a memory of what’s been lost like it’s so many generations later that what I’m trying to remember is like a video game I played. It’s not like an ideology that organized reality for me or a religion that organized my world view.
Now what’s been lost is very important to me and I think this happens so fast now. Like we have micro subculture genres that are completely lost and there’s hardly any record of them. I mean, there’s more of a record of them but I was imagining a world where maybe there wouldn’t be. Like type of really beautiful point and click adventure game. I mean there exists all of these retro ones on like Steam or whatever, but that as a genre is almost all but dead. I think that might be my favorite genre of video games: the point and click adventure probably because it is so literary and poetic. It does take hypertext storytelling to a really incredible place. It’s also the shots on like 3D, first person games; open world games where like, you have a fixed perspective and everything was super—the mis-en-scene was really thought of. So like every shot, potentially, was beautiful and even with Final Fantasy 7, the original had that too. Like the top—the quarter down view?
Flip: I remember, yeah.
Jon: I love that.
Flip: Yeah, yeah. It is a distinct way of making games but it also—I don’t know, I think about this too because I work in the game industry but the parallel direction between hardware and software in a specific vector alongside the pretention to want to simulate more and more realistic worlds within these games; reaching these sort of apexes constantly and them just being not enough and then crashing. But at the same time there’s the indie space that wants to create games like what you're talking about; for multiple reasons, one being that they can’t afford the AAA version, but another being because they have this affinity towards it, similar to you: games that feel like the games that they were playing when they were younger.
Jon: Yeah, but there’s the problem in pureness also too. I think the beauty—the best ideals I think we’re trying to debrief to see what’s been lost but not just try to create a kitsch riff or version of it, but actually take that and make it new.
Flip: Right, right.
Jon: Which is what great artists throughout history have always tried to do.
Flip: Yeah your example of the poets.
Flip: Yeah, the poets writing about what’s been lost, I think, is a really—
Jon: Yeah, exactly.
Flip: -- nice example. Do you think of yourself along similar lines as these-- ?
Jon: I mean, I definitely think it’s just one of the most productive artistic strategies is to look for culturally their detritus or traditions or things that have been lost and bring them back in a new form that’s appropriate for the time. A lot of the time things that have been lost or, for example, I think with technology it’s oftentimes the technology that comes before—I mean you can definitely see this in movies and probably video games too, it’s so obsessed with the technology itself—and even with new media art you see this. The worst new media art, to me—if that words still even used—is that its art that just fetishizes the technology for its own sake versus what I think attracted me to net art in the aughts was that it was like actually just not—it was just using the technology like your average kid uploading videos to YouTube, right? And that’s what attracts me the most because I’m not like this tech-y guy like you are. Wish I was, but, you know I’ve put my energy—so like, for example, with Punctured Sky, the second I saw Mug Life or these apps on the iPhone that let you do facial tracking with any image you want—I was not going to do that in After Effects. It would have taken too long and you don’t have the same spontaneity and fun that you can have when you have these mass-produced apps or whatever. Massively—available to the masses apps. So in a way the technology does open up new vistas while closing them as well. So that’s kind of like always the strategy with my work. Once something becomes available to everybody, that’s when I think it gets most exciting for me.
Flip: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean I had a similar feeling in the beginning of TikTok to see how people were going to start editing films after they were editing this way for so long.
Jon: Then Euphoria happened.
Flip: Yeah, and then we had Euphoria. Similarly with the skating videos—because when I started making videos, I started making skating videos when I was a kid, right? Or like recap videos of my WoW raid or something. What we had maybe a couple years ago is the culmination of that kind of video making—
Jon: I mean look at film. They’re making reduxes of franchises from my youth or adapting videogames. That’s really—or well, Marvel movies. That’s pretty much everything now.
Jon: And, uh—
Flip: I mean just to talk about the aesthetic—maybe this will be the last question. I know we’re like—
Jon: Do you want to open it up to the people? I feel bad.
