Written by Deianira Tolema
Edited by Justine Morrow
Getting to know JJ Brine seems much harder than it is. We love JJ’s art and think it’s even more essential now than ever. His influence is growing evermore evident with the passage of the art world months that stretch into years, casting an ethereal spectral glow over the otherwise sterile canals of irrigation lining the generic standard accommodations in the art world today. As Bruce Labruce said in Wonderland Magazine, “If the Manson Family, Warhol’s Factory, Maya Deren, and the Dalai Lama had an orgy that produced a bastard child, it would be JJ Brine.”
But we have typically imagined Brine to be elusive, aloof, and dismissive at best. We refer to the exchange below to see why we might have had some initial reservations about reaching out. In Nicole Disser’s article “JJ Brine Will Let You Into His Back Room, But The Price Is Your Soul she described JJ, “he’s not a typical artiste. He denies his own agency, to a degree, in whatever is taking place at Vector. ’Satan is in complete control of it,’ he explained. A shiny placard bearing the letter C fell to the floor. ‘See, these things are not being restrained, they rearrange themselves,’ JJ pointed out. ‘It’s like suggestions. I appreciate it. It’s a form of communication that is quite fulfilling.’ This is all despite the fact the gallery is filled entirely with his own work at the moment. And JJ describes the space as intrinsically connected to his mind: ‘I’ve put my brain on display, or my brain has put itself on display.’…JJ is a Satanist, or more accurately, a Vectorian. ‘Well, I’m kind of leading myself from another time, so I’m kind of like a puppet,’ he explained. ‘I’m responding as I’m being triggered, and I’m responding as I’m receiving my lines.’”
We last saw JJ in the news in an article recognizing the apparent success of the artist’s altogether commendable ritual cursing of Kim Davis, and subsequent Instagram invocation of Oprah for President. However, more recently, our eyebrows arched considerably higher when we saw that clemency had finally been granted for sex-trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown after fifteen years of activism in the media, a mere week or two after Brine performed another insta-spell incorporating purported invocation of psychic power, pairing his activism-as-art-as-activism with the stated intention to achieve clemency for Brown, who had been handed down a potential parole date 50+ years in the future. Brine was evocative and precise, “If u were sold into sexual slavery at age 16 and u shot a man who paid to abuse u would u deserve to rot in jail for over half a century? NO. The answer doesn’t change whether Cyntoia Brown or Cynthia White. FREE CYNTOIA BROWN 2NITE. This is a magick spell Eye Wish To Will 2 Power.”
Well, we already knew that JJ was an international force of nature, keeping company with the likes of the late Supreme Chief of Haitian Voodoo Max Beauvoir and hanging out with the leaders of The Prince Philip Movement in Tanna, Vanuatu. But we were impressed with the relative immediacy of the efficacy of his Instagram magic.
We decided to take a chance on changing the world and are so glad we did — because we’re taking the rare opportunity and extreme privilege to get to know the flesh-and-blood entity behind the mythology of “the official art gallery of Satan.” JJ, who was featured once previously in an article of considerably narrower scope for our Magazine, was happily receptive to the notion of opening himself up to further inspection, and eager to discuss his latest immersive art installation environment “The Self-Help Book For Artificial Intelligence Systems” crafted in his parents’ living room in Gainesville, Florida.
Bursting with an enthusiasm that is altogether irrepressible, the artist agreed to an interview in which we would ask the difficult questions — moving past the Satanic bullshit that Brine is altogether sick of people projecting onto him besides. “I’m not fond of small talk but Eye LOVE big talk.” Brine replied. Our efforts were handsomely rewarded. Who doesn’t long to make big talk, especially with Jesus Christ!
Our analytical inquiry into the artist thusly evolved into a much broader critical analysis of his work and persona and significant art history character, resulting in essential and unprecedented critical insight into the mind of a reigning master, the forerunner in the PostHuman Art movement he founded.
The mastermind and sole artist on display at the seminal VECTOR Gallery series, Jonathan Friel alias “Crown Prince of Hell”, JJ Brine is the party of one that is directly responsible for the transformation of the New York art world ideal into an interdimensional holographic multimedia immersive environment in Manhattan, certainly, and in Brooklyn even more so. Brine’s art environments encompass installation, sound, music, performance, theology, video, ceremonies of worship and one would expect, a considerable amount of mind-altering substances.
