Jordan Knecht is interdisciplinary art in motion. As he tells us below, he relies on whatever tools he can master as a means to an end, whether it’s for multimedia installations, fine art, performance art, making music, making noise — or, as is often the case, for a combination of all of the above and more. He’s a foodie, an underground publisher, a collaborator, and an educated fool for whatever’s next. Knecht breathes creativity, and it’s a gift; learn more about how he molds that gift from his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Jordan Knecht: I like your question, but I don’t particularly relate to the notion of a “muse.” Instead, I’m going to answer as though you asked me, “How do you prefer to work, and what are you reading lately?”
I prefer to work within systems. I flourish within constraints. A blank canvas makes me freeze up, but if you tie one of my hands behind my back, I’ll work inexhaustibly. If I’m in between projects, I make rules for myself to keep myself working. I really love solving for “x,” exploring quandaries and creating if-then statements. I just need a starting place in order to begin constructing a web of tangential connections. It’s a great joy to use a topic or a constraint to learn more about the world. Does that mean the world is my muse? Sure. The world is my muse. I’ll go with that.
Lately, I’ve been alternating between reading two books: Susan Sontag’s published journals from 1964 to 1980 and a compilation of interviews conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Both are endlessly inspiring. I deeply relate to the way that Sontag delves into topics within her journals. The Obrist book is full of many of the wildest and deepest thinkers of the past hundred years. Thanks for asking.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Initially I thought I’d like to invite people whose work I admire. However, if history has taught me anything, it’s that the quality of someone’s work does not always reflect the quality of their character. As much as I’d love to sit down with some of my favorite thinkers dead or alive, I can’t guarantee that I’d actually want any of them in my home.
My three people of choice are my girlfriend, my best friend and my parents (counted as one unit). Gotta surround yourself with the people who really understand you, right?
The best thing about my community is how genuine everyone is. The people I’ve met in Denver are very open and eager to connect.
I can be very articulate about my negative opinions about things. I’ve been trying to be more positive lately. In the spirit of cultivating positivity, I’m going to abstain from speaking about “the worst.”
How about globally?
I don’t have much experience with the whole globe. Did you know that about 95 percent of our oceans are unexplored? That’s an aside.
I have a strong community of people around the United States. I am honored to be able to share thoughts, conversation and collaboration with them. It is a gift to be able to find people whom I can talk to without having to explain myself. The cool thing about having access to global thought through Internet, phones, etc., is that anyone can find the people who are doing the same niche things that they are interested in.
What led you down the path of noise/multimedia?
In 2017, I was approached about doing a show in Breckenridge surrounding the concept of “Noise” through the organization BreckCreate. NOISE was also the title of the show. For that show, I used “noise” as a broad starting point, exploring the concept for many perspectives — linguistic, social, visual, sonic, etc.
I’ve always been an interdisciplinary thinker (far before I knew of that word). My dad is a musician and recording engineer. My mother is a visual artist. Music and visual arts were an integral part of my upbringing and have never really existed separately in my mind. I grew up studying music, art, writing — anything I could get my hands on.
When I went to college, I consciously tried to not study art. I learned machining, welding, circuitry, the physics of sound and plenty of other tangible skills. Somehow, I failed at my attempt to not study art. I ended up also studying the history of experimental music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, poetry, bookmaking, printmaking and typography, as well as plenty of other subjects in art. I don’t think I’ve ever felt much of a distinction between mediums within myself. I’ve always been interested in approaching an idea from multiple perspectives. I’ve just wanted to spend my time growing my toolbox of skills which help me hone my perceptions of the world and my abilities to communicate those perceptions.
My creative practice (my art) is to manipulate perceptual experiences, encouraging people to engage with both the art of perception and the perception of art in completely new ways. It doesn’t get much better than when someone comes up to me and expresses that my work has in some way changed the way that they perceive the world.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I’m going to present my bucket list in bullet form:
-Collaborate with more people.
-Have more conversations.
-Taste more flavors.
-Continue to cultivate my sense of empathy.
-Learn more things.
