Jonah King

By Anthony Hamilton

October 6, 2018

 Distressed golf clubs used as props in Jonah King’s  How The West Was Won . Image courtesy of the artist.

Distressed golf clubs used as props in Jonah King’s How The West Was Won. Image courtesy of the artist.

During one of my first interactions with Jonah King we talked about going to the zoo and playing mini golf at Miller Park. Guess where we ended up the next weekend. During my time with Jonah, I learned about his rule-pushing curiosity. He often skillfully flipped conversations to learn more about me—this innocuous grad student hosting him for 3 weeks. This curiosity in others is reflected in his work.

Jonah is a video maker interested in social interactions, the way people move through the world, and the media that surrounds them. He was the first long term visiting artist at Illinois State University for the 2018-2019 school year. During this time he immersed himself in the Normal experience by interacting with students, attending all the University Gallery events, and living within the community.

How The West Was Won, 2018 (Excerpt 1). Video courtesy of the artist.

The long term visiting artist program at ISU brings in artists to teach 3-4 classes of the Visiting Artist Seminar and conduct studio visits with students while continuing their artistic practice. As the TA and Visiting Artist Coordinator, I had the chance to write about Jonah’s reflections. His class was based on connecting the body to media through experimental theatre acts in the vein of Augusto Boal. He enjoyed that students referred to him as mysterious, his own persona mimicking his approach to media by blurring, distorting, and eliminating the line between fact and fiction. His work elaborates on elements from parafiction, post-truth tricksters to create loving narratives. It is certainly pointed towards our political climate, but not in the form of didactic political criticism.

  How The West Was Won,  2018 (Installation). Image courtesy of the artist.

How The West Was Won, 2018 (Installation). Image courtesy of the artist.

His work outside the classroom  focused around his video, How the West Was Won, and multimedia installation project, Leisure Sports. In this project, he invited two Republican golfers to play a round of golf in the desert and recorded an audio of them exchanging off the cuff dad jokes. At best funny, at worst misogynistic and racist, this video shows the unsustainability of the future of golf and these social behaviors by having them play in a future desert wasteland, and presenting golf clubs as relic artifacts.  While in Normal, he bought a set of golf clubs from a thrift store and transformed them to look like relics of a former time using an angle grinder and spray paint. It becomes a speculative future on the presentation of the history of humanity, and the project becomes about the media itself. It’s useful to think of Jonah’s work in the scope of his projects rather than the singular pieces they produce—the video and the objects are documentation and perspective of this event happening rather than the event, and the artifact ends up confusing the fact with fiction much like actors and movie props.

How The West Was Won, 2018 (Excerpt 2). Video courtesy of the artist.

A story I heard him tell a few times was about new iPhones. These iPhones are made using a cutting process rather than a mold. So once the block is in place, the corners are cut and  rounded to fit the design of the phone. These corners are then disposed of outside the factory and the billions of corners being cut are now creating a sizable chunk of this metal in the geology of the Earth in the factory’s town, altering the crust of the Earth. These hyperobject moments are similar to how Jonah thinks through media and the speculative future of human consciousness.

This article is funded by the Illinois State University Friends of the Arts.


Anthony Hamilton is a graduate student and MFA candidate at Illinois State University. His work and writing investigate time's relationship with media. Alongside his artwork and writing, he directs curatorial projects at 211F.