Brine is a multimedia installation artist, to put it mildly. That is to say, JJ Brine is a photographer who installs sculptures and light-boxes in his own “sentient” environment, which assumes a personality of its own. His video art, drawing heavily from the gallery’s imagery, gets entrenched into the media representing the work, along with the coterie of stunningly beautiful, modelesque acolytes who comprise The Vectorian Government. The order of operations is hard to sort out, since it seems that Brine approaches his creations by assuming all creative capacities at once. He art directs within his own environment, encouraging a holographic aesthetic in the glamorous attendees of his events, acting out whichever parts of his “LEGION of multiple personalities” wants to speak at any given moment. Candles burn and neon signs flicker as Brine conducts acrobatic maneuvers around the space as he documents it from all angles, usually with his iPhone, while he continues to transform the space, often while recording audio as he chants extemporaneous Vectorian mantras that inspire others to add their voices to the choir.
As Alyssa Buffenstein of Vice Magazine says, “Brine is a rare breed, and his work with VECTOR encompasses more than just creating an art gallery—he’s created an entire universe.” In the mania and majesty of any given moment, Brine might pronounce Mariah Carey to be God incarnate, spontaneously generating a myriad of media to support this momentary fixation with the fervor of a born-again evangelical preacher. There is an instructive quality to such madness, and it would appear that Brine can channel divinity from whatever prismatic object he subjects to scrutiny.
He is not a gentle, cautious artist by any stretch of the imagination, quite the opposite, he attacks whatever materials he is working with at any given time as though struggling with an armed assailant, gesticulating in tongues whether alone or amidst a crowd of awestruck spectators or friends. Indeed, multiple on-site inspections across all five of the canonical VECTOR Gallery incarnations confirm that Brine operates on instinct, in the heat of the moment, moving as though propelled from one side of a room to another when engaged in creation and oftentimes stoic and unresponsive when otherwise unoccupied. The constant gaze of the camera creates a vortex of data in which images are imported into the gallery and then these images reproduce themselves as they are documented, then exponentially so as further forms of documentation find their way into the postmodern, nay, PostHuman cathedral of rainbows and iridescent light.
That this multiplicity of artistries find singular expression in VECTOR Gallery is a testament to Brine’s unique ability to arm himself with the trappings of commercialism when it would seem to advance his interests. Certainly, creating a “gallery” space with the sole intention of showcasing your own work would seem to have considerable business-savvy. So too would taking a blank room and making it a veritable tourist attraction within a week or two, as Brine seems to outdo himself with each successive chapter in his series of spaces. The only exception, Brine has stated repeatedly with something akin to shame, is the fourth space. ”VECTOR 4.0 at 199 E 3rd Street was, I’m sorry to say, cursed. As a two-story space, you entered through Hell and if you so desired, you could head downstairs into Heaven. After the initial installation process had passed, however, it became clear that Heaven was, poetically enough, utterly infested with vermin. There were of course some grand events in that space and Eye suppose it looked presentable at times, but it’s the one space that I never felt at home in.”
Considering that Brine works with so many mediums, incorporating even the attendees and the journalists who come to gawk at the numinous constellation of abstracted archetypal entities into his palette of raw materials it seems it really IS only Andy Warhol who can help to lend a sense of chronology and contextual lineage to Brine’s Universe. Not that we are the first to connect the dots from Warhol to Brine and back again.
Within mere months of opening the first VECTOR Gallery, The Huffington Post had crowned JJ Brine “The Next Andy Warhol” and VECTOR “The Next Warhol Factory.” JJ doesn’t address our silly art history questions directly. Brine clearly thinks, much like Andy before him, that art is what you can get away with. And in this respect JJ seems to get away with everything.
At the time of publication, Brine is in the process of refining his soon-to-be-released art film “ELEGANT UPDATES” which the artist describes as an Illuminati Initiation Mantra written, directed and edited by Brine himself, starring Brine and his close friend Michael Alig.
Sound familiar? You’re right! Michael Alig, the overlord and spiritual engine of NYC’s decadent nightlife scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Alig is renowned as “King Of The Club Kids” in NYC nightlife and maligned as “The Club Kid Killer” in tabloids, and yes, we here at D/RAILED MAG are part of the generation that watched as Maculay Culkin famously starred in “Party Monster”, playing the part of Michael Alig with a devious cherubic charm, from the moment that he arrives on the scene to his meteoric ascent and ultimately, to the violent crime that sent him out of the disco and into solitary confinement for over fifteen years.
