Jimmy Joe Roche’s cultural stains

In this video exclusive, the Wham City artist dishes out advice on how to hit the big time - and drink the tastemakers' blood

Part of the art collective Wham City, Jimmy Joe Roche first got himself noticed uploading subversive and brilliant content to YouTube. His “How to Make a Toothbeef Sandwich” gave a vivid demonstration on making the perfect snack – from beef, mayonnaise, mustard… and oceans of toothpaste.

Roche’s psychedelic aesthetic and raw transgressive style are both completely addictive and totally repulsive, subtly derailing contemporary society while messing with our mind. Today this underground cult hero is preparing for his third solo show at New York’s Rare Gallery in March 2015. We caught up with him to find out how he short-circuited the art world.

Tell us a little about your video commission.

Jimmy Joe Roche: It’s a character spoofing conceptions of success as an artist and riffing on that. I wanted something that would be funny but also something that would be a little biting.

A lot of people first saw your work on YouTube. How do you advise artists to do it themselves today?

Jimmy Joe Roche: If you want to show your work, take it into your own hands. If film festivals aren’t working out, take it to the warehouses. Don’t wait for someone to do it for you. YouTube was something that really appealed to me because it allowed me to have a voice and try to get my stuff out there. I like that it was a fucking mosh pit. It was chaos. A free for all. Unmitigated madness. At the moment I’m exploring new ways of putting work online. I just released some work with this video label called Undervolt & Co run by two killer artist friends of mine Yoshihide Sodeoka and Johnny Woods. 

What are the big challenges for emerging artists today?

Jimmy Joe Roche: I think the real challenge is finding a way to be heard within the chaos of this totally global art community. There are just so many voices. I think that we have kind of a hacked place in a way, but at the same time today’s world has its own parameters. I think we have broken out of one set of confines but we have entered a new world that is daunting in itself because it’s as global as it is.

“If you want to show your work take it into your own hands. If film festivals aren’t working out, take it to the warehouses. Don’t wait for someone to do it for you” – Jimmy Joe Roche

How does your work respond to our contemporary landscape?

Jimmy Joe Roche: One theme in my video work focuses on cultural garbage or stains. Instead of getting edited out, these stains are actually the content and become the focus of the work. I think the glitch material is a kind of stain and I think some of my characters also are stains or outliers – people, themes or even sounds that we pretend don’t exist or that we’d rather would just shut up and go away.

Why do you feel it’s important to explore these characters?

Jimmy Joe Roche: I don’t know, I think I have a little bit of a sense of humour. I grew up in the south in Tallahassee, Florida and I was surrounded by a lot of eccentric characters and I feel like I’ve gravitated towards people who have extreme points of view. But YouTube and a lot of media right now is populated by these extreme voices, so I think in a way I’m reflecting a part of our culture where the man on the street who gets heard is often the man who is the most extreme. You only hear the most intense voices. They are the ones that bubble up in the chaos. They’re also the most fun a lot of times. They’re what you want to look at when you’re having coffee in the morning, for better for worse.

Do you have any heroes?

Jimmy Joe Roche: I absolutely have heroes – JG Ballard, Werner Herzog, William S Burroughs, Stan Brakhage. In the visual artists I’d say Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy are both artists that I really gravitate towards.

Submissions are now open: for a chance to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts, click here