Joe McKay is an artist/hacker who makes work with and about digital culture. McKay grew up in Ontario, Canada and got his MFA from UC Berkeley. In 2001 McKay participated of the Whitney Independent Study Program and had a two-person collaborative exhibition with Kristin Lucas titled “The Electric Donut”. In 2004 Joe had his first solo show at VertexList in Williamsburg, New York. He has shown his work in the Berkshire museum, the National Gallery of Canada, the ICA in San Jose, the Pacific Film Archive, and the New Museum.
Works on display at VertexList include brand new projects including “Cell Phone Sculptures” (an installation Involving crazy contraptions made from old discarded cell phones) and “Sunset Solitaire” (In this performance/video Joe wrote a program that lets him mix the sunset live. He then projects from his computer onto a garage door behind his studio). Also on display UFO 1-7 (manipulated photographs).
Cell phones are contentious little machines. We depend on them to contact our loved ones, or the tow truck. But we hate them too. They make us look silly when they ring during a movie or an artist talk. We both love and resent how connected they make us to everyone else with a cell phone.So the day you get a new cell phone is a complicated one. The new phone has bells and whistles and good reception ? it is without a doubt a “better” phone. But what happens to the object you kept in your pocket all those months, the little machine that vibrated against your thigh and played Santana when your best friend was calling? Do you drive it to Circuit City and toss it into their cell phone recycling bin, telling yourself that you were uneasy about discarding your phone for environmental reasons, and not emotional ones? Or do you leave it in your junk drawer next to your very first cell phone, which still produces a tinge of guilt.The cell phone sculptures give these old phones a second life. Torn apart and recontextualized ? they perform new functions. A dog-chewed phone gets to show off its beautiful broken display. Two flip phones become telegraph sounders. Four phones combine to make a musical keyboard. And so on.
In Sunset Solitaire, I perform a one man game with the setting sun. The sunset has a decided advantage, it has access to all the colours that the human eye can distinguish, and a horizon that stretches forever. I have access to a four year old Eiki projector, an old Macintosh laptop with specialized hardware, and the side of a barn. But I have skills, and give the sunset a good run for its money. The game lasts for 35 minutes, starting at a point when there is so much light that the projector does not make much of an image, to complete darkness. In between there are some moments when I come pretty close.The piece was performed over five nights in the Fall of 2006, facing San Francisco bay. After each night I would re-write the software for the next attempt. I filmed the performance on the fifth night.