“Renaissance Man” is an appellation bestowed too freely these days, but if anyone is deserving of the title it is David Cho. Entrepreneur, web designer, social networking theorist, food critic and visual artist of striking conviction (his vociferous campaign against the placement of awl imagery, while wrongheaded, reveals a creative confidence that defies popular taste in favor of a spare and unforgiving aesthetic), Cho’s most expressive work comes in the medium of YouTube annotation. In a series of short films that he has birthed over the last few years, Cho has given us a new way of seeing. (When Cho’s Dancing trilogy debuted at Cannes, director Werner Herzog famously despaired of his own ability to achieve such an uncompromising vision.) While often perplexing, these works do what the best art does: they force us to confront a world in which certitude no longer exists and perspective is distorted by the fun-house mirror of identity. We spoke with him briefly about his latest project, Racist Cat.
The Awl: It’s always a tricky thing to ask an artist about his intentions, but I’m curious about what you’re trying to say with Racist Cat.
David Cho: I find it amusing to attribute human characteristics to things that can’t actually possess those traits.
So you’re denying that there’s some larger statement to it about cultural stereotypes or the feline bigotry? That seems a bit disingenuous.
Any stereotypes we put on the cat are more of a reflection of ourselves. The animals are just screens that we project upon in the theatre we call life.
But the title itself contains so much ambiguity. Is the cat racist or is the cat being put in a racist scenario? Or were you trying to suggest something altogether different?
Look inside yourself. Look past yourself. That’s where the answer is.
I can see you want to leave it open to interpretation. Fair enough. I have a question about form, though: What I find most remarkable about Racist Cat is its concision. You’ve managed to pack several layers of meaning into a short period. Is that itself a statement on the fast pace of our modern world, or were you attempting to convey a message about the way racism permeates even our most brief interactions?
I believe less is more. Think about it: Everything happens in an instant. How many interactions or experiences do you have that last longer than this film? Or are they just a series of smaller instances that go on to create something bigger? The cat in Racist Cat… it’s a stranger whose reality you have the opportunity to make into whatever you want, because all you see is this brief window on his life. Did he drink that beer on the table? Where did the gyoza originally come from? That’s all up to you.
You’ve given us a lot to think about. One last question: Variety is reporting that you’re in talks to helm your long-gestating project Jew-Hating Ferret for DreamWorks Animation. Can we expect to see an expansion of the themes touched on in Cat or are you going in a different direction?
It would be premature to talk about anything beyond what I’ve already shown you. For what it’s worth, though, I think my canon speaks for itself: Dancing Bear, Dancing Grimace, Dancing Panda, A Group Of Ducks Is Blown Away By The Wind
… the work answers any questions you might have.
And with that Cho takes his leave. “I have so much more to do,” he says, with a mercurial twinkle in his eye. It’s a fool’s errand to bet on what to expect next from David Cho, but one thing seems sure: it’ll probably have animals in it.