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Get to Know Jordan Knecht—Our June Untitled Creative

Jordan Knecht is the creative mind behind Untitled Final Friday at the Denver Art Museum on June 29.

DAM: I suppose you have different ways of explaining yourself. Bookmaker/printmaker might be the quick answer. The larger answer is ‘searcher of meaning’ through whatever system you find. I think you’re a very genuine person who works well with other people. You make space for people. But what you make with that space is... questions.

(both laughing)

JK: You’re pretty spot-on. It’s not often easy to explain myself to people. I’m a career learner. ‘Searcher of meaning’ is the most accurate description I’ve heard from someone else outside myself. My work really is about searching and exploring subjects from as many simultaneous perspectives as I can. The medium of my work isn’t the focus. As I learn new skills, they are added to my toolbox, which helps me understand the world around me. I think the reason that my work is hard to describe is that it is there isn’t often a tangible object produced. The work is the searching itself and not a physical product made at the end. The ideal outcome from my work is that someone walks away with a new and interesting way of engaging with their world.

It’s so much more enjoyable for me to observe and appreciate an outcome, than to try to forge an outcome. Failure only happens if I try to do something and don’t do it correctly. If I do something and am open to unforeseen results, failure is nullified. At that point, everything becomes a whole lot more fun!

– Jordan Knecht

DAM: What lead to what? Were you always working in all these different mediums? Did you start in print and then expand into sound?

JK: The first book I designed was in third-grade. It was for class and I didn’t think anything of it. I never thought I would become a publisher.

I taught myself printmaking in my early teens because I was playing in punk bands. We couldn’t afford to pay someone to make our album packaging, so I learned graphic design and screen printing in order to make it myself. From the beginning, visual art and sound have been intertwined.

My parents are both artists. My mother is a visual artist. My father is a musician and recording engineer. I grew up in an interdisciplinary household. I started playing music in first or second grade. I knew that I wanted to play drums. My parents made me learn piano first. I’ve been playing drums since I was nine. I’ve always dabbled in drawing and graphic design. I studied photography at a young age. I was involved in rigorous writing programs—both creative writing and technical writing. In and out of the household, I’ve been involved with so many different creative mediums my whole life. There’s never been a separation between those things.

DAM: Yeah, that’s not how your brain works.

JK: Absolutely.

DAM: I like the idea of your tools in a box. These are all things you know how to do, but it doesn’t define what you’re actually doing. You utilize those tools as you need them. I think a lot of artists work that way now. It’s fairly old-school to think, “I’m just a painter.” There are still people like that, though.

JK: Yeah, I have a deep respect for people who devote themselves to mastering a single thing. That’s just not my nature. You have to follow your nature, ya know?

DAM: Let’s talk about ‘the creative.’

JK: Sure. I am very opposed to the notion of a creative class of people. My problem with it is that it implies that people who aren’t ‘creatives’ don’t possess creative skills. It encompasses a very narrow view of what creativity is. I am interested in breaking down authority structures in artmaking. I want to empower people to form their own opinions and to take control of their own experience in art. The notion of “creative” seems to form an unnecessary barrier.

I don’t believe that everyone is creative in the conventional sense. I do believe that everyone has the potential with their perceptual strengths to flourish. The notion of a ‘creative’ doesn’t save space for people who don’t fit into conventional ‘creativity.’ People who are very logical thinkers or who are very analytical are not included. My friend Kal is an incredible mathematician. I think he is very keen and inventive in that medium. If you put him in front of a canvas with paint, he might not flourish. If you can figure out how to encourage people to hone their strengths, they have potential to shine within their strengths.

DAM: I want to talk about that theme of collaborating or connecting with other people. How and why is that so essential to what you do?

JK: Collaboration is one of the most potent ways to reach much more interesting results than I could possibly come up with by myself. It’s that illusive X’ that results when two or more entities come together and create something larger than the sum of their two parts. That’s where we get the theme of the event—‘A+B=X.’ It’s so much more enjoyable for me to observe and appreciate an outcome, than to try to forge an outcome. Failure only happens if I try to do something and don’t do it correctly. If I do something and am open to unforeseen results, failure is nullified. At that point, everything becomes a whole lot more fun!

I am so incredibly excited to work with my fantastic group of collaborators on this Untitled Takeover. Each of them is an educator. Each is a lifelong learner. We have people working within visual art, sound and performance. I really want to represent a wide range of perceptual styles. I’ve brought together some of my favorite people in Denver to create a web of activities and small events which require the input of museum visitors in order to create unforeseen or indeterminate outcomes. This Untitled is going to embody collaboration on a wide range of levels.

Lauren Hegge is the former adult programs coordinator in the department of learning and engagement at the Denver Art Museum.

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