Michael Alig was, in his day, called the successor to Andy Warhol, and it is no surprise then that there is considerable potential for a critical analysis of Brine and Alig and Warhol as a triangular unit of inheritable agency. Brine spares little in the way of commentary on what he refers to as the media’s fascination with the “sacred trinity of faggotry” adding that “…anything can be art, given an art context. Luckily for all lifeforms and energetic states, Eye can confirm this context in no uncertain terms. Indeed, The Universe is ‘just’ my art project, neither my first nor last. I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s developing, lately!”
Brine is clearly fond of Andy, and speaks of him with warmth and familiarity but he had little to say when we pressed him for further commentary on the subject, “Andy wants me to be Andy by being myself and making my own art, because Little Andy always wanted to grow up to become JJ Brine. It looks like he got it right this time. And when me and Michael Alig play good cop/bad cop in a glass darkly, everybody wins! Again and again and AGAIN.” JJ has a way with words that is difficult to explain. Let’s just say that we at D/RAILED MAG would not want to be on JJ Brine’s bad side, especially in broad daylight on a schoolyard playground.
Back to Warhol and Brine. In a world in which Warhol never walked the earth, would Brine exist? We cannot say with certainty that he would, however we can’t be sure that any of our parents would have survived the 1960s without him. So there’s that.
Andy Warhol is dead and JJ Brine is alive. It’s February 2019 yet “Jonathan Jonathan Brine”, the man who made a twin out of himself, insists that his calendar informs him of another time: it’s 2032 AD by the Vectorian clock. The Vectorian Calendar began in 2013, but on November 8th of that year, Independence Night, Brine proclaimed that it was “2017 AD — The Dawn of PostHumanity” and furthermore, held a public ceremony in tribute to Vector Gallery’s “unilateral secession from The United States.”
But did Andy Warhol have his own time zone? His own Government? Did Andy Warhol create his own religion, hold ceremonies of worship dictated by his own whims, appoint political liaisons, or convene sudden judiciary councils to revisit prior legal rulings on criminals of historical interest? Look no further than to TMZ for the tip of the iceberg on coverage of VECTOR Gallery : The Retrial of Charles Manson “Famed cult leader Charles Manson is getting his day in court…kind of. Manson’s reputed biological son Matthew Roberts will be participating in a performance art piece titled “The Retrial of Charles Manson”, a mock trial at L.A.’s Vector Gallery. Vector owner JJ Brine tells us he and friend Matthew Roberts created the retrial to put a spotlight on what they consider gross unfairness making Manson the symbol of evil when he didn’t kill anyone. Roberts will play the role of his father and serve as his own attorney…something Manson wanted to do in the real trial but was denied. The audience will serve as the jury and pass judgment. If convicted, the judge will impose a sentence.”
The impact of the retrial was a viral press storm the likes of which Brine had not seen since, well, Art Basel 2014, when Vectorian Minister of State Lena Marquise installed herself in VECTOR Gallery, charging iPhones with her vagina. Lena’s piece seemed to make a quintessentially PostHuman commentary on the transient utility of our bodies, and its constituent parts, particularly wherein power dynamics and gender intersect with the contextual vacuum of the brave new world we’re living in, we are a generation that is conspicuously conscious of evolving past its own humanity, but has yet to establish a consensus on navigating the ethos of such matters.
Lena, an accomplished performance artist, is Brine’s bandmate in THE LABIANCAS the world’s one and only “Charles Manson Concept Band” electronic music duo. The collaborative efforts of Brine and Marquise in The LaBiancas, with their catchy devotional pop hymns crafted in tribute to Charles Manson and the witchy, awkwardly sincere camp-catharsis rituals that constitute their official music videos, are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Trust. Conveniently, the band is signed to none other than DRUGLORD RECORDS, Brine’s signature, personal indie boutique label restricted to himself and his inner circle.
VECTOR Gallery was naturally the talk of the town in Miami, where Brine was given full sponsorship by SELECT Fair, the owners relayed their confidence to JJ that his involvement in their art fair would pay for itself, and then some. They were correct. Almost immediately, none other than Usher stepped up and decided he wanted to get a firsthand look at VECTOR Gallery and see the art that everyone had been raving about…heck, even The Real Housewives of New York asked Brine to give his blessing to being included in their Basel episode, a classic confrontation between “reality” and surreality. Without skipping a beat, Usher sauntered right up and charged his iPhone in Lena’s vagina. It was the charge heard round the world. By Brine’s reckoning, “I could not have conceived of greater validation for Lena’s performance art than The Huffington Post offered up with their reactionary article, “Yes, Usher Charged His Phone In A Vagina. And No, It Was Not Art (NSFW)”
No, Andy Warhol did not do those things. This is because Andy Warhol was Andy Warhol, and JJ Brine is JJ Brine. Neither of them are fully explained by any other thing but themselves. The two are about as similar and as distinct as brothers can be. To the world around Andy way back then, and even JJ now, they are alien beings unless, of course, you get to know them.
