Joseph Wilson is a queer artist, activist and drag performer, living amongst the eclectic East London community. He has been documenting the people and places around him, amplifying their voices and celebrating their stories through his art. Wilson has had work premiered at BFI London Film Festival, BFI FLARE, FRINGE Queer Arts Festival as well as global video platform NOWNESS. Most recently, he was selected as one of the FLAMIN (Film London Artists Moving Image Network) artists and had his work added to the archives and special documents department at The Bishopsgate Institute, London.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR ROUTE TO YOUR CURRENT ARTISTIC PRACTICE?
As a child I was always curious and looking at the world closely. I remember first being inspired and drawn to the work of ManRay and during the course of my art foundation at Camberwell College of Art, I further explored and discovered the world of fine art. I was drawn first to found materials (postcards, memorabilia) and then to sound. This led me to moving-image and doing a subsequent degree in Print and Time Based Media at Wimbledon College of Art which set me on my path in London to where I am now. Living amongst a very loving and supporting queer community allows me to flourish within my art and live life as best can. I believe that I have a unique way of looking at things and that is depicted in my films which I see as dreamlike, melancholic and heart-warming.
Q: CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY ELEMENTS OF YOUR COMMUNITY OR COLLABORATORS THAT HAVE HAD A STRONG INFLUENCE?
I have collaborated with many creatives across different mediums who I know and trust and can bring my vision to life. I have such talented friends who are incredible artists and so it is about the right formula and the right mindset. Chester Hayes who is a phenomenal choreographer, Mikey Woodbridge a performer who I collaborated with early on in my career and would not be who I am without them. I have also worked a lot with set designer Tony Hornecker who creates large scale installations around the theme of childhood. I hosted various nights alongside international drag superstar A Man To Pet (aka my drag Mum) at The Pale Blue Door. It is here I blossomed into the proud queer person I am today.
My biggest inspiration has to have been my friend Shannon Pat, who sadly passed away last month. I met Shannon in 2015 in San Francisco when I moved there on a whim. I met her outside The Stud gay bar in the Tenderloin and was so intrigued by her, I asked if I could make a film about her. She taught me about self acceptance, your rite of passage and common courtesy. It was this film that gave me my first NOWNESS premiere in 2015 titled ‘What do I look like, a girl or a boy?’ Music without a doubt powers the nightlife scene of the queer community and music has always been really important to me as it was music that got me to switch from photography to moving image. The beauty of capturing a drag queen performing in all their fine plumery set to a different soundtrack can make you see them in a totally different light, and that’s something that really excites me. I think that is a really good way of showing how I see things, what I see in them. Drag is my Ecstasy represents that and has in many ways stood the test of time. At the point that I made that film, I was an outsider and then it physically drew me in, into the world of drag and changed my life as an artist . Drag and film have gone hand in hand for me, they have complimented each other and I believe I
could not have done one without the other.
Q: HOW IS YOUR PROJECT TIED TO THE CIRCA X DAZED CLASS OF 20:21 THEME OF ‘COMMUNION’ ?
Within Isn’t it a Beautiful World even though there is such a diverse group of people in our community, we all have the shared experience of growing up as a non-straight person. We are othered and we don’t grow up with the normal constructs that straight people have. Whether what identity you associate with as a queer person we all have a deeply shared, communal experience. Communion implies collective worship, often at an altar. In It’s a Beautiful World, the altar from which communion is received offers self acceptance and pride. In the film this communion is most demonstrated in a climactic moment where Kenya, a black trans man, is shown on stage before a dancing and exalting audience. He is celebrated and accepted in a moment of shared ecstasy in which he, himself, becomes the altar. Offering the congregation their communion. Once we are seen and heard. Once we are truly accepted and understood. Then we become proud of who we truly are. Then we reach nirvana.
Q: HOW WOULD THE CIRCA PRIZE OF £30,000 IMPACT YOUR FUTURE PRACTICE?
As an artist working with moving-image, I have always worked in 2D media, so my audience have only been able to experience my work via the screen. While I believe in the power of social commentary in film, developing my practice from AMI to installation is an exciting movement for my work, as it will allow the audience to physically immerse themselves into the world of the characters and give them a more visceral experience.
Although I have produced various AMI screenings, I have never curated a large-scale solo installation, especially one that requires such extensive planning and attention to detail. Curating these installations provides an excellent opportunity for professional development and will empower me to develop from moving image artist to multi-disciplinary artist. The professional development opportunity is not just for me personally, but for all of the creative network involved in the project. Both installations will allow me to widen my creative network and work with different artists from a mix of disciplines. I also aim to give space to the associated artists to bring new approaches to their existing disciplines by encouraging collaboration and experimentation. I also intend for these exhibitions to form the beginning of a multi-disciplinary art collective for all those involved, which will ultimately strengthen my practice in the long run.
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