Mikey Kettinger: Interactive Artist

Mikey Kettinger Utah State University

USU graduate student, Mikey Kettinger does not view art the same way most artists do. To him, art is not about making money or showing your personal talents, but it’s about creating something that can impact the community.

One of Kettinger’s most well-received projects at Utah State was Gifts From Atheists. This interactive art piece encouraged individuals to see themselves, their religion and their beliefs about others in a new way.

“Gifts From Atheists had the best reaction to it than any of my other pieces,” Kettinger said.

He hopes to create a similar piece highlighting Islamic culture.

“I really would like to do this project with every group,” Kettinger said. “There’s the same point to it and the same goal.”

The goal is to highlight and impact how we relate to one another. He finds the way humans treat each other fascinating, and he is working on a project which emphasizes gun violence.

To make this topic engaging, he said he has to approach it in a more unique and playful way.

“You’re creating a playful interpretation or comment on a serious issue,” Kettinger said. “And that’s hard to do in a way that’s not shallow or insensitive.”

One of Kettinger’s role models, in this area, is Jon Stewart. According to Kettinger, people received more information by watching Stewart on the Daily Show for half an hour than they received watching any other network news station for days.

One of the reasons Kettinger thought Stewart was so successful is because his commentary on relevant issues was funny and memorable.

“You never know what people will remember,” Kettinger said.

But it’s what people remember and what they do with the information they receive that he is most interested in.

Speaking of a piece which highlighted the rising rate of suicide in the United States, he said maybe someone would remember that statistic and then decide to call a friend who was depressed or volunteer within the community. It’s the action and the conversations motivated by his artwork that Kettinger’s passionate about.

“If I can make something that’s interactive and experiential, and people are participating in it, I love that,” Kettinger said. “It gives me a hell of a lot more joy than anything else.”

Over the years, Kettinger has realized one way to get people engaged with his artwork is to communicate it to them in a way they understand.

According to Kettinger, the average person, living in an urban area, views anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 ads a day. For this reason, he thinks it’s impactful to use light and sound to create change, not just marketing.

“Whenever there’s some additive light and color, that’s the most impactful,” Kettinger said. “You could have the Mona Lisa on a wall, but if you put a TV next to it, people will walk straight past, right to the TV.”

With this in mind, one of Kettinger’s most recent pieces challenged individuals to think about what they’re being asked to do by the advertisements they see daily.

Kettinger spent hours watching commercials and analyzing their theses. Then, he compiled the various messages, wrote them down and made a video of the words.

He showed the eighteen-minute video at the Block Art Film Festival in Logan, earlier this month, and then he asked the participants to watch commercials themselves and identify their messages.

“I want to bring people together,” Kettinger said. “I want them to have a conversation. That’s really cool to me and it motivates me a lot.”

Read more about Kettinger’s work:

“Social art” project to be part of Summerfest Arts Faire

Mikey Kettinger – Logan, Utah

Summerfest grant winner unites the community with art