Artists consumer reports

Consumer Reports: John Michael Boling

John Michael Boling COURTESY ARTIST

John Michael Boling.


John Michael Boling is an artist currently based in Athens, Georgia. In the past, Boling has served as associate director of Rhizome and was a the creator of the infamous website 53 o’s. His work has been shown internationally at institutions including the New Museum in New York, MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, and Galerie West in the Hague. For the last two years he has been working in secrecy in Georgia on Culture Sport, a sprawling meta-critical anime series made entirely with the open source 3-D software Blender.

One week in Athens with Boling includes a lot of very late nights (and early mornings) focused on computer rendering, much of it in the service of his aforementioned Culture Sport project. While this happens, movies are watched, notably the classic Hugh Grant romantic comedy Love Actually. McDonald’s breakfast (which is now available all day) is consumed and some compelling Batman fan fiction is written. Tons more in this jam-packed edition of Consumer Reports. Keep reading. -John Chiaverina



1:09 a.m.

Just started watching The Patriot (2000) on Netflix. Sitting at my desk in my studio in Athens, GA working on some 3-D renderings for all-star bff Julian Bozeman. It’s late and I’m kinda tired so The Patriot (2000) is being projected further up on the studio wall than usual which allows me to see it over my displays while I work into the night.

P.S. Full disclosure. I’ve seen The Patriot probably 12 times. It’s not a great movie. It has as many hits as it does misses. As far as year 2000-era blockbusters go, The Patriot (2000) is right-on-the-nose “OK.” Let’s just put it this way: If I had a son whose creative talent was equivalent to the quality of this movie I would suggest that he pursue a career in finance. However, for some reason… Every single time I have watched this movie and paid halfway decent attention to it, I have 100% of the time cried during this scene.

The curious amount of meaningful control that this sequence of images and sounds is able to exert on my actual biological self is the main reason I mess around with making any of this stuff in the first place.

3:47 a.m.

Apparently Dirty Dancing is on Netflix… Soooooo… Dirty Dancing is on now. Julian is my boy for life and I am doing my best to finish these renderings for his deadline in the morning but it’s so dang late and I’m exhausted. Pray 4 me.

3:56 a.m.

Can’t appreciate anything about Dirty Dancing rn… Which ain’t right, so I’m turning it off.

4:12 a.m.

Listening to Rob. Specifically listening to “I’d Rather Be With You” by Rob. (Secretly one of the the best R&B tracks of the last 10 years.) Julian and I accidentally discovered Rob after going down a public access TV YouTube hole some Friday night three or four years ago.

2:25 p.m.

Listening to a YouTube playlist version of the YMO album Naughty Boys. This album is sublime.

9:43 p.m.

Winding down in the studio which generally means I’m still at my computer working but gradually shift to futzing with, fine tuning, and rendering files I worked on earlier in the day. I’m in the middle of this wind-down-gradient so it’s probably a good time to cook dinner and watch something meaningless.

10:04 p.m.

Walked outside and smoked a cig waiting for something to render and read six pages of book #5 of Akira. I read book #1 years ago and started to read #2 when I first left New York and moved to a farm in rural GA to begin work on my anime(?) series Culture Sport. I read a little but ultimately decided to put it down because it was so damn good and I didn’t want to get overwhelmed by its quality or get tooooo many notions from it at that point in the process. Several months ago my buddy Michael Guidetti sent me a copy of a book called Permutation City and I finally started reading it a few days ago on the way back from a work trip to New York. It was quite excellent. I got hooked while reading on the plane and finished shortly after getting back to the studio. About two hours after finishing Permutation City I started feelin’ twitchy without a narrative fix so I picked Akira back up and have been just blasting through. It is SO good. I feel simultaneously rejuvenated about my own project and ashamed for even trying to make sci-fi of any kind. This is one of my favorite feelings.

10:41 p.m.

This seems cool and I don’t understand 80% of the references but I’m going to decide to believe that I do understand and that this is how I’ve been running things for myself creatively for the last 2 years.

11:50 p.m.

Trying to refine one of the few different types of line passes we use in our top-secret recipe for making Culture Sport which can be pretty tedious so I just started downloading Terminator Genisys. Feels like it will be mindless enough to function ambiently so I can keep working. These days most of my media consumption serves as some sort of white noise / horizontal-continuity to keep my mind occupied *just enough* to keep working.


12:01 a.m.