The Prince of Pop Art, Andy Warhol’s artistic modus operandi was the piecemeal recreation of iconic albeit mundane fixtures of contemporary American daily living, reproducing them in every manner save for their perceived utility. This then is perhaps the art signifier — wherein there is no use for an object but to appraise it for its own sake, there is an object of art. Whether or not Andy chose to paint Campbell’s soup cans simply because he had been raised on the stuff, purportedly lunching on it seven days a week, or if he was exercising a cunning mercantilist instinct strengthened by the sort of sincerity of conviction that only irony and sarcasm can afford an artist making ends meet through their engagement with the “art world”, Andy painted and created precise replicas without functionality that assumed the aura of talismans, refracting the mirror image of the zeitgeist in militant refusal of his own reflection, instead of looking at him, they should look at themselves and see what there is to be learned from that. Andy, although not “handsome” by conventional means, was certainly a beautiful magical creature. Alas, Warhol did not share this perspective, and anecdotes about his artistry compensating for his perceived “ugliness” abound. Having made himself prematurely geriatric in his mid-30s by donning a white wig where there was still plenty of growing brown hair and shielding his albino-white face with oversized sunglasses, Warhol settled into old age at the tail end of his youth, preferring to trick the public into seeing him as a wizard of a certain age rather than as a shy, dyslexic homosexual prone to episodic panic attacks, a man who was most comfortable at home in the presence of his mother, with whom he resided until her death.
Brine also draws upon the iconography of the mundane and the quotidian corporate and governmental emblems of authority that are so omnipresent as to be taken for granted. Unlike Warhol, Brine aggressively wrenches such icons from their ostensible contextual backgrounds, and wholly imports them into equations of metaphysical, Kabbalistic renderings, incantations with meanings that are known to the artist alone, and minted to his own visceral impulses. These things are far more than the sum of their parts to such an extent that one can get so caught up in the magic spell Brine casts that they no longer account for its ingredients. For instance, a mannequin spray painted in gold wearing a purple wig and a crown, outfitted in one of Brine’s Vectorian tank tops and a makeshift mylar dress holding a Vectorian propaganda print in support of a distinct sovereign state for the Alawites of Syria, denouncing The United Nations in nearly invisible fine print damning the IGO to “an inexorable slide into a circus of mirthful obsolescence” in favor of a shadowy Vectorian successor organization, “PANGEA” in the context of the late 2020’s against the backdrop of a laminated banner bearing a screenshot taken smack dab in the middle of the act of instagramming, then manipulated into auxiliary kaleidoscopic angles that suggest a combative, Spartan approach to social media that is certainly in keeping with Brine’s demeanor on such platforms. Brine, who is clearly more classically beautiful than Andy by conventional standards, appears to be guarding his heart rather than his visage, keeping vulnerability at bay with his fortress of strobing neon artillery.
Andy, like a virus, is neither dead nor alive and virally replicates in all atmospheres of contemporary pop culture. As for JJ Brine, who often reminds his fans and haters alike that he is “setting an example by living in [his] own afterlife” only the artist’s willful immortality can say if fate will be tempted to stir him to further incitations of ritual enchantment. “After VECTOR TOKYO, Eye may suddenly withdraw from the world into some remote extraterritorial enclave, blissfully shunning all forms of human contact, becoming the animal that Eye was originally born to be and, Eye dare to dream, finally forgetting The English Language once and for all, which would mean the world to me, or I may become so ubiquitous that you won’t be able to escape my ever-present gaze, my Big Brother Eyes affixed upon the shadow and center of your particular person no matter where you may stand or sprint across the lands of Christ’s fair and verdant earth.”
We at DRAILED are placing our bets on both. Having inspired the crucified Ronald McDonald installation that has generated factional fighting in The Middle East, see Brine’s “Arch Of The Covenant” which was commissioned by a nightclub that had decided, at Party Monster Michael Alig’s own suggestion, that Brine was himself the new reigning power in NYC nightlife. Brine states that he in fact “detests nightlife, although Eye love to live my life at night.”
