interview

16 Stories


Nicola Tyson

'Works on Paper'

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Nicola Tyson’s work is perhaps best known for being explosively colorful, so it’s interesting when an exhibit focuses mainly on her graphite drawings, which is the target of her new (and tenth) solo show at the Petzel Gallery, ‘Works on Paper,’ running until April 23rd 2016. However it’s this particular juxtaposition between color and grayscale, canvas and paper, large scale and smaller works, that makes Tyson such an exciting artist, as she showcases her ability to not only represent various thematics in her work, such as gender, sexuality, and identity, but also various means of representing them. In fact, the contrast found in the Brit’s work is fitting of Tyson herself, with vivacious red hair, minimalist clothing, and a charming personality that balances intellect and humor. As Tyson herself put it when we asked her if she prefered color or black and white, “I’m a monochrome dresser—mainly in black and white, but a colorful painter. So that’s an impossible decision!”

 

NeueJournal: The exhibition Works on Paper presents some of your sketchbook drawings. How do you differentiate when a graphite drawing is a sketch for a color-based piece, and when the sketch is a finished piece in and of itself?

 

Nicola Tyson: I never know what I’m going to draw until I start drawing, and this is often in sketch books, where I work fast, letting the image organize itself until it’s ‘done’. This can result in a finished drawing—that needs nothing more—or one that begs to be developed further through the introduction of color. Those sketches I would work up into paintings.

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LEFT: Portrait Head #36 2003 | RIGHT: Portrait Head #65 2004

 

NJ: What was the hardest part about interviewing yourself? What was the best part about it?

 

NT: The bifurcation was tricky—making a monolog into an absurd conversation…. and who doesn’t enjoy laughing at their own jokes?

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LEFT: Full Moon Bloom 2015 | RIGHT: Grazing sheep and sky object 2015

 

NJ: This is your tenth solo exhibition with Petzel Gallery. How does each time change? How is this exhibition significantly different from the other shows?

 

NT: Well, I’ve only had two works on paper shows in the past—although drawing is a huge part of my practice—because such shows are hard to stage in a gigantic Chelsea gallery. However, Petzel’s smaller uptown space—which opened just a year ago—is an elegant, pre-war apartment and is the perfect intimate setting for viewing this type of work. I prefer gallery spaces that are human scale—I know a lot of artists do!

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LEFT: Portrait Head #36 2003 | RIGHT: Portrait Head #67 2004

 

NJ: When did you realize you are an artist?

 

NT: In elementary school I noticed that I drew people with their feet pointing outwards—in opposite directions—instead of both the same way, like my classmates were doing. Neither of us were correct anatomically, but I felt my ‘people’ were more realistic —which mattered to me then—and less likely to fall over!

 

NJ: Your work often deals with issues of sexuality. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about the topic throughout the years?

 

NT: That anything can be sexualized and certainly any part of the body. Sexuality is not only about genitals, and I find imagery with that emphasis kind of boring and conventional. It’s way more complicated than that!

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LEFT: Portrait Head #64 2004 | RIGHT: Red Self Portrait 2002

 

NJ: If you could give your younger self-advice, what would it be?

 

NT: Just ask if you don’t know!

 

NJ: Which do you prefer: Coffee or tea? Sweet or salty? Morning or night? Color or black & white?

 

NT: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon. I don’t have a sweet tooth, I’ll take the cheese plate every time. Mornings—sunny ones preferably. I like to work in the morning. I’m a monochrome dresser—mainly in black and white, but a colorful painter. So that’s an impossible decision!

 

NJ: What is the last book you read?

 

NT: Remake Remodel: Art, Pop Fashion and the Making of Roxy Music 1953-1972 by Michael Bracewell. I remember when I heard Pyjamarama for the first time. I was thirteen and transfixed —it was perhaps my first ‘art experience’!

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LEFT: Pollen 2015 | RIGHT: The Sweater 2015

 

NJ: What is the first thing you see in the morning?

 

NT: My cat Cyril’s face or rump, depending which way around he decides to sit on my chest…. usually the latter.

 

NJ: If you had twenty-four hours to do anything you wanted without any repercussions, what would you do?

 

NT: Hmmm ‘repercussions’…does it have to be illegal, or will dangerous do? Other than eradicate evil and save the planet, then go on a massive spending spree, there are certain powerful, ancient hallucinogens that I’m curious about. So I’ll sign up for ‘a day trip’ —as long as I come back totally enlightened—and not merely frightened—with, of course, no hangover!

