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Scorpion Dagger’s “Dancing Jesus”
via @scorpiondagger

This artist gives an honest ‘fuck you’ to art history

Get to know @scorpiondagger’s Renaissance-painting-cum-Monty-Python style GIFs that mesh everything from Bruce Springsteen and Depeche Mode with Jesus and co.

Ever had the urge to swear in church (or mosque or synagogue or whatever)? Scorpion Dagger’s brilliant miniature collage animations made largely from cut up early Renaissance paintings are like a glorious dose of Tourette's in the church of art history. James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr started making GIFs in 2012, first on Tumblr and then also across (with added soundtracks) on Instagram and now almost has 30k followers addicted to his hyper-funny skate-style skits. The work is somewhere between the surrealism of Terry Gilliam’s piece for Monty Python if they were made by the Bones Brigade. Kerr is now working on a longer format web series but in the meantime dive into his web accounts and enjoy.

How did you start making animation work?

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: Around 2004, when I was finishing up my degree in Political Science, my girlfriend convinced me to join this art collective she was starting with a bunch of her art school friends. The collective was called the Young People's Foundation. We would organize and participate in shows all over the place, ran a gallery for a while, self-published a few books, and would generally have a ton of fun. Once the YPF started to die down, I figured it would be fun to learn how to animate. I was pretty much instantly hooked.

Where did the name Scorpion Dagger come from?

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: I used to work this landscaping job with a bunch of my friends. One day, we thought it would be fun to give ourselves these tough sounding nicknames. My friends hated it. I never meant for it to become an artist name.

What drew you to medieval and Renaissance pictures in particular? 

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: The first bunch of GIFs were based on collages I had already made with the YPF, and/or images found on the Library of Congress website. As the project evolved, I kept looking for new images to cut up and use. There was a week where I did a series of wrestlers on motorcycles. At some point, I fell upon some Giotto paintings and animated those. There was something about using those artworks that really spoke to me, and so I found myself going back to that era of paintings over and over again, until I realised that was all that I was using. 

There is a wicked crudeness in the pieces – a humorous ‘fuck you’ to history as much as a love of the originals. What do you like about that raw humour?

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: It's quite an honest reflection of my personality. I tend not to take things too seriously. The animations have become this weird stream of consciousness where I don't want to overthink anything.

The soundtracks and some of the pieces definitely hint to that you were influenced by skate videos?

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: I grew up skating and still try to get out there as much as possible despite being an old man. Skating is definitely my biggest influence in life. It led me to things like punk rock, certain outsider art, and a different of looking at the world in general. I remember wearing down certain tapes until they were practically unplayable. Pretty much all the H-Street videos had that fate. We used to make our own videos, with title cards, soundtracks, and the whole bit.

“It’s quite an honest reflection of my personality. I tend not to take things too seriously” – James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr

What are your favourite pieces?

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: Oh, no idea. The Bosch skate / pool party… Jesus getting the Mom tattoo. If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Jesus an air dancer. Or, maybe the priest karate-chopping that piece of wood in church. It's too hard to pick. The most popular ones up there seem to be the ones that are compilations of a bunch of older GIFs. Like the one to “It's Raining Men” by the Weather Girls.

Did Instagram influence what you do? 

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: I started making the animations a little longer, and think about the loop a little more. Also, by putting songs to them, it started me thinking more about the rhythm of the work. I definitely pay more attention to the pacing.

What do you like about the speed of the pieces? 

James ‘Scorpion Dagger’ Kerr: I really like that I jump from idea to idea. I don't need to worry about continuity, story arcs or anything like that. Plus, it helps with my attention span being practically zero. 

See more from Kerr here