30 Under 35 2019

Jasper Spicero Asks His Viewer to Play Accomplice

Em Gallagher

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

Jasper Spicero, 2018
Jasper Spicero and Edie the cat, 2018.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve been making stuff,” Jasper Spicero explains as we share a bench in Washington Square Park. “All of my work is an extension from then.” This certainly makes sense in the landscape of the South Dakota-born artist’s imaginative art practice, which pushes mediums like sculpture and film into a world of his own making. As we watch what is presumably the NYU’s Star Wars Club practice elaborate choreography with plastic lightsabers, Spicero tells me about a childhood that shaped his aesthetic world.

Only Starrling Conference Call, 2017.

Born in the small town of Yankton, South Dakota, Spicero spent an impressionable amount of time traversing the west, living between Tennessee and Kansas, and later Washington. “I spent a lot of time as a passenger in a car driving cross country. I really liked, and identified with the feeling of being in the passenger seat, how it is both soothing and emotionally loaded.” This reverie uncannily applies to Spicero’s work as we become accomplices on a long dreamy trip through the artist’s sensibility with the melancholy soundtracks that often ting in background of his films, like in his recent short The Glady Day, as well as his sculpture, comprised of banal objects whiplashing between tenderness and neglect—all in the muted palette of an overcast sky.

The Silent Wooden Driver, 2018.

Spicero’s process begins with deep dives in digital realms, be it the off-beaten path of the internet, or his beloved video games, as a foundational framework. “I’m always trying to find my way through the internet, looking especially for unusual things that I didn’t even know I was looking for, but when I find them, it feels like they were made for me to find.” For example, bell choirs. Most recently, Spicero stumbled on a man named Jerome Simone, who created a system of vibrations with old cell phones and custom made phones, so that the blind can participate in a bell choir. The choir features in Spicero’s forthcoming film, Centinel, showing at the Swiss Institute this winter. “It’s really gratifying to have an idea or a vision, and create space for others to contribute, which then manifests in an artwork or a film. That’s the space where I feel the most inspiration lately.”