My friend DV Caputo just sent me the instruction manual to his album/videogames that he just released called AURORA: MEMORIA. The project is super cool and really a heroic thing to try to do in terms of its scope and he really really really nailed it. What a talent. Brian Wilson eat your heart out.

12:16 a.m.

Terminator Genisys is on and it’s perfect. I’m totally not paying any attention to it but every now and then I half-hear the words ‘Terminator’ or ‘Sarah Connor’ or ‘Judgement Day’ and my brain seems to kind of automatically fill in the blanks with my positive sense memories of T2. Getting a lot of good research done.

12:18 a.m.

Obviously this can’t be a totally unbiased account of my media consumption because I know you’re reading this right now. I’ll try to keep it as real as I can I guess. Also just gonna use this gaze as a personal excuse to go over the unforgivable amounts of reference, recommendations, and research I’ve been accumulating over the last five years but almost never look back at. Seems like a win-win strategy for me and you. Just gonna keep this diary like a chat and not overworry about syntax/spelling/grammar/etc. Not MLA standard beware!!!

12:38 a.m.

Terminator Genisys is sublime to work to. Going through old collections of things on which is an online research tool I helped create a few years ago with some of the coolest and sweetest folks I know. Currently digging through one of my old favorites.

12:48 a.m.

Went outside to smoke a cig while waiting for a color pass to render and finished book 5 of Akira. Makes me feel like I’m being too hard on Terminator Genisys because Akira is so damn good.

12:50 a.m.

Going through my buddy Nick DeMarco’s quite fantastic “yuppie­dystopia” channel. Nick DeMarco is dangerously talented everybody. He is also one of my all-time favorite people to hang out with at a party.

12:54 a.m.

In the spirit of looking back and learning from my own history I’m going through old caches of links and research that I’ve made myself or contributed to or just been a fan of. I spent countless hours building and adding to it and spending time with what other talented and smart people (our users) added to it. I spent three years interacting with this database fulltime and there is A LOT of REALLY fantastic information on there if you know where to look. I’m going to spend the next little while putting together some kind of a best of… errrr… not best of… because.. but…. lets just say the best that I know of….

Wild Animals Vs Manmade Materials ­­schwulst/wild­animals­vs­manmade­ma

Terials Language ­­yago/

This channel is an early example of just ‘working’. The collection here is so organic and powerful.­rose/stoic­electronics­rose/fake­language­bozeman/our­future­novelty­shop­inventory­michael­boling/guide­to­gettin­got­zucconi/no­sherron/freak­hacks­michael­boling/fictional­art

1:08 a.m.

I feel like if I had a couch in front of the projector in the studio I would be enjoying this Terminator Genisys movie more.

1:38 a.m.

I think this movie would actually function decently well as a pomodoro.

2:08 a.m.

Setting up a few final animations to render overnight while I sleep. Kinda paying attention to the end of Terminator Genisys. The movie is kinda good if you can set yourself up to experience it like you would Sharknado. The fact that pretty much the entire narrative is generated from some vacuum of fanboy impressions of the rest of the Terminator universe as-it-exists-so-far makes it really loose in a way that I am okay with. It was probably good for the franchise to get a little goofy and over­the­top and un­precious so that someone in a few years can have the administrative wiggle room to make a reaallllly good ​’back to basics’ Terminator. I like to take the long view in these matters.

12:59 p.m.

I’ve been on vampire schedule for the last few weeks staying up late rendering when the computers in the studio are free so I’m jussssst now kinda getting back to work for the day. Currently checking emails.

5:39 p.m.

Natalie Mering recently moved to Athens for a little while to work on an album. She makes music as Weyes Blood. She is close with one of my other all-star bff’s Mercer West and she and I are kicking the tires on a potential collaboration so I am listening to her new EP rn and brainstorming. She is really talented.

11:51 p.m.

Guh. Winding down. Need to figure out something to watch.

11:53 p.m.

Bingo. I just realized I could check previous people who have blogged in this series and raid their media diary for things to watch. Big win for lazy me!!!

11:54 p.m.

Looks like Cory watched Spy so i’m DLing that.


12:20 a.m.

Spy is downloading. Wish I was in the frame of mind to watch something more dynamic but I’ve been thinking about dynamic all day so blahehjdglsahgskhsalshgasdk… Spy feels like the right kinda easy for right now…

12:21 a.m.