Flip: They’ve been sort of chatting in here, but yeah. If people want to ask questions while we’re chatting, I’m happy to try and throw them in as well. I’ve asked two questions from the chat so far.
Flip: But yeah, you and I have talked a lot about, in the past amongst ourselves, about new aesthetics in video games and trying to make something that doesn’t look like things that we’ve seen before. I’m wondering if you can talk about the like—I guess you did sort of talk about it.
Flip: Like it comes through using free apps and stuff like that. Spontaneity is really important.
Flip: But there’s like a specific reverence towards like—there’s a reverent irreverence in the images. In some of the comps it’s—by most standards, terrible Photoshop comp but it does something. It creates a total parallel sort of world alongside the one we live in that’s more believable almost than the—
Jon: It does relate to what I was saying about the constructed-ness being its importance for me. I like things the most, I mean not always, but for the most part, it inspires me most as an artist when I see the seams in something. Because then it makes it feel like, rather than it being like this impossible to make, billion dollar, cultural product like a GTA or a big 200 million dollar Marvel movie; I’m more inspired when I see a film or work of art where you can kind of see how the artist made the thing. Not necessarily in this crafty way, but just in the sense that it makes transparent its artifice and thus allows the viewer to kind of enter the work in a way. Also, it’s not trying to create this illusion that this is reality because that’s false. Anybody who tries to say this is the real is selling you something and that’s not true.
Flip: Selling you snake oil.
Jon: So it’s like—when a film tries to be docu-realism, you should be a little suspicious of it because no matter what its artifice. Yeah so I think that’s part of—I mean, on an intuitive level I just like it, but if I try and take a step back, a lot of this stuff you shouldn’t analyze it. It’s just tip. Pro-tips from Jon Rafman: don’t go into making a work of art with all of these intellectual baggage of like I’m trying to make this because like—I don’t think about these things while I’m making it, it’s only in retrospect. Intuitively, I’m attracted to that. That’s why I did it. It's as simple as that, but if I were to reflect on it, that’s what I would say. Just to make that clear. I think you should never try to be clever or smart when you start making something. Really it should be from like guttural level.
Flip: You should simply just be smart already.
Jon: Yeah, just be smart. That’s the worst advice anybody can give you. I wish this was more smart. No, it should actually be more obvious. That’s better.
Flip: Well, let me see if there’s another quick question. Maybe the last thing that we’ll ask. Someone bumped a question. From Sean from the chat: what was the process of sourcing the images to construct the scenes life and do you see the connection between the search for the images to build the half reality and the narrative of the film being about a sort of similar search?
Jon: That’s a good one. I mean, basically I found different hacks over the years. I mean, I have just developed an insanely massive image archive and then I use algorithms—rather than creating like a—because it would take years to actually archive them in a way that’s created subfolders within folders and this and that. I just bring them into Google Photos or any app that has really good algorithms with image detection. So if I want a pig-man, you know, or pig; you know, you write pig and then of the millions of images I have archived in my database, it’ll bring up every pig. So like I can then quickly retrieve things based on ideas I have. I usually already have a curated image archive so I’m not just Google searching things. So that’s one strategy. I mean these are just—and then again I like to start thinking in terms of like what is available. So like with video games I used to just buy all the latest video games; not necessarily to try and beat them but to see what I can steal from them for my films and then the apps, it’s the same thing.
Flip: Totally, totally. That makes a lot of sense to me. Yeah, I mean I share a similar sort of sentiment of using all of the free ware that you can incorrectly or whatever because its mad fun that way and make it do things that you want it to do, not what it’s supposed to do. I mean, learn things as much as you need to.
