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Experiential Elementals: An Interview With Kristel Brinshot & Ricky Jonsson Jr. Of The Great Nordic Sword Fights

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With a name like The Great Nordic Sword Fights, you would assume that Highland Park based Kristel Brinshot and Ricky Jonson Jr. are either leading manufacturers in authentic viking arms and armour or experts in Late Medieval longsword technique. Unfortunately, the two are neither: their working alias is an appearingly lo-fi, foreign pseudonym for technological, highbrow art available online and off.

Kristel and Ricky are video artists. The two are collaborators who create everything from music videos to installations to video games, works dug into an aesthetic and rooted in an emerging Los Angeles artistic community. Their work is difficult to define—and there are few like them.

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“Ricky and I are excited about new technologies,” Kristel says, seated on the floor of their hybrid live/work space. Their environment is marked by a somewhat comical disparity between the most contemporary devices and laughably clunky, defunct relics of video production’s past. “We want to expand that, working with interactive artists to do more projects that are layered. They could be installations that are also video, you know.”

“We want to make experiences,” Ricky says, sitting alongside Kristel.

“Yes, we want to make new experiences.” Kristel nods: “The Internet is what it is. You can ‘connect’ with people but you’re still looking at a computer.”

To speak to that, Kirstel explains they connected: “We met through mutual friends.”

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“I always knew Kristel existed,” Ricky says.

She laughs, pointing at him: “I always knew he existed!”

“One time, my roommate had her over and I was just like, ‘Hey: you’re cool. Let’s do something.’”

“It was literally just like that. It was weird.”

“It just happened.”

“It did just happen.”

“There was no getting to know each other—”

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“I saw him alone in his apartment and I was like, ‘You look really bored. Let’s get a beer and a sausage.’”

Ricky laughs: “I was extremely bored at that point. I was doing a job that I didn’t want to do and I was just out of college. It was all fine—but then I met Kristel and that kind of changed everything. She helped me be secure, to stop worrying about animating for money. We kind of just went back and forth on stuff and picking each other’s brains—and breaking each other’s brains.”

“It was a volatile situation,” Kristel says.

“…but it worked! It worked for us because we stepped into new territory. We were exploring new things, together. Everything goes back to that. We’ll get new projects and we’ll ask ourselves what haven’t we done.”

“How can we use this opportunity?” Kristel asks.

“Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it ends up turning into a music video, though.”

“That’s not intentional: it’s just easier for people to digest that way.”

“The only problem is everyone is trapped inside, in front of their computers,” Ricky says. “I do that all the time.”

While very satisfying, Kristel and Ricky do see a disparity in their position as artists. “It’s a gray area,” Kristel says of the medium. “[Video art] is not considered high art.”

“And the Internet is too vast for it to have a lifespan,” Ricky says of their work existing online. “It’s there for a minute and is just gone.”

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“What we do disappears quickly,” Kristel laments. “But, participating in Ghosting and having a space to provide artists everything in one place, as a group inspired by each other, is great.”

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Ricky says. “It felt like a dream at first. We started [Ghosting] (along with some other amazing LA based video artists) at our house and, by the second or third time, it got too big to handle.”

“You have to imagine these nerds who never go out but who make the coolest shit all getting together, in one place: it’s surreal…it’s really cool.”

Interesting enough, outside of events like Ghosting and B.Y.O.B. there are few venues for video art: many are in a far too serious context. The meanings and emotions associated with the works are nulled, cast instead as intellectual bores. Ghosting fights against this, allowing works room to be themselves.

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Ricky explains: “We went to Some Museum, where they were showing this funny, experimental video, and the theatre was packed—but no one was laughing. The work was too funny—and I couldn’t help myself but laugh. How can people not laugh?? Everyone was silent the whole time. That is not a good place for this work.”

“Things like that make me want events like Ghosting to work,” he says. “Some stuff needs to be enjoyed properly. LA has been a perfect place for this because you can do whatever you want. LA people like to help and contribute.”

For more on The Great Nordic Sword Fights, follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, check out their Vimeo, and visit their website. You can also play their new video game with Groundislava here.

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