My friend Lily Roche started making puppets recently and we were chatting about a video she has to make about herself for some residency thing and the topic of American Girl dolls came up and I suggested she watch Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story for inspo (Todd Haynes’ jaw­droppingly­devastating­and­sublime outlaw biopic about Karen Carpenter). Wish I had the guts to watch it again rn but my soul is too squashed to deal. You should watch it though. Its sooooo realllllll.

2:32 a.m.

Spy finished downloading. I also downloaded s01e01 of a new show called Quantico which if I’m translating its marketing correctly seems to be kinda like Homeland jr. Anyways… I haven’t started watching either because Joe Kubler (who works on Culture Sport) dropped by the shop and we ended up vibin and talkin for a few hrs which was great. So much better than half­watching a movie I dgaf about. Joe just left though so imma start watching that self­same movie. Also setting up some .blend files for night rendrn’.

3:48 a.m.

Up late enough to set up another round of renders on the computers I hang out with at night. This last year has been remarkably similar to my last year in art school in that I am up late enough regularly enough to remember that birds start making moves around 4 a.m. Curse their sound. Night soon hopefully. Stopped watching Spy because I don’t have enough couch to enjoy it. #feelingoptimisticdespiteeverything

12:18 p.m.

I just remembered a part of a dream from last night where I got stung by a bee and then went to a dentist who I think was one of the younger Wayans Brothers. He and I started talking about the band The Move and listened to it in the ­dream. Dream media.

6:32 p.m.

Sat outside and finished book 6 of Akira. Got that feeling where the top of your head gets taken off and everything buzzes through your body in waves. What power. The guys upstairs are gonna fuck the Akira movie up soo bad.

10:06 p.m.

Just had a slice of pizza with Natalie Mering and we had a really cool talk about the so­-called ‘golden ages’ of different popular expressive mediums of the 20th century. Headier than than usual pizza table talk but it was nice tonight and she is cool and super sharp. Came back to the studio and talked about a music video idea for one of her songs and took a couple turns youtubing reference. She showed me:

I showed her a few Zbig Rybscynsi shorts. Dang I really really really wish more Zbig stuff was available online at a higher fidelity. We watched Tango in its entirety. Tango is an early Zbig vid and one of the most heroic edits and composites in the history of edits and composites imho.

Just a really beautiful work all around. Anyways Natalie is awesome and I like her work a lot so gonna see if we can make something work for a video. Talked a lot about zooms and starfields which are two of my favs so if it happens it will be fun.

10:23 p.m.

Half watched Spy last night so I’m gonna put it on somewhere in the middle-ish and finally get down to some real computer work.

10:25 p.m.

Stopped Spy. Can’t work to it… Its kind of just distracting how little I care about it. It might be a good movie but I just can’t give it what it needs. Feel like I need to watch something I’ve watched before so I can still kind of “touch base” with the story as I work and get something out of it or notice something new… Let’s go to Netflix.

10:26 p.m.

BOOM. First two Netflix recommendations are Dirty Dancing and Love Actually… Both kinna perfect. I wonder what Netflix’s internal demographic algorithm thinks of me. I think I’ll start with Dirty Dancing since it is kinda tonally related to the work at hand which is to render out a 300 dpi image of a Culture Sport character named Andi who is practicing ballet in the shot. I’ll watch Love Actually later tonight though most likely. Yesssss.

10:32 p.m.

Dirty Dancing is perfect. The soundtrack alone makes it worth being in the same room with.


1:22 a.m.

Nobody puts baby in a corner.

1:24 a.m.

“I had the time of my life” final dance sequence is about to start. Righteous. Didn’t really pay much attention to the movie but the parts I did watch were genuinely engaging in a way that a lot of popular classics from that era are. When did we lose this technology? You gotta respect the power that this sequence exerts on people. Why did we forget?

1:25 a.m.

I’m going to stand up and watch it like a painting.

1:29 a.m.

Omg they pulled off the lift you guys. Like they always do. Seems kinda fishy to me.

1:30 a.m.

Now everyone young and old is dancing together to a song that was made like 30 yrs after the time period they are representing. If we are to believe in the consistency of this storyworld then in their reality there was a different song playing that they were all dancing to. One that absolutely​ couldn’t technically and most likely couldn’t conceptually have been been written and recorded in 1963… The only alternative is a five minute silent communal dance which *gah i wish* but that’s just goofy. What was the song that they were REALLY listening to at the end of Dirty Dancing? History’s mysteries.

2:00 a.m.

