Being Human with Julian Klincewicz

The Multidisciplinary Artist Shoots a Lo-Fi Self-Portrait

  • Interview: Katrina Lainsbury
  • Photography: Julian Klincewicz

Julian Klincewicz started out with a Motorola flip phone, shooting 15-second videos of his friends skating in San Diego. His switch to VHS was serendipitous: an aunt gifted him an old video camera she found while cleaning out his grandmother’s attic. Today, at 21 years old, Klincewicz has made a name for himself through his intimate and emotive style of lo-fi video. Gosha Rubchinskiy enlisted him to shoot his crew of Moscow skaters, and Kanye West gave him the mammoth assignment of documenting the YEEZY Season 3 presentation at Madison Square Garden. But the humble and grounded Klincewicz is acting out his aspiration to make art about “being human” in multiple media—almost all of them. He recently launched “Hey, I like you,” his first fashion collection, which joins photography zines, music, modeling, and his first solo art exhibition, always with more in the works. Klincewicz gets it all done by setting goals for himself to achieve on his birthday every year. So far, he’s succeeding.

We asked Julian to tell us more about his thought process in a video self-portrait shot in Super 8.

Katrina Lainsbury

Julian Klincewicz

Looks like you've crossed off your goals for this year. I’m curious to find out, how exactly did you achieve them?

I’ve got a few of them for sure. I couldn’t really say, but I think the main thing is that maybe I dedicate pretty much all of my time making art. I try to learn from people all the time, and I got a lot of support along the way to be able to keep going. Coffee definitely factored in there somewhere too. [Laughs]

You’ve mentioned in a previous interview that you want to create art that shows we are all human. How do you think that translates into today’s youth culture? Do you think the use of our social media and technology prevents us from being human?

My experience of the world, and the feeling I get when I look at the world, is that there’s a lot of pressure to be better than human. Like, I find myself thinking a lot, what does it mean to actually be good enough? What is good enough today? And to whom? And what does it mean? There’s a pressure to be something unattainable. But I think what comes along with that is anxiety or FOMO or a desire to be instantaneously “successful.” I find that the gap between meaningful emotions—or I should say strong connections, as I believe all emotions are meaningful and important—and our everyday experience is a bit weak... I couldn’t say exactly why, but that’s what I feel. I think it’s quite easy to get caught up in this cycle where you forget that everyone bears the whole weight and experience of being a human being, and I think if we lose that sense of connection, that sense of empathy, we’ll lose a fundamental point of mental ease and prosperity and overall health. I guess we’ll lose a key part of what makes us human. Social media plays a role for sure, good and bad, like all things. I think it doesn’t matter so much, though, what the current medium is that emblematizes that relationship, because it’s always changing. It’s just to remember real human connection—reality—is invaluable, and I think irreplaceable, for a happy society. All that being said, I like to focus on “being human” and showing that, because I think the experience is so multifaceted that it will never become dull. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote, “I have traveled so much that only the banal still interests me.” If you look at any other person you can always see something familiar and something new. I think that relationship is what drives art.

You recently curated an exhibit called “Hey, I like you.” I noticed that at one point you had the models walk in a circle holding hands. What was your inspiration behind this concept?

For the show, the third installment of my work “Hey, I like you,” I designed 30 looks, worked with Free Aktion on a soundtrack, presented a new series of silk flags, a video and song, and directed the runway presentation. The idea for the circle with everyone holding hands was to create a sense of joy and a point of attainability and beauty. One of the driving forces behind why I wanted to do a runway show at all was to create something really special in San Diego, for people here to get something that doesn’t exist in a meaningful way here. I tried to translate what I think about runway shows, and my experience, into one that would make sense here. So, for the finale, after the seriousness of each model walking their figure eight, I thought it would be just a really nice way to break the mood—to remind everyone that this is something fun, that joy is important, and you need to laugh too.

I guess the main thing was just that that experience, that symbol, holding hands and running with no other aim but to play, is a really good reminder and sort of universal experience. Like it’s something anyone can do, something I think most people I know have done at some point in their childhood, and something that points really directly to connection, you know? That’s what it’s all about.

I was watching the third installment of JOURNEYMEN that you were featured in. You say: “The highest form of art transports you to someplace else, where you essentially fall in love someplace else.” Whose art has made you feel that way?

I mean, that’s been my experience thus far, I’m not sure if everyone else feels that way though. Thanks so much for watching it, though! I think Patti Smith’s writing does that for me. Gilbert and George have this piece called “To Be with Art Is All We Ask” that does that to me. The film Sans Soliel. My friend Jane Matchak’s writing. Philip Glass’ music.

You mentioned in an interview that you did not think you could have an adult opinion on our youth culture. Is that due to the liberal environment of being in a skate community?

I think it’s just that I don’t really know yet what it means to be adult, but I don’t necessarily feel like a kid. “Youth culture” isn’t really something I think about, and neither is “adult culture” or “elder culture.” I fully get the interest in the subject, but for me it’s not the most important thing. My interest lies in human experience, which I think transcends age.

I notice a lot of times younger kids feel very stuck, like they can’t get to where they want to be or achieve the things they want to because of their age. Their financial situation limits their resources, and their life experience in years can sometimes limit how people perceive their insights. But I see the same exact thing with people in their 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s: this sense that they’re not young enough to start or that the world has changed, that their life experience in one field doesn’t give them the fundamental validation of exploring another field. If you compare the two, I don’t think they’re that much different. So, for me to talk about youth culture from any standpoint, I think it would just be a bit uninformed or theoretical. The main thing is just to be the best you can be, at any age, and to strive.

Shooting VHS, you can’t always guarantee a golden shot. How do you work with this?

[Laughs] My motto is “Fingers crossed, heaven willing.” No, I don’t know. It’s the same as anything else: sometimes you get something amazing, and sometimes you don’t get anything, or you lose the best part. I find by the end of filming I usually end up thinking it’s miraculous that anybody captures anything amazing, because the whole time I just feel like I’m missing the best parts

When is your birthday?

August 31st. Solid Virgo.

What are your goals for 2017?

Take the time to make sure everyone feels special.

  • Interview: Katrina Lainsbury
  • Photography: Julian Klincewicz