 

Artwork: Nicola Tyson

Portrait Photography: Mitchell McLennan for NeueJournal

Peaches

Established Advice is Overrated

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Twenty years after Peaches released her debut album ‘Fancypants Hoodlum,’ which helped introduce the pop world to a darker, unapologetically brasher, and more empowering sexual side of female musicians, the Canadian contemporary artist shook the world again with her sixth album, ‘Rub.’ Her first album in six years, ‘Rub’ has garnered international acclaim, which is unsurprising, as the album features some of her best work to date. The Toronto native sat down with us and shared her love for Amy Schumer, Grace Jones, and not following anyone’s advice.

 

NeueJournal: What would you say is the best advice you’ve ever received in your life or in your work?

 

PEACHES: I’m really bad at these questions, ok best advice: don’t follow anybody’s established advice.

 

NJ: If you had to describe your music without using genres, what would you say it’s like?

 

P: Raw Meat.

 

NJ: What do you like better: writing or performing, and why?

 

P: You can’t have one without the other. I like writing and I like having both to play with off of each other. I need both.

 

NJ: I would imagine there are good performances and bad performances. What ingredients make a show or a performance great?

 

P: You can feel that people are into it and you feel a connection with people. That’s very important.

 

NJ: I know you have collaborated with a lot of different artists. Other than what you’ve already done, if you could collaborate with someone outside of the world of music, who would it be?

 

P: Probably Tina Fey and Amy Schumer.

 

NJ: What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

P: Panic and a cup of coffee.

 

NJ: Do you identify separately as a musician and as an artist or do you think the world makes those distinctions?

 

P: The world. It starts with music and it goes into a lot of other things that are important: performance, art, politics, and fun.

 

NJ:  When you are in a rut or funk, whether it’s in work or life, how do you get out of it?

 

P: I do something completely different. I try not to continue in whatever the rut is, try to go against the rut. Shake shit up.

 

NJ: What, if anything, makes you feel bliss?

 

P: Peace of mind. On a calm lake with a double blow up bed, floating on it. In weather that is not over 80 degrees.

 

NJ: Ideal dinner table, who is in attendance?

 

P: Oscar Wilde, Prince, Amy Schumer, Broad City Girls, Judy Chicago because of her dinner plate, you know she made like a dinner table of all her favorite women’s vaginas, so she should be there using her vaginas. Also Louise Bourgeois, she is an incredible artist, and Grace Jones because someone has gotta fuck shit up, someone has gotta eat all the oysters.

 

Photography: Chris Luttrell for NeueJournal

Phony Ppl

Fear of Failure

The six members of Phony Ppl sit in the basement of NeueHouse, eating food and having drinks before their performance. They are lively, warm, and incredibly charming, with a fraternal chemistry that makes them even more alluring, as they joke with each other. The band, which is comprised of Elbee Thrie, Sheriff PJ, Elijah Rawk, Maffyuu Byas, Aja Grant, and Bari Bass, heralds from Brooklyn, NY, and references an eclectic amalgamation of bands as inspiration, from Queen to J Dilla. In fact, their music is a testament to their encyclopedic knowledge of music, with a unique and smooth sound that lives somewhere between jazz, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. Over the sound of drinks and laughter, the guys of Phony Ppl talk to us about the fear of failure and what heaven looks like.

 

NeueJournal: What’s the story behind Phony Ppl?

 

Elbee: Six young black men from Brooklyn who came together for the sake of great music. That’s what it’s about – the music.

 

NJ: What musicians or bands made you guys want to become musicians yourselves?

 

Bari Bass: Jamiroquai. That’s one. You’re going to get 5,000 answers by the way.

 

Elbee: Earth Wind and Fire and Ohio Players.

 

Aja: It’s too many to name. I don’t even know where to start. That’s such a hard question. If you got good melody and good harmony and just sounds good. Anything that gravitates.

 

Maffyuu: I want to say Mike Jackson, my son J Dilla, Stevie Wonder…I’m just naming mad names, but I could go on. Frank Zappa…

 

Elijah: Everybody says [Jimi] Hendrix. You could say Kanye [West], you could say A Tribe Called Quest. You could say Queen, you could say Fallout Boy, you could say every single band. Busta Rhymes.

 

Elbee: Joao Donato! Moacir Santos!

 

NJ: What’s the worst phony thing someone can do?

 

Elijah and Maffyuu: Be fake!

