What Is Real?: Manhog and Jose Gonzalez

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What is real and who am I REALLY?

If you’ve caught Jose Gonzalez’s album, “In Our Nature,” you know that Gonzalez is dealing with some large subject matter in a much more overt way than he did on his previous album, “Veneer.” While the subjects of war and love, along with other major topics, are breached on “In Our Nature,” this is an album that deals more with the interior affects those things have on us as humans than these topics as social issues. Titling the album “In Our Nature,” Gonzalez, an admitted and committed atheist, seems to welcome his audience’s participation in his search for what is human-what is innate in us.

You might have been a little surprised/shocked/confused the first time you saw the videos for Gonzalez’s “Killing for Love” and “Down the Line.” Both videos feature a “pig man” character (maybe the same one Kramer saw at the hospital in that one Seinfeld episode). In fact, the videos work as a two part series. Even after watching the videos multiple times I wasn’t able to parse out exactly what has happening in the narrative that was taking place over the course of these two videos. But after some research (meaning I googled “Jose Gonzalez pig man”) I found that Andreas Nilsson, who created both these videos, was recreating a more life-like version of Jim Woodring’s comic “Manhog, Behind the Face.”

Woodring’s rather strange comic seems to be dealing with our perception of reality (which includes our perception of ourselves, our world and others). Manhog, while fairly off-putting at first glance, stands in for us as we sort out what is “really us”-what is real-and “what is delusion”-what have we come to know as our self. While the specific narrative of Manhog in these videos may not fit perfectly with the theme of each song, Manhog’s story certainly fits with the overall themes of this album, which is in part held up by the theme of each song.

I first saw the video for “Down the Line” while I was returning a gift at an American Eagle store (they had a huge TV on the wall dedicated entirely to music videos). As I stood there in the midst of the post-Christmas return rush, I was struck by the contrast between Manhog on the screen and all the colorful marketing and the beautiful people looking to become more beautiful. It’s not an easy task sorting out what is “real” and what we have simply made up; who we are and who we have created as ourselves, but standing in American Eagle watching Nilsson’s video I couldn’t help but think that these might be some of the most important questions I will ask myself this year.