Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
She’s not sure what genre of artist to currently consider herself, but regardless, anything Dina Kelberman artistically creates is worthy of your time. She seems to always be involved in collaborative projects, including being a part of the art/comedy group Wham City, as well as her own independent creative pursuits. You can see her comics in Baltimore’s weekly City Paper, or online. Her astute observations make her a master at wit, and harvesting organized collections of internet images. Even the New Museum agrees. Dina took some time to talk to me about her recent projects, take some time to read about them.
SW: So first, what kind of artist do you consider yourself these days?
DK: I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I’m definitely veering pretty heavily into a pure digital realm. I was focusing on comics for awhile and have kind of gotten less interested in that and just don’t do that as much anymore. I mean… I still have a weekly comic. But I don’t really draw outside of that. I’m addicted to the computer, so I’m pretty digital these days.
SW: The weekly comic, do you post it online or do you do it for yourself?
DK: It’s for the City Paper.
SW: Oh cool! I did see you posted some of those.
DK: I’ve been doing it for awhile. I won the comic contest, like, years ago and they kept me around. It’s actually been like 5 years or something, which is crazy. I don’t long how much longer that’s going to last because every week I’m like ‘Fuck, I gotta do another comic!’ [Laughs]
SW: [Laughs] Cool!
SW: What were you saying about Adult Swim [earlier]?
DK: We did a thing with them about a year ago. Basically it’s my boyfriend, Alan Resnick, and our friend Ben O’Brien that are kind of the dudes heading up the stuff. They were doing comedy and going on tours and they started talking to a producer over at Adult Swim. We made a pitch for a show, we also pitched kind of a show version of an act Alan had been doing on tour and they picked that up. So, last year we made this one-off fake infomercial that aired at like 4 in the morning for a week. That was cool. Then we pitched another sort of 4am prank thing and we’ve somehow spent another entire year. It takes us 1 year to make a 10 minute thing, that’s our current schedule. We’re about to start to shoot our next 10 minute thing. On Sunday we start the actual shooting process finally, for a week, and it’s going to be crazy. [Laughs]
SW: Why does it take a year? That’s…
DK: …Because we don’t know what we’re doing. [Laughs] There’s so much back and forth with the network and so many people involved, that it’s like we’re still learning how to push things through and get everything organized. Moving with such a vast web of people that need to talk to each other and get back to each other. Hopefully that will speed up a lot [Laughs].
SW: Is it more like the ‘Red Tape’ kind of stuff versus the actual creative process?
DK: Yeah, the creative stuff, we’re pretty good at banging out. It’s just the administrative getting everything together, getting the network to okay things and then getting back and finding actors, it’s really crazy. I think when we have a bit more experience we’ll be able to make it happen a million times faster.
SW: Yeah, probably. Are you still involved with Wham City? Is there anything cool happening with them or any of the creatives you’re around now you’d like to share?
DK: Yeah, I mean, we don’t really do stuff as a group. This Adult Swim thing is pretty Wham City oriented, but it’s so far such a small thing that not as many people get to be as involved as we like. Hopefully that will expand and we get to include more people. Everyone is really doing their own thing a lot these days. Everyone was like ‘Oh fuck, I’m 30. I gotta have a life!’, it’s a lot less group stuff but we’re all hanging out.
SW: Alan is an artist also?
DK: Yeah, he does a lot of digital stuff. He’s really into 3D special effects, both the real and the behind the scenes aspect of it. The first thing we did for Adult Swim was this thing starring him, where a fake version of him created a digital avatar, a 3D model of his own head that he talks to and is trying to sell to people. But it doesn’t work.
DK: But he’s also actually building a 3D model of his head, so it’s this weird sort of blurred line with that. Then he does comedy with Ben, there’s a lot of comedy stuff coming up lately that people have been doing.
SW: That’s awesome. I don’t have cable, how can I watch this infomercial?
DK: You can see it online, if you go to AdultSwim.com. The easiest way to find it is probably the Adult Swim YouTube page. The other thing, the new thing we’re doing will be there eventually, too. It’s going to air in December, it should also be online. The 15th is our air date allegedly.
SW: Isn’t that pretty close to your birthday?
DK: Pretty close. You knew my birthday?
SW: I do. [Laughs]
SW: It looks like, from looking at your website with Alan, you’re working on a bunch of projects? Which is really exciting. I’m just wondering, what inspired the ‘I’m Google’ and the ‘Our Findings’ database series? [Laughs] They’re really weird and I love them.