 

Elbee: Lie to themselves. That’s the most phony thing you could ever do.

 

Bari Bass: You gotta be real with yourself, man!

 

NJ: If a movie were to be made about Phony Ppl, who would play each one of you?

 

Sheriff PJ: If anyone else would play me, it would be Ice Cube or LL Cool J or Synbad!

 

Maffyuu: Or the dad from Smart Guy!

 

Sheriff PJ: Or Liam Neeson!

 

Bari Bass: If there were a Phony Ppl movie, Andre 3000 should play me.

 

Maffyuu: If anybody would play me, it would be Taye Diggs.

 

Aja: I’d get Sizzla. I’d get Beenie Man. I’d get Morato. Elephant Man!

 

Elbee: I’ma bring Bob Marley back, and he would play me. If we can’t do that, we’ll have to settle for Wocka Flocka. You know Leon from the Temptations movie? There’s a dude in there who don’t look like us, but he would have to be in the movie.

 

Sheriff PJ: If anyone were to play Elijah Rawk, it would be Childish Gambino with braids and a beard, or Xzibit! Bout to pimp hella rides.

 

NJ: Who do you think would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?

 

Sheriff PJ: Batman! Spiderman would get violated.

 

Elbee: Batman is aight. But Spiderman…that’s my son.

 

Bari Bass: That doesn’t mean he’s gonna win!

 

Elijah: Nah. I’ma end it right now. This is why it’s easy – all the rest of them got powers, but Batman never had powers and he was still nicer than everybody. He’s the greatest tactician. You can’t beat him. Spiderman’s a little kid. He’s not smart enough.

 

Bari Bass: Ooooh, offensive!

 

Elijah: Period!

 

Elbee: Bruce Wayne over Peter Parker, any day!

 

NJ: If you could sum up the current presidential race with one word, what would it be?

 

Phony Ppl: Ridiculous! Hilarious! Fuckery! Idiocracy! Entertainment!

 

NJ: What’s the strangest job you’ve had?

 

Elijah: One of the only jobs I ever had, was I had to babysit a kid name Elijah and my name is Elijah. It was really annoying. Nah, he was a cool kid.

 

Sheriff PJ: The only job I ever had was me being me. Me being the person that I am. I was a daycare teacher. I had to teach these kids… they freaking hated me! They gave me hell, and I eventually quit because I couldn’t deal with the disrespect. But I have a kid, he’s amazing.

 

Bari Bass: I had a couple jobs. I was a cashier at a juice bar. I worked at the back in the sneaker store warehouse for Paragon Sporting Goods (give me a sneaker!). And now I’m doing deliveries. I think the worst one was working warehouse at the sneaker store.

 

Aja Grant: So mine was at a company that was closing down, Tastebuds. I used to make free sandwiches for everybody. A company that was closing down, and the dude hired me because he heard about my band and he was a musician from Ohio or something like that. He only hired me to work with me. I didn’t get fired. The place just closed down so I just dipped. Yeah, that’s the strangest one.

 

Maffyuu: I ain’t never had no other job. No 9 to 5. Just straight music. All day every day. You feel me? Rehearsals, orchestras…

 

Bari Bass: Being born!

 

Elbee: I saw this opportunity to go work at this farmer’s market garden in the hood, in Bed-Stuy, called Hattie Carthan Farmer’s Market. I really needed this turntable and mixer so bad. I was like, “I’m about to earn this.” So my friends drafted me in, and I started working after everybody else. It was from like extreme heat in the summer, to the coldest of the cold in winter. When it was time to get paid, which happened at the end of everything, not bi-weekly or monthly, the lady who ran the shit didn’t give me as much money as I was supposed to get. She was like, “Well you started late, so you’re not going to get the same amount.” So I wasn’t able to get that turntable and mixer, I only got just the turntable. I had to do other things to get the mixer. But here I am. Things can’t hold me back, man.

 

NJ: What is your biggest fear?

 

Bari Bass: Whales.

 

Aja Grant: The country or the animal?

 

Bari Bass: Yeah, the country. Let’s go with the country…

 

Maffyuu: Biggest fear is not trying.

 

Sheriff PJ: My biggest fear is dying without succeeding. It’s pretty dark, but that’s how I feel right now. I got kids!

 

Elijah: I’ve always been scared of like being buried alive. That shit’s scary as fuck.

 

Elbee: I don’t know if it’s scared… but I cannot end up on the train, shaking a cup at age 50. That’s just what can’t happen. It’s not really a fear, but that’s just what can’t happen. So like everyday, I’m taking a step away from that.

