I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Net Necromancer: Max Capacity

by Claire Donner
Sept. 9, 2014
Who is this internet necromancer communing with the ghosts of media past? Between his broken VHS tapes and hacked Nintendo games, Max Capacity conducts a staticky stream of pop culture imagery from the past with the verve of the digital now.  Anything is fair game - from 80’s TV commercials to FBI Warnings, the Santa Cruz native even makes TV static entirely his own.  

But how to define his art: Video art? Digital art? Net art? Sure, he makes animated .gifs, but calling him a “.Gif artist” ignores how much work he does with multiple camcorders, VCRs, and home-brewed glitch tech. Each image represents a huge amount of labor -- digital and physical, and how to represent that in a title presents a unique challenge.

The singularity of his process should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Max Capacity’s work, however. Although it’s derived from preexisting sources, when one of his gifs turns up on someone else's blog, it’s immediately recognizable as a Max Capacity original. His work is part of a trend in the artistic world generally -- the artist warps preexisting imagery (that are often highly recognizable commercial properties) into something vividly original and even personal. The pop source material is rarely credited because in many cases they are already understood in the cultural landscape, but the new artist takes credit for the manipulation. In short, the idea of “ownership” is a bit difficult to pin down.

Despite all that, the nostalgia factor is definitely high. Seeing the familiar stripes and scratches of a VHS tape beaten beyond the reach of tracking adjustment, the white noise of bad reception, or a game map so glitched out you want to reach through your screen and blow into the cartridge are experiences that will be unknown to younger generations.  Despite Max's claim at the close of our interview that his work is "more like watching a Schwarzenegger movie than going to a museum", the fact is that with each passing year, his work and the questions raised by it are becoming an important archive of electronic esoterica. In the end, maybe Max Capacity is more Indiana Jones than Terminator?