Jon: And that’s why it’s actually really, I think, hard to take yourself seriously as a high art world artist and almost just pragmatically just doing it because that’s a good way to make money. If you somehow became an insider, because I don’t think there’s something inherently better. I mean most of the time its worse, what you see in the art world in galleries and museums than what some kid is doing on TikTok. Most of the time it’s worse. [laughs] If not all the time. So I think it’s kind of—yeah, that’s where the best shit is being made. Unfortunately it doesn’t get the same context because there is something nice to see something in the space just dedicated to showing works of art because you can meditate on the work, versus TikTok which insanely consumer-based medium. You’re just going through things so fast and everything’s kind of leveled, but—
Flip: I will say that you may not have a sort of “mastery” around a million softwares, but there is like a—I think the place where you take yourself insanely seriously, to a good end and something that you maybe just undersold yourself on in what you said, is you are a writer and you understand how to splice images together and you’ve done all the work to become very proficient at that, if not masterful. Something has to support the sort of playful and, at times, naïve, putting images together on an app that just got released yesterday, you know?
Jon: I mean, yes. Story, at the end of the day—I mean if you’re telling a story that comes before everything.
Flip: Always first. Yeah, yeah.
Jon: But are you sure there’s not more questions? Because I’m sure I just don’t want to leave somebody hanging.
Flip: Yeah, I’m looking right now. Are there more questions that I missed that haven’t been bumped?
Jon: If not, then it’s cool.
Flip: What video game has influenced you the most?
Jon: I mean, like I was saying, I played a lot of these Sierra point and click adventure games growing up. I do think Japanese RPGs—I think what I love about Japanese RPGs aesthetically is that they are the—I don’t know if its post-modern, but like a true marriage of so many signs and signifiers by American culture. Like all cultures in the world into this fucked up coherent world, that is just not like nothing I’ve ever seen before. You know, it doesn’t fit a category for something. When Japanese games first came to America, it was amazing because you saw American culture regurgitated at you and it was like a surrealistic intense experience for kids, you know? If you just think about Mario, you know, what’s happening in there?
Flip: It’s insane.
Flip: It’s incredible. Here, I have three more questions that I’ll ask. The first one is: what’s the earliest search for lost truth story that you can think of?
Jon: Earliest truth for lost search story I can think of. This is definitely not the search for lost—but I just thought of this because you know there’s this art house film called Last Year in Marienbad, which is the definition of a boring art house film, by Alan Renais, but I hadn’t even seen the movie. I just read the back synopsis in the video store once and I was like that’s a great idea for a film. So without even watching the film—and basically the narrative, and it’s related— I think I’ve been retelling the same story over and over again— is that throughout the film, it’s just this guy seeing this beautiful woman at different chateaus around Europe, like the old aristocracy type people, and he always approaches and says “I think we met last year in Marienbad” and she doesn’t remember him. So it’s just over and over again seeing this woman, constantly thinking they’ve met before. That image, I think, has just stuck with me. Then you watch the film and I liked what I imagined it to be more.
Flip: The mythology of the memory—
Jon: Because sometimes it just takes that little fragment of reading something and from the most random place that can trigger the most inspiring image for your ideas.
Flip: Josh wants to know what SAIC was like back in the day. Tell us about the old-timey Platypus gang.
Jon: Well, I was there after the year it started.
Jon: It was actually my friends who basically encouraged Chris Cutrone, who kind of continues to be the Sensei. For me, similar to what I felt when I first discovered Mad Artist and like all of the artists that were making net art in like 2008, when it had started in 2007; I had that same feeling but for like political stuff: understanding the world from a political perspective with the Platypus crew. I mean it was a totally different time, right? It was the war in Iraq, but the project itself kind of is the same place as like trying to critique the left from within the left.
Flip: Splitting up the movement, as they say.
Jon: I think there is a sense where there is this entrapment of running in place or like there is this revolutionary potential. But because there’s not a consciousness—we don’t have an imagination for true revolution. For true emancipation, or at least what we think it is, is actually not true emancipation. Actually, the first step is to truly make people realize that our revolutionary or emancipatory imagination has ceased to exist and that the left is dead and so like that’s the first stage of any true enlightenment critique of something; it’s like to critique it, really and start from the ground up. And that, before action; which is actually a right wing strategy, one has to understand the present and that just registered with me. Not to say that you shouldn’t go out and do things, but before you create a gulag, you have to truly understand what the world is and also what’s been lost. Again, to return to what’s been lost. I think at the core, that’s a huge part of it: what’s been lost. And what’s been lost is the bourgeois-self.