 

NJ: If heaven exists, what do you think it looks like?

 

Elijah: We’ve arrived, right?

 

Sheriff PJ: It’s like a conference room type thing in NeueHouse. With a bunch of caesar salads, steak tartar, some Jameson, and a lot of alcohol. But it doesn’t affect your body…it affects your mind.

 

Maffyuu: Man, we in heaven right now. For real. Heaven on earth, man. Come on, you gotta live, dogs. If you ain’t living, you in hell.

 

Elijah: Like a long endless beach, with like every great person you’ve ever met… and everyone you’ve ever been a fan of. J Dilla is there!

 

Aja Grant: Heaven is a whole bunch of clouds and skies. That’s all.

 

Elbee: If heaven exists, I’m going. Shout out to God!

 

Video: Mr.GIF & Ira Chernova for NeueJournal

John Baldessari

The Life Absurd

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John Baldessari is a hard man to categorize, which is appropriate, as he abhors categorization. The artist has been widely regarded as a conceptual artist, but the work he has produced in his lifetime has created a world all of its own, with the only rule being to always break the rules. With a career spanning close to 60 years, the California native created some of the most influential work of the 20th century, then burnt it, then created some more, always reinventing – and teaching – what it means to be an artist.

 

NeueJournal: You’ve famously defied being categorized. What do you think is the danger in encasing people into labeled boxes?

 

John Baldessari: It gives you a limited view of that artist’s work.

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NJ: A motif in art throughout history has been using sadness as inspiration, but you’ve spoken about the creative power in anger. How does using different emotions as catalysts alter your pieces?

 

JB: I’m sure how I feel on a day I’m working on a work affects the way it comes out.

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NJ: “The Giacometti Variations” has become of your most instantly recognizable and lauded collection. By collaborating with the Prada Foundation you inadvertently invited a new audience to experience your work. Was this intentional?

 

JB: I was invited by Miuccia Prada to do the project. I had never done sculpture before so it was a challenge.

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NJ: Many artists have cited the Cremation Project as a poignant precedent for the exploration of deconstruction as a means of creation. What do you think separates using burning as an effective tool from using it as a gratuitous way to shock?

 

JB: When I did the project it was the only effective way for me to stop painting.

 

NJ: Some of your work is quite humorous, but you’ve often said you’re not purposely trying to be funny, rather, that you have a well-developed sense of the absurd. What is the value of absurdity in life and work?

 

JB: I think if one doesn’t consider life absurd, they don’t understand life.

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NJ: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? What is the trait you most deplore in others?

 

JB: Laziness.

 

NJ: What has been your greatest mistake?

 

JB: Not meeting Marilyn Monroe.

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NJ: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

 

JB: Being able to support myself financially.

 

NJ: When and where were you happiest?

 

JB: In the 1950’s with my college girlfriend.

 

Photography: Max Farago for NeueJournal 

Emily Wells

Euphoric Notions

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“I’m mostly euphoric,” Emily Wells tells us, fresh off her performance at NeueHouse Madison Square. The multi-instrumentalist musician has many a cause to celebrate, with the release of her newest EP Promise (the first under her own imprint, Thesis and Instinct), already garnering positive reviews and putting her back on the road. Having picked up an interest in music at a prodigal age (she began playing the violin when she was four), Wells has firmly established her place in the music industry. After 17 years of breaking the mold, Wells’ performance and newest album prove that she’s nowhere near done surprising us.

 

NeueJournal: What is your current state of mind?

 

Emily Wells: I’m mostly euphoric and I’ve been focusing on a lot of details lately, which is not my favorite thing so I am in a brief state of relief. I’m getting ready to leave for three months so all of the normal traveling stuff mixed with a tour and releasing an album…things going right, things going wrong etc.

 

NJ: Is the glass half full or half empty?

 

EW: It depends on the time of day. It’s overflowing now. Last night it was the dregs. I think when you are in a state of thinking about too many things at once they all start to conflate so one piece of misery taints the whole batch.

 

NJ: How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

 

EW: I’m indifferent, but I have a sweetheart so I’ll probably do something really sweet for her because I’m not going to be with her that day. It’s gonna have to be through the mail or a serenade. She’s really into funny jokes and grandiose gestures so I think I should probably hop on that.

 

NJ: What is the meaning of life?

 

EW: Come on! I don’t know what it is, it’s too much. There is no meaning.

