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By Nicholas O'Brien
I recently realized after moving to Colorado that I would be in close proximity to artist Mario Zoots and that it’d be great to meet/greet with him to possibly conduct a collaborative video. I asked Mario if we could talk about his recent projects including his digital collage imagery and sound work that he has been compiling for the past two to three years.
We agreed that working together on a video that incorporated his techniques and methods would be the most appropriate undertaking for our discussion. In the video above you’ll see Mario’s intuitive and rich abstraction of color and sound take shape throughout our discussion.
We start our conversation talking about work that he and other Denver based artists have been collaborating on called Modern Witch: a live sound and image based trio that uses traditional house/electro rhythms combined with haunting and glitchy synth lines. The members of the group perform in hooded and masked disguise, arranging themselves into a triangle on the stage that resembles an occult precession.
I misinterpret the groups origin in my question and suggest that this ensemble is responding to, or engaging with the emerging (and often parodied) genre of Witch House. Instead, Mario explains that the group has been performing for several years under this moniker and that their investigation of the occult is far from superficial. He talks about how the label of this genre encompasses a large variety of makers, and inevitably does a disservice to the diversity found within this community.
Later we delve more into Mario’s personal practice as a gifted, and haunting, collage artist. I suggest that the hiding and/or obscuring of facial features in his still imagery act as a deliberate gesture of displacing identity and figurative detachment (something that he acknowledges is present in Modern Witch). A popular motif in these prints is a repeated melted skin texture covering – or in some instances oozing off of – the face. This gesture to me connects the two practices of sound and image by acknowledging and engaging with the cauldron of self – and other – representation (without the obvious, “the music melts your face off”). Mario discusses how the deaths of celebrities plays a large role in his practice, and that he “performs” these minor/brief homages within the day of a star’s death in order to capture the dwindling remains of the spirit soon to be lost.
I continue to ask Mario what the relationship between image and text serves in his practice. Many of his projects involve a semiological investigation between found imagery and “taboo” text. Mario contends that the appropriation of picture with textual overlay creates a third meaning that he hopes will recursively operate as a kind of mediator between himself and image distribution platforms found in popular media. I don’t think that these gestures are intended to be antagonistic interruptions of the status quo, but instead are meant to show a hidden majick found within the rapid overturning (and re-masking) of identity that mass media perpetuates. As Mario aptly puts it, “what I do with the hidden is as important as what I show.”