I’ve been spending the last few hours working on a still image for Culture Sport to be printed in a magazine. Been struggling with it for a few hrs but things kind of just clicked and I got the attitude right… Finally. Now I just have to spend the next three hours lighting it and converting the multiple line and volumetric passes to function at 300 dpi. Putting on Love Actually. Netflix is jumping the gun with this one I think because it’s a Christmas movie and the rule is you have to wait for Halloween to be over before Christmas time comes but I’ll allow it just this once.

4:55 a.m.

Thank christ Love Actually is a good movie. Still workin on this render. Can’t wait till I’m good enough or old enough or bored enough to simplify my expressive gestures so that I can actually have some time to peace.

6:04 a.m.

Guh. Got the shot to a good place but don’t have the spirit to finish it rn. Gonna go to sleep for six hours and finish it when I wake up. Love Actually is a very complete film.

3:21 p.m.

Guh. Spent most of the day on the phone or working on finishing the render for this magazine… Also kind of got a late start today. I finally finished up around 10 a.m. and one of my best friends Mercer West was coming into Athens to play a show. (He used to run the Secret Squirrel which was the main DIY venue in Athens when I was here in art school. I also lived there for a coupla years and its community and scene were pretty influential in my development at the time.) Mercer and Natalie picked me up. We swung by McDonalds because I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Thankfully McDonalds is serving breakfast all day now. We went to Go Bar which is like the local townie bar/club with a very real and very comforting Cheers vibe where Mercer was playing later as Man’s Trash. Missed hearing my friend Jake Merrick play (who performs as Realistic Pillow and is just stunningly talented) and Zannie Owens, who recently moved to town to work on music. I’ve heard a little bit of her music and it is crazy good. I’m surrounded by genuine musical talent here. It’s so much more refreshing than my experience with the NY art scene. Caught the Wild of Night set which is Birdie and Dylan’s group. The last three songs they played fuckin’ killed. It’s their newest work and it apparent in the best way. They are moving to LA in the new year. LA friends check them out!


3:50 a.m.

Gonna sleep soon but wanna play around on blender with a few ideas I had earlier. Late night is the best time for me to do the “gardening” and “fertilizing” portions of my creative process. Daytime is for harvesting. Feeling dynamic and apparently so was Netflix. Boogie Nights is 1st chair carousel for me rn. YES PLZ.

11:21 a.m.

Watching this documentary on Gabber from 1995 that Marloes De Vries put in an arena channel we just started working on to share reference for an upcoming Culture Sport collaboration. Marloes works at showroom mama in Rotterdam and if we can get a few grants in January and February the Culture Sport team is gonna be moving our shop to their space in Rotterdam for six weeks to make something like a site-specific short episode of Culture Sport that uses Rotterdam as a point of departure. Its gonna be a lot of fun I think. I really like this weird process of letting fate have a little bit of a hand with the development of the Culture Sport narrative. Whatever we do in Rotterdam will be a part of the larger culture sport universe and story world. Looking forward to seeing where it takes us creatively.

11:46 a.m.

That doc was cool and super inspiring. I have it up on my wall in my studio playing through a sound system. I have two displays on my desk. One is rotated 90 degrees. YouTube is autoplaying now and as soon as that doc ended the algorithms took over and dj’d for a while. I didn’t even notice until just now. I was happily working away. Note to self: short foreign language documentaries without subtitles about electronic music are very effective to work to. Thanks algy! (ALGY: short for algorithm. Pronounced AL­GKEE. Just decided that’s what I’m gonna affectionately call the growing amount of data about me that, when combined with the AI and processing power of whatever web entity I interact with, decides what I want to see and what I need to see and automatically curates content for me.)


12:27 a.m.

Joe came over for a round of Tekken 3 at the studio. Mark Weathersby (A.K.A. DJ Mahogany, best DJ in Athens and prolly the world) gave us a Tekken 3 arcade machine when he was moving because he didn’t have space for it in his new place. The Culture Sport team has gotten pretty competitive with it. Everyone is way better than me at this point, but I just now got in the zone and destroyed Joe. Crazy how if you can get into a flow it doesn’t matter if you suck, you can still win. Spiritual adrenaline. Anyways. Joe’s gone and I’m doing some storyboarding work with pencil and paper. Put on How To Marry A Millionaire on Netflix.

12:42 a.m.