 

NJ: What is your motto?

 

EW: Stay curious. Stay present.

 

NJ: How do you define success?

 

EW: Just getting to keep doing what I’m doing and I hope that I can really feel that every day. I wasn’t able to conceive of adulthood or success, but I was always driven to play music. I love playing music for people; it’s an incredible experience and there is nothing like it – my father has it too.

 

NJ: What song best describes your work ethic?

 

EW: Maybe ‘Working On A Chain Gang’ by Sam Cooke.

 

NJ: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

 

EW: Hmm, I have to think about this one. I’m picturing every conversation I’ve had with my mother. I think just to remember the highs.

 

NJ: What’s a fun fact about you that people might not be aware of?

 

EW: I’m recently getting into crystals and stones.

 

NJ: Do you get upset if they are touched? I know there are theories about the transfer of energies, etc.

 

EW: No, I like it…but I want to give you permission to touch. It’s like a woman with a pregnant belly; you can’t just go running over and rub her belly. You have to have access granted. I carry some crystals in my pocket although they’re not on me right now. It started kind of as a joke. My girlfriend is really into that stuff and I would always tease her and make fun of her, but then she would read to me about stones and it was like a lullaby. Now I’m really into it.

 

NJ: Who are your real life heroes?

 

EW: My dad and my mom for very different reasons. They are both very brave in different ways, and I admire that.

 

NJ: Who are your fictional heroes?

 

EW: Well gosh, I am drawing a blank. We have a joke…I say I’d go gay for Don Draper. Everyone knows what he is, but I wouldn’t call him a hero. There is a hunchback albino little person called Olympia in this book called Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. I named my dog after her.

 

NJ: If you could have any super power what would it be?

 

EW: Not to give a fuck what other people think.

 

NJ: What natural talent would you like to possess?

 

EW: Just sort of an athletic nature, I’d love to be really light on my feet.

 

NJ: What situation makes you feel the most uncomfortable?

 

EW: Probably when I’m playing and there’s some asshole talking near by. Like a room full of quiet people and then two people chatting – it makes my skin crawl and it makes me detach from the performance.

 

NJ: In what situation are you the most content?

 

EW: When I am squished between my girl and my dog. Those are the moments when I am like, “this is a good moment.”

 

GIF: Mr. GIF x Ira Chernova for NeueJournal

Joe Doucet

Illustrations with a Renaissance Man

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It’s always a breath of fresh air when a fashion staple that’s been around for centuries gets a reboot that manages to feel like a new piece altogether. Cue Joe Doucet x Thursday Finest, the recent collaboration between the design prodigy from Texas and the eco-friendly commission-based menswear brand. Using a design that Doucet meant to allude to the classicism of tie clips, the pairing has created 3D-knitted ties that not only look good, but feel good for Mother Nature too. Fresh off the heels of the collaboration, we asked the multidisciplinary artist to draw – not tell – a little bit about himself.

 

NeueJournal: Where are you right now and what do you look like?

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JD: Self portrait.

 

NJ: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

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JD: I had a strong desire to be in the Ninjistic Arts

 

NJ: What do you think humans will look like in 2116?

 

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JD: Augmented brains with robotically enhanced bodies, or possibly just a bit fatter and lazier than we are now

 

NJ: What is your biggest vice?

 

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JD: Although I’m no longer a smoker, I can’t seem to resist a cheeky one now and again

 

NJ: You’re relocating to the moon and you can only bring three things. What are they?

 

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JD: TP, great wine and a ride home

 

NJ: What does your ideal place to live in look like?

 

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JD: Not much in it. A great chair and epic views

 

NJ: Who is your biggest inspiration?

 

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JD: “Give me three hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first two sharpening my axe” Is one of my favorite and oft quoted sayings.

 

NJ: What do you think you’ll look like in fifteen years?

 

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JD: A bit closer to this than I am now.

 

 

Photography: Andrew Boyle for NeueJouranl 

Daniel Askill

Take Flight

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Virtual reality is here. We may not know exactly how the technology will evolve or how it will be integrated into our daily lives, but somewhat suddenly, it has arrived. Few companies are embracing VR as a new medium for storytelling as much as the New York Times. Recently, they tapped filmmaker and artist Daniel Askill to utilize VR in creating a series of immersive portraits titled, “Take Flight.” We caught up with Askill on a recent visit to NeueHouse Hollywood, getting his take on the technology’s future, and learning a bit about his identity as a filmmaker.

