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59 REPRINTS AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE PUBLISHERS PHOTOCOPYING PERMITTED BY LICENSE ONLY© BERG 2011 PRINTED IN THE UK CULTURAL POLITICS VOLUME 7, ISSUE 1 PP 59–78 CULTURAL POLITICS DOI: 10.2752/175174311X12861940861743 APOCALYPSE NOW: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOY GARNETT1 JOHN ARMITAGE Joy Garnett is an American painter who lives and works in New York City. Garnett’s work is associated with what she calls the “apocalyptic sublime,” a metaphysical condition of combined astonishment and terror in the presence of huge natural or often uncanny human and technological forces. Influenced by contemporary painters that include Peter Doig and Luc Tuymans, Garnett’s work is often based on techno-scientific or photo-journalistic images she collects from the Internet. Garnett can usefully be situated alongside other contemporary artists who examine themes relating to the apocalyptic and the sublime at the junctions of cultural and media politics, dating from the paintings of the late Jack Goldstein, to more recent works by Robert Longo, Thomas Ruff, An-My Lê, and Marc Handelman. Represented by the Winkleman Gallery in New York City, Garnett’s works have been shown at MoMA P.S.1 and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Exhibition catalogs include Atomic Afterimage (Boston University Art Gallery, 2008); Strange Weather, Lucy Lippard (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 2007); and Image War: Contesting Images of Political Conflict (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2006). In light JOHN ARMITAGE IS ASSOCIATE DEAN AND HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MEDIA AT NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY, UK. HE IS EDITOR OF, MOST RECENTLY, VIRILIO NOW: CURRENT PERSPECTIVES IN VIRILIO STUDIES, PUBLISHED BY POLITY. > CULTURAL POLITICS 60 JOHN ARMITAGE of her recent solo exhibition at Winkleman Gallery in October 2010, Garnett discusses her paintings and her methods for Cultural Politics with its coeditor John Armitage, who teaches new media and the arts in the Department of Media, Northumbria University, United Kingdom. Garnett has served as Arts Editor at Cultural Politics since 2005. John Armitage: Since your parents were intensely engaged with photography, each in their own way, what was it that made you choose painting as your primary medium? Joy Garnett: I wanted to make pictures directly with my hands. Autonomy has always been important to me. This probably kept me from seriously pursuing filmmaking, which I flirted with in high school and in college. While drawing, photography, and online media are important and, in some ways, integral to my process, painting remains the more profoundly compelling of these experiences for me. I don’t think I’m unusual among painters to feel this way – even the most theoretical and methodically driven painters seem to revel in painting on some tactile level like a guilty pleasure. JA: But how does your affection for the directness of image-making, for the immediacy and freedom you associate with painting, accord with your use of “distance-enhancing” vision technologies and photojournalistic source images that you collect from the Internet? JG: The connections between painting and the source images I gather from the Internet and elsewhere took some time to reveal themselves to me, and even longer for me to articulate. I am still articulating them. My interest in the mechanisms of visual mediation dates from when I was a kid helping my dad in his biochemistry lab. My father is an independent research scientist, and for many years he ran a second laboratory in the basement of our house where I was growing up – a scientist’s art studio if you will, where we would conduct experiments. And it’s interesting that you should identify vision technologies, photojournalism, and related practices as “distance-enhancing”: most people assume the purpose of science photography and photojournalism is to close gaps in experience that exist due to distance or invisibility. What such technologies offer, of course, is a very convincing illusion of directness or proximity, which we all buy into in one way or another. So the construction of some portion of the myth of proximity was somethingthatIbecameawareofwhenevermyfatherandIdocumented an experiment, which generally occurred on microscopic, cellular levels, or else on a molecular level. What was thrilling was the challenge to visually record as well as interpret these new, invisible events, through photomicroscopy, colorimetry...