Chatted with Zannie Owens who just moved down to Athens to work on music for a little while. She expressed interest in learning blender and we have a few months of breathing room in terms of team capacity so we have enough time to take on a few folks for ad­hoc blender training residencies. This is kinda the way we’ve set it up so far for folks to come in and learn the software and if it sticks with them and they are cool we figure out how to hustle the money to bring em on as much as we can. It’s a pretty grueling and boring and repetitive and frustrating first 100 hours to get to a stable baseline of understanding with blender ­so that you can then specialize for a more fun but still grueling 1000+ hours to become enough of a 3-D whiz to contribute meaningfully to the production, but four of us have done it so far, so it is possible… Just not for the faint of heart (or the havers of lives). Zannie’s music is awesome btw DAMN. So far pretty much everybody but myself who works on Culture Sport is a musician. #spoileralert At the end of the day the show is about music so that’s a cool trend. No fate but what we make.


1:04 a.m.

Gonna be a late one working and I decided to watch the three Chris Nolan Batman movies. Just started Batman Begins.

1:09 a.m.

Just stopped Batman Begins. Really terrible quality rip. If i’m watching these for research I need to do them right. Or… medium­right at least. Nothing smaller than 2GB.

1:33 a.m.

In other news, virii are ancient and alive.

2:28 a.m.

Aight aight aight aight aight old man media. I got side­tracked by work. Decent quality download complete. Just started watching Christopher Nolan’s first Batman. Guh the way he manages to set up Bruce’s dad as the coolest dude of all time is so effective it’s scary. Nolan makes really good work in my opinion.

2:31 a.m.

Not sure if this has been done before but if not I’m calling dibs. Picture this. A Batman movie with Alfred as the joker. Alfred killed Bruce’s parents and subsequently lays siege to Bruce Wayne’s young mind for the next twenty years in order to create a worthy foe for himself. Consummately crafted guilt trips in the style of Michael Caine.


BRUCE WAYNE : Alfred. I am tired of this pain. I have grown so much through this struggle and now realize I can only honor my parents sacrifice by living as they did. My father died so that I might live and honor him… With a family.

ALFRED : Don’t fret Young Master Wayne. Others might judge the fact that it was you who wanted to leave the opera early that cold dark night many miserable years ago and in consequence your mother and father died. In your short time as The Bat Man you have done what you could to avenge them. You don’t HAVE to go back out tonight and fight the evil that silenced their light. I’m sure Gotham can stand by themselves alone one night… Even a night such as this. A night all to similar to the one when your poor father bled out on the street ­ god bless him ­ he would understand your need for a break… He was the only truly good man I ever met after all; god rest his soul.

5:19 p.m.

Listening to an upcoming album by Motion Graphics. Tight stuff. I’m working on some album art for it.

8:22 p.m.

Got distracted and kept working for awhile then slept in. Been sending emails and making calls today nothing crazy to report. Just getting back in the studio and am going to have another go at the Nolan Batman trio. Starting Batman Begins at the point where Bruce Wayne decides he doesn’t want to join the fight cult he’d been training with on a mountaintop somewhere.

8:35 p.m.

Morgan Freeman in this is 100% gold.

9:31 p.m.

The entire city is on the verge of being destroyed and Commissioner Gordon sees Batman drive off in his Batmobile and says “I gotta get me one of those.” I’m curious about the politics behind this decision… If there were any. If I ever get the opportunity to ask Chris Nolan one question it would be wtf is the story behind “I gotta get me one of those.” Was it homage to a sort of comic book earnestness? Was it an over­eager executive producer who just KNEW it would play well in the theatre if everything else in the movie was killing ­and straight up LIVED for that moment at the premiere when it came on the screen; a moment he most certainly flexed way too hard for; that moment when everyone in the theatre reflexively chuckles and visibly shifts and he gets to feel that he is the genius that made it all work?

10:36 p.m.

Batman Begins is almost ending. It’s pretty good. It’s obvious everyone in the cast and crew is sort of stretching into their roles. In terms of process this movie feels like it had to happen in order for the Dark Knight to be made as well as it was. They definitely learned from their mistakes.

11:53 p.m.

Had to download a better version of Dark Knight to suit the requirements of this viewing. (The requirements are academic and speculative… I’m casing the joint. I just wanna rob as many good ideas as I can. It’s too dense to rob everything.)

11:57 p.m.

Guh this movie is an accomplishment when you consider all the things it had to do and all the hierarchies of people it had to get off in order to even exist.

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