 

NeueJournal: How do you see virtual reality enhancing the power of good storytelling?

 

Daniel Askill: This is my first experience making a virtual reality piece and I must say that, as a result, I’m kind of a convert. Obviously, it’s going to be an amazing tool for storytelling but I kind of believe that, moving forward, it’s going to get close to being a kind of parallel to real life. It’s got incredible potential for storytelling but even more so, it’s got this incredible potential for a whole new form of experiential entertainment and education.

 

NJ: We were in the Miami program with Vanity Fair and we brought Nonny de la Peña, a pioneer in immersive journalism. It was incredible — putting on the headset and being in a refugee camp in Syria.

 

DA: Imagine when it’s not the goggles anymore but it’s embedded in a contact lens or something. We can pretty quickly start imagining a future where people are living in paradises of their creation. That’s kind of the dystopian, as an incredible amount of beautiful stuff is gonna come of it as well — being able to make people empathize with other people’s situations is gonna be a really powerful way to use the technology.

 

NJ: Do you have any reservations or anxieties about the technology?

 

DA: I wouldn’t say it is an anxiety, but you can also start wondering if we are already living in some weird extrapolation of some technology…it can get quite trippy.

 

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NJ: Do you see virtual reality as the natural next step for motion picture or is it a separate medium entirely?

 

DA: I still love the motion picture — the idea of a frame, the control you have of a composition in that space, directing someone through a story. Hopefully, VR won’t be something that obliterates that craft.

 

NJ: What is your favorite saying or aphorism?

 

DA: I mean this is a bit cheeseball but, if I’m on a shoot things are getting a bit hairy, I will often find myself saying in my head, “Bring love and good energy.” I find that that chills me out.

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Ksubi Kolors Directed by Daniel Askill

 

NJ: Who’s your favorite poet if you have one?

 

DA: The first name that comes to mind is a filmmaker who I think really is a poet — Tarkovsky. My favorite films are ones that verge on poetry more than traditional storytelling.

 

NJ: What do you mean when you say film that is more like poetry?

 

DA: Something that is less of a traditional narrative and more storytelling through mood and connection between image and music. I guess there is a sense of poetry in metaphor, abstraction, things that are implied, things that leave more space for the viewer.

 

NJ: What natural talent do you wish you would have been gifted with?

 

DA: This is a bit of a supernatural talent, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind just because of this project: I’d like to be able to fly.

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Sia’s “Elastic Heart” Directed by Daniel Askill

 

NJ: What do you hate?

 

DA: When people are judgmental. I don’t hate people who are judgmental, but the judgmental sentiment is something I find difficult.

 

NJ: Where would you like to live?

 

DA: I have been thinking the next place I would live is Los Angeles or back home. Where I’m from in Sydney, you can have an urban life but still have a home in nature. LA has that too. Where I live in New York, I have a house upstate.

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Paul McCartney’s Hope For The Future Directed by Daniel Askill

 

NJ: Do you have any heroes?

 

DA: Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Tarkovsky. People like David Lynch have always been a big influence on me, not just regarding filmmaking but also a type of attitude towards creativity — creativity as an intuitive force that you need to be still to tap into.

 

NJ: What book inspires you?

 

DA: This collection of stories by a guy called J.G. Ballard. He’s an English writer with a really broad range, most of it is pretty weird and sci-fi. The other book is called ‘Sketchbook With Voices’ which is a book I picked up when I was 19. It’s edited by Jerry Saltz and has a whole bunch of empty pages and at top of each page is a line or paragraph from an artist that is a call to action for a young creative, maybe something as simple as, “Empty yourself from everything.” As you flip through, it really gets your mind thinking in different ways.

 

Photography: Shane McCauley for NeueJournal

Wangechi Mutu

AFRICA'SOUT!

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Simply put, Wangechi Mutu is one of the most important African artists of her generation. She explores art as more than a tool of expression, but as an inspiring and catalyzing force of change. Her work delves into issues of race, gender, sexuality and more, successfully functioning on two planes: As a means to an activistic end but also as an artistic end in its own right. We caught up with Mutu to discuss her recent endeavor, AFRICA’SOUT!, and learned a bit more about what inspires her in work and life.

 

NeueJournal: How can you best summarize the goal of AFRICA’SOUT!?

 

Wangechi Mutu: As a visual artist who has been extremely fortunate, working in my practice for about 15 or 20 years now, one of the most astounding things about art for me is its capacity to change people. Art can make people slow their judgments and make them address their prejudices.