Flip: Right on. The last question before we let you go—thanks so much for everything—is what free-ware programs are fun to play with in attempts to make things like Punctured Sky?
Jon: That’s the thing, it changes every single day. I discover something new like a new app where you can put words in and it generates cool GAN images. I found something cooler than that now though. It’s top secret though.
Flip: Yeah, yeah. Those who know, know.
Jon: I mean, yeah. The main thing that really—first of all, it’s like watching YouTube that do bad after effects. I think the main inspiration other than—not for the story part but for the aesthetic, is point and click adventure games and just downloading fast archives of them from like Tumblrs that are just dedicated to them; two would be bad after effects YouTube channels that just—I mean I can list a few. I’ll send them to you after on the Discord.
Flip: Cool, cool. Yeah, then I can share them.
Jon: And then, honestly, Mug Life was huge. And that’s that face recognition app that lets you put in a face and then you can be that character and then you can alter the voice.
Jon: It’s a lot of fun. And then you can just use that because I used to teach improv and one of the best strategies for getting somebody into improv is letting them put on a mask because a mask does have a magical power and you can kind of—and on Halloween people go coo-coo because you actually feel like you are somebody else. So I think if you see yourself as a pig, it’s much easier to enter into another person’s life. That one, I would say, is the best app for Punctured Sky. But yeah, I mean everyday—that’s why you gotta keep in touch with those TikTok kids because Honors taught me a lot of what the latest apps are.
Flip: Yeah, yeah. Amazing. Jon, first of all, this was the first reveal of Jon’s theatre arc. Didn’t realize you were an improv teacher.
Jon: Oh yeah, I mean I’m terrible at improv but I use it as a trick to like get out of our critical mind, which is the main—
Flip: No one cared who Jon was until he taught improv with masks.
Jon: I recommend everyone reads this book by Keith Johnstone called Impro: Theatre and Improvisation. Changed my life.
Flip: Amazing. Yeah, are you doing anything right now? Are you working on anything new? Anything to plug?
Jon: Well, yes. Multiple projects: one is the stuff I’ve been posting on Instagram is using this latest prompt-based AI where I just—and I think eventually I’ll write an essay about how in the future artists will almost be more like prompt writers/makers and that the AI does all the work so you just have to know the right prompts to make your work. So there’s that project which doesn’t really have a name yet. And then I’m doing a follow up to dream journals which is going to be a three hour epic called Minor Daemon, which I showed clips of here and there. My next sort of Punctured Sky-type project is going to be about the one cougar who lives in Los Angeles known as P-22. It’s kind of like a Ballardian story because he’s all alone. He’s kind of an incel. I think I like him because he’s trapped in between all the highways of Los Angeles and he’s kind of become this sad mascot of LA where he just moves through the city. You see him on everybody’s security cams. The scared bourgeoisie with their security cameras. He doesn’t have a lover and he can’t escape because he’s surrounded by highways.
Jon: And I think we should just raze Los Angeles to the ground so we can get him back to his actual habitat.
Flip: Whoa. Someone said Concrete Island is a book about a—
Jon: That’s exactly—so that’s the story where a guy gets stuck between highways and they have a little civilization there. It’s a Ballard story.
Flip: Incredible. Sick!
Jon: Cool. Thanks guys!
Flip: Yeah, thank you so much Jon. I’m very excited about this fun conversation.
Jon: Keep up the good fight.
Flip: Yeah, yeah. Everyone’s saying thank you. Alright guys, have a good rest of your night.
Jon: See you later!
Flip: Take care!
Flip: Thanks, see you Jon! That was amazing.
Jon: Yeah, that was great. Thanks!
Flip: Cool, I’ll talk soon.
00:48:00 End of Recording