Early last year, Alig joined The Vectorian Government, when JJ Brine appointed Alig as The Vectorian Minister of Parties. The NY Daily News gives us the scoop as to how these two met in the first place, “The pair was doing charity work at a Methodist church in New Jersey.” Why are we not surprised?
As we dig more into the oft-quoted similarities between Warhol and Alig, it’s important to note that JJ’s fame was talked about even before he became a viral sensation. Whitney Kimball of the Washington City Paper said in an article, “A few years ago, a Wall Street Journal reporter called to ask if I thought JJ Brine would be famous. I said yes. He’d only been running his controversial gallery for a year or so, but it’s a question you automatically wonder about him; his intensity draws attention and curiosity equally translatable to an E! True Hollywood Story, a true crime documentary, a religious following, or a PS1 retrospective.” It was the same art critic, Whitney Kimball, who wrote the first major critical analysis of VECTOR Gallery, and so it is appropriate to draw from her as a primary source in our critical investigation. In her article, “What’s the Deal with the Gallery of Satan?” She states, “The art world likes to give the appearance of cool omniscience, so it seems unlikely that the indoctrinated will take a shine to the Lower East Side’s Vector, the “Official Gallery of Satan.” In an art context, devil worship (especially by a bunch of twenty-somethings) typically indicates a little more emotional immaturity than we’re willing to take seriously. That’s too bad, because as an artwork, Vector offers plenty to think about. Brine…rearranges an installation of Satanic talisman as late as 6 AM…He’s fond of challenging visitors to long, intense staring sessions, next to a basket of souls, which are contained in the clear bubbles you get in grocery store gumball machines. The gallery attracts a ton of photographers, probably due to the fact that it’s open 24/7 and displays naked dead baby dolls against the backdrop of a big Charles Manson headshot. Brine’s generally reluctant to give much of an explanation, deflecting most questions about the space with “What do you think it is?”. He tells me that the space is always in flux, with areas designated for various purposes. In that vein, I’m pretty sure the hypnotism has something to do with transference of identity; after long staring sessions, he’ll often introduce himself as the person he’s just hypnotized.”
The international media darling has generated such polarizing media commentary that even the press that he has generated has been exhibited as a coherent body of art work in Brine’s Ultra Media Kontrol. There is something to be said for Vice and V Magazine engaging in dueling headlines over one’s character. First Broadly tells us that “Gay Cult Leader JJ Brine Puts a Spell on Kim Davis” and couple years later V Magazine retorts, “JJ Brine is a Telepathic Visionary, Not a Cult Leader”. When factions of the mass media trade competing headlines vying to define the nature of your artistry, you are clearly doing something right. Both the Broadly article by Mitchell Sunderland and the V Magazine piece by Kelly-Louise Delaney provide vast insight into Brine’s mentality and personal life history, reflecting his experiences at VECTOR Gallery 3.0 in Los Angeles and VECTOR Gallery 5.0 in Bushwick, respectively.
As a one man assembly-line with a prolific repertoire, Brine has streamlined his body of work by wholly incorporating and actively accommodating the extant body of media coverage of his art into the art itself. It’s a great thing that JJ has repurposed the surveillance of his personal life toward meaningful artistic output. It’s not as though he can really escape it at this point.
It is important not to discount JJ Brine’s ability to terrorize America. Given a survey of Brine’s works and the extant body of literature on the subject thereof, it appears that Brine is doing what comes naturally to him as an artist, but is not displeased in the slightest by occasional paroxysms of terror from the public. Even random bloggers spout effusive opinions about JJ’s narrative within the art world.
But in the end JJ Brine tells us that he has been carefully cultivating a collection of crystals, particularly Amethyst, for the sake of his spiritual transformation, cycling into full realization of himself. ““Thee Crystal Altar of J+J Transubstantiation” is aligning me with my true purpose, which is to bear light, becoming The Light of The World. Today Eye Am in a rhapsodic state of assumption, assuming the nature of that which I am, the radiant power of love and light.” Which shines brightly into the future. JJ’s next projects will take on a different shade. “The time of secrecy and occultation has passed. It’s time to to shine a light on what Vectorianism is really about: unconditional love and the Union with one’s own soulmate, immortal communion with the Higher Self. Verily, the true purpose of the occult is its own un-occultation. Lift the veil yourself!”