So, AFRICA’SOUT! is actually born out of the idea that you can take art and present it to an audience that is ready for a special kind of change. In this case, it was Uhai Eashri and I, coming together to think about a way to address homophobia and other issues that are plaguing my country, all the way from gender inequality to sexuality inequalities. I also know that I’m not gonna stand on a pulpit and convince anyone that they shouldn’t be prejudicial. I have my own prejudices and my own things that I want to work on. I’m not a perfect person — that’s why I make art.

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Wangechi Mutu — Family Tree (detail), 2012 Suite of 13, mixed-media collage on paper 16 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches each. Courtesy of the artist.

 

NJ: Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

 

WM: I guess right now it is Storm. She’s awesome. For very silly reasons, I love the fact that she is a superhero in the X-Men Mutant Family but she’s also an East-African woman with superhuman powers and such a fierce costume.

 

NJ: Who are your heroes in real life?

 

WM: My heroes in real life are Arundhati Roy. I think she is a very interesting writer and I think what she has been able to do, as an activist is also tremendous. She’s an incredible scholar, someone who does a lot of research and thorough historical work when she speaks about a social issues. She is amazing to listen to because she knows her shit. I also love Zaha Hadid — the amazing structures that she is working to bring to life. There’s something about the fluidity in her buildings that appeals to me so much. And Toni Morrison, the great Toni is like a godmother to everyone, but especially, black, ambitious, creative women.

 

NJ: What is your motto?

 

WM: Get up and address your fears every morning, and do it through your art.

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Wangechi Mutu — Family Tree (detail), 2012 Suite of 13, mixed-media collage on paper 16 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches each. Courtesy of the artist.

 

NJ: What is your greatest extravagance?

 

WM: My home. I bought a home.

 

NJ: When and where are you happiest? Why?

 

WM: In my studio. In my house, near my family, my cat and my extremely hardworking awesome team. Just working.

 

NJ: What is your greatest fear?

 

WM: Not getting things done that I know I am capable of. Not working to my highest capacity. That freaks me out — I am here for a reason and I should fulfill it.

 

NJ: What are your favorite holiday pastimes?

 

WM: I like dressing up, so anywhere I can dress up: Halloween, Gay Pride, dinners. I like dressing up.

 

Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal

Chris Milk

Technical & Creative Frontiers

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Chris Milk is everywhere. He made a name for himself directing music videos for the likes of Kanye West, U2, Arcade Fire and Green Day, but now the scope of his work extends well beyond the arena of MTV, as he’s become more than just a great storyteller, but one of the pioneers innovating how we tell stories. Straddling the realms of art, photography and film, Milk’s comfort zone seems to lie on both the technical and creative frontiers —  he’s always pushing for new methodologies of experiencing content.

 

The collaboration between Milk’s companies, Vrse & Vrse.works, and The New York Times Magazine will be a bellwether experiment for the practice of virtual reality enhanced journalism. With their partnership launching at NeueHouse Madison Square early this November, NeueJournal caught up with Milk hoping to learn how this particular marriage of technology and storytelling may change more than just how we get our news.

 

NeueJournal: How can VR bolster the power of good journalism?

 

Chris Milk: Journalism is about conveying the truth. And in pursuing that truth, you hope your work affects people. So to craft a journalistic piece in VR simply means using a fresh, different tool to reach people. We as an audience have been inundated with good journalism through the written word, radio, and visual media – like TV and documentaries. But TV and documentaries are meant to “show” you something, whereas VR is meant to take you somewhere. What we try to do is craft stories that literally teleport the viewer, or at least their consciousness. VR can give people a different perspective, instead of just showing them one.

 

NJ: People mostly imagine VR as a tool for gaming or entertainment. What are some possible uses for VR that you think could extend beyond that realm?

 

CM: A lot of people are thinking about VR in so many different ways, and that excites us. We want to see this new medium grow in surprising capacities, and I think it will. I’ve seen some promising directions in medicine, therapy, and especially education.

 

VR, for me, can be an experience maker. What are the moments of real life that we find intriguing, beguiling, or intoxicating? It could be sitting next to a couple at a café in Milan, catching intimate snippets of their conversation. Or it could be a car chase. What I find important is the medium’s ability to share our human experiences, and potentially help people understand one another.

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NJ: How do you think VR will affect our powers of imagination? Will it cause them to atrophy? Will it enhance them?