DK: Oh cool! Well ‘Our Findings’ is like how Alan and I kind of became really good friends and then fell in love over the internet. One of our commonalities was that we were both obsessively watching ‘The Simpsons’ at all times. We started emailing with another friend of ours, Jordan Card, I don’t know if you knew her. She’s in Baltimore too. She was constantly watching ‘The Simpsons’, we were just all emailing each other funny screencaps. Alan and I both got really obsessed with the very abstract ones. We started focusing on that really heavily until we just decided to start collecting them all on this Tumblr. Which we’re still sort of doing, but now we’ve completely lost track of what we’ve already put up there. So, now every time we watch ‘The Simpsons’ we’re like, ‘Do we have that one? I don’t know. Did I get it?’ It’s become a really weird way to watch TV.
DK: [Laughs] But it’s very fun. ‘I’m Google’ is just the habit of wanting to collect stuff. Like, I have all of these folders of pictures I would find on the internet. I started making these silly Facebook albums of just batches of things and had sort of heard of Tumblr but didn’t know how it worked. I was like, ‘This seems like a good repository for throwing this stuff somewhere. I can transition them into this next thing’. That became the focus and I became obsessed with trying to do that as well as I could. I’ve just been doing that forever now. I still have like a million folders collected of all different stuff. I want to somehow get to these fifty pictures of pieces of squash but I can’t figure out how to get there. So. [Laughs]
SW: Mmhm [Laughs] Have you worked on any part of that series and then discovered, like, the one perfect photo that you forgot about or found later?
DK: Oh God, that’s like my worst nightmare. [Laughs] It hasn’t happened too bad yet actually, surprisingly. I can’t remember. I remember one time I somehow ended up looking up a similar thing or I somehow was like ‘There’s the perfect squiggle of wires and I can’t go back and put it in.’ Sad, [Laughs] but that’s okay, I can move on.
SW: It sounds like you’re working on a lot. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?
DK: I don’t know? I’ve been doing this thing where I bought this Ice Cream truck kind of thing, a step-van like a UPS truck, and I have been converting it into a tiny house to live in/ art thing, which is super-fun. I had this dude that my friend recommended come down from Minneapolis. He cut the roof off and built a pointed roof, so it looks kind of like a Monopoly piece. It’s red. It has windows, I have a lofted bed in there, I’ve got wood floors and I’ve been slowly working on that. I’m basically, actually going to start living in it.
SW: That’s fucking cool!
DK: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s really fun! I’m so addicted to the computer I’ve been like ‘I like to build shit out of wood’, even though I’m not necessarily great at it. But it’s really fun! I’m building all these shelves and figuring out how to cram all my stuff into this little space. What I need and what I don’t need. That’s been the most exciting thing, it’s kind of life encompassing.
SW: Where is it sitting right now?
DK: Alan and Ben and I were all living at the Copycat, slowly building this. It was in the Copycat parking lot until basically yesterday. My friend bought a house a few blocks away from there and I’m going to start living in her backyard. Alan’s living in the house. I have a house I can go take a shit in if I really need to or like take a shower. [Laughs] If it’s getting too crazy in the van. But I’ll basically be out back. [Laughs]
DK: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. It’s like we’re on the block right above North Ave, so I keep being like, ‘Is this insane?’ But it’s a pretty chill block, so I’m not sure how totally crazy this plan is going to end up being.
SW: Yeah… I don’t know, good luck.
DK: [Laughs] North Ave has chilled out a lot. At least over here.
SW: Two more questions. You’re kind of all over the place in a really good way. You said you’re not really sure what kind of artist you are. Who are your artistic influences? Throughout your lifetime, who has really inspired you.
DK: Jessica Stockholder is my favorite artist of all time, for sure. Just because I love her use of color and space, formal stuff. I heard her talk a few times, she’s just very matter of fact. She’s just like ‘I love how these blue plastic buckets look and that’s it, that’s why I’m using them.’ I really get frustrated when people have these highfalutin answer reasons for things, I’m just like ‘C’mon you’re doing it because you like it.’ I don’t know much about Contemporary Art these days because I’m, like, in this weird bubble. [Also] James Turrell, Sol LeWitt, and Ed Ruscha.
SW: The last question. I might know the answer to this. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
DK: Wait, do you know that I only wear two colors right now? [Laughs]
SW: [Laughs] Yes, but I don’t think all the readers do.
DK: You’re making me pick between red and blue.
SW: Yes. You have to choose, which one? [Laughs]
DK: I guess I’d have to go with red. Blue is what I consider my favorite color, but I appear to like wearing red more for some reason. I’ll go with red. Let me know when I have to start doing it. [Laughs]
SW: No one is going to force you, but if you want to go ahead and do that, [Laughs] it’d be awesome.
DK: Yeah, once two becomes too much to handle. [Laughs]