Rob Roth is an art animal. He is a cross-media, cross-disciplined, genderbent visionary engaged in his own perpetual renaissance that is simultaneously personal, profound and professional. I caught him by the tail in between a flight from Paris and just prior to his upcoming Wolfboy performance of NIGHTVISION at The Wild Project in The East Village, NYC.
M: I had no idea that Click + Drag was a weekly party originally, how inspiring! How and why did Click + Drag occur?
R: Yes, Click + Drag was a weekly party, every Saturday from 1996 – 2001 at the nightclub Mother in the pre-gentrified meat market. Click + Drag was born out of the work created at Jackie 60 with Chi Chi Valenti and Kitty Boots before the space became Mother. Previously, I had been collaborating on some of the Future/Cyberslut themed nights at Jackie 60. Kitty wanted to do a proper fetish ball, like the ones in London but Chi Chi and I wanted to continue our ideas with future/cyber fetish-themed events. Along with co-producer Abby Ehman, we had combined the two and it became this great spectacle that continuously morphed into several incarnations.
M: Why cyber-fetish?
R: We had been experimenting with the ideas of what was coming in the future. Chi Chi was already creating themes within the cyberslut (a term she coined herself) and sexy robot fetish at Jackie 60 . I had been working at AT&T and R/Greenburg on these very early large scale interactive trial projects for TV and online media, so I was fully aware of what was coming. It was a time right before the internet exploded so it all seemed very new.
M: Do you ever feel that all of the wonderful technology that Click + Drag helped perpetuate has been ironically destructive to modern culture?
R: Like any new technology you take the good with the bad. Unfortunately, there is usually a lot more bad than good. This happens when the powers that be take it mainly for profit. I got rid of my TV 2 years ago for this very reason. I find most of it a screaming cesspool of waste.
M: Your fantastic SCREEN TEST seemed to me like a hallucination of the apocalypse seen through the eyes of an amusingly profound cracked actress. What inspired her?
R: Screen Test was inspired by many things, frustration with the reelection of George W. Bush and the wars perpetuated by that administration, the modern death of glamor, my love of old Hollywood screen goddesses, the function of fear as a manipulation, my love of music and of course, Theo Kogan.
M: The glam/torture images projected in SCREEN TEST make for a strange aesthetic turn-on. Do you have a fetish for the apocalypse?
R: I’m not sure if it’s a fetish, however I tend to be very pessimistic when it comes to humanity. I’ve always felt strangely comfortable with the idea of destruction; somehow I find it very romantic. I’ve become a bit less pessimistic as time has gone on, mostly because eventually you find a certain tribe of people who show you a much better view. People will always be a disappointment, however when you surround yourself with the ones who have a bit more evolvement or new ideas it brings glimmers of hope and influence.
M: You were one of the super lucky fellows ordained with the high pleasure of reimagining David Bowie for the new ”Life on Mars Revisited” video art installation with Mick Rock…WOW. Yeah, uhm…so you totally got to remix God. Can you dish about the process a bit? (Rob screened a portion of the piece for me personally, I had an eyegasm.)
R: The Mill NYC approached me about working on this piece for The Creators Project. I really liked Barney Clay, the director, when we first met and he liked a lot of my initial ideas. Mick Rock is also such a character, listening to all his stories about Bowie and the shoots they did together in the 70′s was a trip. The entire project was a few weeks of long days and weekends, my eyes were like raisins toward the end, but I think it came out great. We got the thumbs up from Mr. Bowie himself.
M: Your ongoing Wolfboy character-project began with a 5-hour installation piece titled “Synaptic Efficacy Refreshment” that you had performed with Sequinette for the very first BANZAI!!!! in 2010. It reminded me of my grandparents on a really depressing date, but more importantly, it had a definite, grinding sort of psychological impact. Can you explain your initial intention for the project and how it has evolved since?
R: LOL, where your grandparents really hairy??? That installation was one of the first incarnations of the wolf character that is now part of the NIGHTVISION show that I’m doing with Marti Domination. He was something I had been dreaming/seeing for years. Images that would flash through my head of these animal people in different situations, like a dark fairytale world. The always-amazing Sequinette had been doing some animal/people looks that were similar to the images in my head so I asked her to perform in it with me. One of the things I’ve been interested in lately are these ambient, durational performance installations. I wanted to see how long I could stay in character or how long I could keep my stamina. The ‘Ascension No1′ installation I did with Darrell Thorne for your MANIFESTO group show was similar. It had gone on even longer and it was hot as hell in that room. Funny, the ‘Synaptic’ installation was freezing…it’s always some extreme.
M: There is a haunted, romantic quality to your work including the cello-accompanied, crooning Wolfboy character you portray in the upcoming NIGHTVISION. Could you tell me a bit more about the character?
R: The character is still in development. It was something I had in my head for years but never had the right moment to bring it to life. It’s an experiment and also a sort of exorcism for me personally. I’m working with the cellist Chad Hammer on taking New Wave songs and turning them into requiems. I plan to create more of these animal characters that are part of a much bigger piece that will probably take me years to create because of the way that I develop my work.
M: You strike me as an endlessly inspired person though making good or even great art in this city is a tough business both personally and financially. What drives such persistence?
R: Insanity, survival and the nagging voice within…;)
Rob Roth performs NIGHTVISION this Tuesday, June 14th at The Wild Project, NYC. For showtime and ticket information, please visit http://www.thewildproject.com