-Swim in more bodies of water.
-Manifest more installations.
-Play more music.
-Publish more books.
* (whatever else I’m leaving out)
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Mike Ossell is my favorite artist in Denver. He is easily the hardest-working person I know. He is inventive and playful while still maintaining a strong sense of integrity and quality in his work. He cares deeply about his community and has touched the lives of so many people in Denver. He embodies the notion of life as art and art as life. The man is a ten.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I have a lot of exciting things on the horizon. My publishing company, Adult Punk, is releasing some really incredible books this spring and summer. We’re currently printing a book by Adán De La Garza. It’s a book of very problematic phrases taught by DuoLingo. We’re also releasing a compilation book representing quite a few Denver artists. Our next book fair is the Chicago Zine Fest. We’ll just keep publishing for artists who don’t quite fit within definition.
On May 10 and 11, I’m performing in a piece designed by Nathan Hall and Drew Austin. It’s a performance addressing relationships of the male body and art-making.
On May 12, I’m debuting a performance piece of my own at Leon Gallery. It’s a continuation of a concept I began exploring through an installation in Breckenridge this past winter. The performance approaches “noise” from a pluralistic stance: societal, visual, linguistic, sonic, etc. I’ll be collaborating with my father and my lifetime music partner, James David Fitzpatrick. The performance will remain on view as an installation piece until May 18. This is part of a performance/installation series that Leon is hosting in April and May.
On May 18, the eighth-grade students that Hayley Krichels and I have been working with at Annunciation Middle School have an art opening at RedLine as part of their EPIC Arts program. It’s going to be great. There are quite a few amazing schools participating in this exhibition.
On June 29, I’m curating the Untitled Final Fridays event at the Denver Art Museum. The theme is “A+B=X?” I’ve invited many of my favorite artists to create new works which require participation to generate unforeseen outcomes. It’s going to be a fabulous evening.
Later in the summer, my band, Muscle Brain, will be celebrating thirteen years together. We will make music for thirteen hours straight. The venue and date are yet to be solidified.
I am inspired by the chefs at Cart-Driver. Eric Cimino and Andrew Van Stee are persistently learning and growing. They never settle. They are constantly pushing themselves. They are some of the most humble and talented people I have in my life. Their art has profoundly influenced how I approach my own work.
Bonnie Gregory is a huge inspiration for me. Bonnie is talented in so many fields. The likelihood that you’ve interacted with Bonnie’s work unknowingly is extraordinarily high. We’ve worked together on quite a few projects together. No matter what medium Bonnie works in, she produces incredible things.
Juan Fuentes is a great artist in so many ways. He makes photographic magic with whatever he has in his hands. He has an amazing way of connecting with the world around him. He is a keen observer. He is compassionate. He is one of the few people that I really don’t have to explain myself to when we talk about art. We need more of him out there.
I wish Chris Taylor was still living in town so I could shout him out here. He’s making some of the most innovative music I’ve heard, under the moniker Body Meat. He just moved to Philly. Bummer that I can’t give him a shout-out here, since he doesn’t live here anymore.
Who else? Jess Webb, the imaginer. James David Fitzpatrick, the poet and musician. Kalid Al-rajhi, the philosopher (although he wouldn’t use that terminology). John Lake, the rock. Jeff Page, the undefinable artist. There’s a ton of great people out here.
Jordan Knecht will perform Signal Noise on Saturday, May 12, at 7 p.m., in conjunction with the Of the Moment performance-art series at Leon Gallery, 1112 East 17th Avenue. Admission is free. For art-goers who can’t make the live events, every performance will be video- and photo-documented, with the results on view afterward in the gallery, along with leftover relics. Learn more at Leon Gallery’s home page or on the Of the Moment event page on Facebook.
Jordan Knecht and friends take over the Denver Art Museum for the Final Friday Untitled event on Friday, June 29, from 6 to 10 p.m. The evening is included in the DAM’s general admission fee of $8 to $10 (members and children ages eighteen and under admitted free).
Learn more about Jordan Knecht online.