All We Actually Inhabit Is The Present Moment

An interview with visual artist Jason Brammer
by Po, Editor-in-Chief

One night in February we walked into Firecat, there was ice on the ground and I slipped; another few scrapes, eventual bruises. She slipped too, that night, into something she always said she wasn’t. Time heals. Time changes things. Time is pivotal.

Jason Brammer knows about time. It was his opening we went to see and it was the word art critics are never supposed to use: beautiful. But I’m not an art critic, and it was. His work is intricate, vibrant, elusive. Exploring Axis Mundi: The Still Point At The Center Of The Turning Universe is the title of the series. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. That night – the point at the center of my ever-spinning, ever-twisting universe – was a break I didn’t quite realize, then. But this isn’t about me. This is about Brammer, and art, and honesty.

Po talking to Brammer at the opening; opening photos by Mirelle Weingarten

Brammer is quiet, thoughtful, and like nearly every artist I’ve seen at their own opening who isn’t drunk, slowly but surely wanting to leave. It was a packed opening, though, which is always a good sign; I talked to a lot of other artists who were there – an even better sign.

Brammer has been steadily gaining interest in the Chicagoland area; you can read an interview I particularly like from last May’s Chicago Art Magazine here, and the timeline of Brammer’s work is available from 2008 onwards here on his website.


Here at LANDFILLS, our job isn’t to tell you that Brammer is 37 years old and went to SCAD and lives in Logan Square, or was chosen to create a mural for a CTA underpass in my neighborhood, Roger’s Park, or any other details you can find somewhere else out there. Our job is to talk about honesty in art, ask questions that our interviewees aren’t expecting, and for this Spring Issue, talk about how the past, present, and future all intersect.

Axis Mundi: The Still Point At The Center Of The Turning Universe
Acrylic, plaster, antique hardware, wood, and masonite, 2012
51” x 51” x 4 ½”

“To ‘dwell in the past’ or ‘live in the future’ is impossible because you’re simply using the present moment to catapult your mechanical mind into an illusion that doesn’t exist,” Brammer says when questioned about the way time intersects and can come to define our lives. “The mind is always searching for something to cling to, and it gravitates toward experiences or thoughts that have already happened or will happen.” When discussing his current work, Exploring Axis Mundi, Brammer explains that, “in some of my art, I have painted time to be a flat surface that can be folded or manipulated.  Sometimes, you can see behind the ‘wall of time’ to an ever present, glowing moment.”

Inside Axis Mundi 
Graphite on paper, 2012
12″ x 9″

When I approached Brammer at the opening, the first thing I did was show him how weird we are here. “Let’s play some word association,” I said, holding my BlackBerry up to record our conversation (see pictures above). He wasn’t ready for that, but responded afterwards, and I think his answers are most indicative of just how conscientious and thoughtful he is about his own thinking. (Meta, right?)

I threw out the words TIMESPACEUNIVERSE, and ART, and this is what he responded: Drips, holes, trips, spinning energy into infinity, luminosity, all reaching, interconnectedness, planer, collapsable, vacuous, enigmatic.

 We move on to honesty – something we’re obsessed with here at LANDFILLS. “My definition of honesty, for myself, is to create work that is true to me, not trying to jump on to the latest trend in art,” Brammer says. “Honesty is doing the work that you want to do that makes sense to you as an artist, in the visual language that you choose despite commercial trends.” On influence: “To me, there is a difference between being influenced by something and latching on to something that’s popular just for the sake of seeming “more contemporary”.

Mercurial Lapis
Graphite on paper, 2012
12″ x 9″

The Axis Mundi work came about from reading Joseph Campbell and some other writers Brammer has lately found intriguing. “The term ‘Axis Mundi’ surfaced a couple of times and I looked into it.  The idea of a world’s axis that everything revolves around is a very visual and compelling concept that drew me in,” he says. “The more I learned about it, the more ideas began to accrue.  I was also taken by the overlap of different spiritual traditions and how divergent groups have something in common.”

He was right about that last line – divergent groups. What we have in common. What we don’t. Three of us were diverging that night; as the song goes, time can take its toll on the best of us.

Our friends David and Emily enjoying the opening

“Time is a mental construct that makes sense of our lives,” Brammer says, “to give us a linear progression that our minds can understand. The future and the past are illusions that we cling to. All we actually inhabit is the present moment.”

More information can be found about Jason Brammer on his website, 



  1. Anna Farkas says:

    This was awesome, Po! Call me; let’s do coffee and… Anna Farkas

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LANDFILLS is a grassroots literary, arts and culture online collective based in Chicago. All work is original, except the featured images that accompany text posts (which are blatantly stolen from Complaints should be directed to Po via Twitter.
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