 

CM: The same question was asked of radio, cinema, and television. And look at the beauty and scope of imagination that came of those tech / human interactions.

 

What’s so great about VR right now is that no one really knows with certainty what shape it’ll take, or what it’ll inspire us to achieve. But all the previous modes of storytelling have broadened our capacity for imagination. It’d be strange to think of VR’s impact as anything short of that.

 

Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal 

Whisper In
The Waves

Julie Gilhart & Danny Fuller on Art & Surfing

Artwork by Doug Inglish

Pro surfer and image-maker Danny Fuller and Julie Gilhart, fashion advisor and occasional wave-rider, contemplate mother nature’s pull and the second life in fatherhood.

 

JULIE GILHART: Besides being a professional surfer, you’re an incredible photographer and artist. Do you consider yourself equal parts surfer and artist? Do you resonate more with one practice than the other?

 

DANNY FULLER: Well, over the course of my experiences, I’ve realized that my existence in relationship with the ocean is a life force for me. I’m using the natural elements to enact a painterly performance, and it’s continuing that same relationship or existence I have with the ocean that goes directly into my work. I guess there has always been some kind of underlying artistic qualities there, but I didn’t really know where they were or what I wanted to do with them. So I guess I’m definitely a surfer-artist. I’m just trying to gather inspiration from every possible form.

 

JG: Would you say that your surfing informs your art? Where does your inspiration come from?

 

DF: When I first moved to Los Angeles, people thought I was absolutely crazy, but I was there by choice. I was making sacrifices for my own personal experiences or my career, whatever that may have been at the time, and I was in search of experience and new horizons. I real- ized when we were living in New York City full time just how dependent I was on the ocean. The ocean has given me everything in my life and continues to keep me bal- anced. I believe it’s a healing and powerful life force that can enrich our lives in many different ways. I’ve been very fortunate to live that existence.

 

JG: What are you are you working on now?

 

DF: My mom’s been really sick. So I actually had an opportunity to do another show and I decided to turn it down. I just wanted to make sure that every- thing that I do, or touch, or put out there, is the best it can possibly be. I felt like I was just really forcing it in terms of making art, so I decided to take a step back, which I’m glad for. I was traveling all over the world to foreign countries and shooting my surroundings: the people, the culture, the land- scape. I did that for years, and found myself modeling a bit here and there. I actually hated being a model, but I was definitely interested in the artistic form of photography. I was exposed to so many great fashion photographers and they were all very kind and willing to share insight with me. That’s really what got me through the day. Over the course of the last year, my work has just kind of evolved. You’ve been to a few of my shows, including my last show, “Meditation on Blue,” and seen how the work has progressed.

 

JG: You describe the beginnings—shooting photographs of all the great places you were when you were surfing—but your art is much more than that. It’s so developed. Obviously you have an internal talent for art. It’s funny that you hesitated to have this show, because one of the big things in surfing is hesitation. You never hesitate. It’s a different experience in surfing. How would you describe that?

 

DF: There’s so many different dynamics to my existence. I came from a pretty heavy upbringing. Surfing on the North Shore, there was a lot of violence.

Thank God for my travels, and for just getting out there and meeting other people, to change my perspective on things. It’s hard to say. It’s all one existence, ultimately, and I’m constantly searching for new inspiration and trying to evoke or recreate that same feeling that I’m having while I’m in the ocean. I want to be removed from my present state of consciousness.

 

JG: Has having a daughter changed the way you approach surfing? I know that you surf those crazy big waves—are you more cautious now?

 

DF: Nothing has really changed in a sense. Unfortunately for me I’ve witnessed a lot of fatal experiences with personal friends. There’s a lot of ego and jealousy that can happen when you’re a professional athlete, people who want to be “The Guy,” or be on the biggest waves. When I was kid, I was very arrogant, and I wanted to be “The Guy” as much as anybody else. I experienced some- body dying before me, and that’s changed my entire approach. I realized that I needed to be doing these things because I wanted to do them for myself and nobody else. And at the end of the day, no matter what, I would never want to leave my wife and daughter behind. But I guess a life insurance pol- icy would be good. It’s interesting now, having a child, it’s as if everything I’ve ever had before was for my own personal journey in life. And then, suddenly, everything that I’ve experienced in my life was really just to prepare for this moment—the moment of becoming a father. It’s prepared me for everything I’ve gone through in order for me to be able to sculpt this little human.

 

Photography: Doug Inglish for NeueJournal