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Joshua Mosley: a Quick Q&A

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Joshua Mosley is Associate Professor of Fine Arts in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his M.F.A. and B.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and Donald Young Gallery, and, of course, the Venice Biennale.

Why do you make movies?

There is a way at looking at things as they seem to appear – and not letting myself begin interpretation too early in the process of looking. I don’t think everything that we see can be understood. I’ve been thinking about ‘not understanding’ as an experience – and using these movies to look back at experiences like that, and think about the how a mind holds questions.

Why do you think anyone should make art in right now?

I imagine that either nothing is important or it is important to be human. Making or looking at art and having good relationships seems make the human option human, making me loose sight of the alternative.

Why do you think there are so many people attending art institutions?

There seems to be a higher level of support from parents. I think its due to the changing perception that graduates with digital design skills will have stronger career opportunities than they would have had 15 years ago. It might also be based on a loss of confidence in careers formerly known as “safe”. From my point-of-view – I wouldn’t say that art institutions are producing more graduates that will have careers as exhibiting studio artists.

Do you think art should ask questions, or provide answers?

I think an artist should listen as if they don’t know answers. They should work rigorously to organize and focus thoughts in relation to forms. They should feel fine about expressing a frank opinion when it seems very important and clear to them. I don’t follow the idea of constructing a question as a format for generating work. I wouldn’t choose asking questions as my tactic for persuasion.

Why are there so many levels of removal between the original art objects and the final product? For instance, translating the original script in Beyrouth from English to Spanish to English to Arabic? Or in dread the main characters modeled in clay and cast in bronze in one room, then digitally scanned and animated in another room? It reminds me of print media.

I don’t see it as levels of removal – more as a process of re-thinking my subject. When I was working on Beyrouth with translators and musicians, the process forced me to articulate my internal thoughts. In my last project, I felt like seeing the sculptures go through material translations, helped me think about ideas related to the questions of understanding nature. For example, a tree is both molecular and is recognizable as a tree – and this is a difficult subject to make work about. There are binary decisions in any translation – and resolving those decisions makes me feel like I’m making progress.

What artists do you think are interesting right now?
My grad students. I’m getting to know their work and at the moment their ideas are on my mind.

Do you find that you need to make an exceptional leap of faith to complete the process required to make your movies? (It’s not like just drawing a picture, where if it isn’t right, you can throw it out.) How long did it take to make dread (including the sculptures).

I worked on dread for 32 months. During that time, I was not sure it was going right. I don’t know how I will feel about it in a couple of years – I expect it will be clearer to me. I’d say that it involves a lot of ‘bad drawings’, and I didn’t throw them out. It seems that if you listen to something that you’re composing enough – it starts to sound right – even if you’re not changing it. It might take months and small revisions for that shift to happen, and you can never be sure if it has become right because you have changed something, or because you have adjusted your ear to accept it – as it is.

Who do you want to see dread? Do you have a fantasy setting for the movie to be shown in? Who are you making this for?

It was incredible to show it at SAIC. It was also nice to see all sorts of people from Europe and Asia watching it at the Venice Biennale. My family and friends have seen it – I’d say my fantasy audience has seen it.

Why not just write a book?
I’m much more visually oriented.

What’s on your winter reading/viewing list?
I’m not sure yet. I usually play it by ear.

See the movies here.

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