Briefly describe the work you do.
At the moment I am working on physical assemblage compositions affixed to plexiglass that register and interact with video playing behind them. The works interpret and visualize relationships between people and some structures of cinema, the work begs questions of why and how the medium works so well with us, on us.
I’m using a lot of found-footage and found-object in these works, I’m really more of an editor in that way. Formally, I can’t say how fascinated I am with the play of light and physical material enabled through this type of collage, it’s like “real-world” compositing or a sort of reversed projection-mapping. I’m looking for successful blends of things and light, and am finding them where moving image is arranged to push through, say, canvas.., and at the edges of where a screen’s image and an association laden object meet.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I studied art and 16mm film production in the University of South Florida’s fine arts department. It was there that I was introduced to all kinds of frameworks for the critical analysis of art and cinema, beginning with tenets central to media literacy, and I started practicing non-narrative forms and installation approaches to art as soon as I began working with video in 1991. I moved to Milwaukee in 1998 to take a job as an education coordinator at the city’s public access television station and engaged with the vibrant, diverse community of contemporary artists, educators and filmmakers here and eventually started teaching at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. I very much enjoy working with people who want to learn the tools, methods and processes of film and video to communicate their own vision through them. I see myself as a type of media “literacist” using applied media aesthetics. My pedagogy has had a big impact on my artistic practice, also on my choices around production outside of the fine art worlds.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My editing and materials studio is in my home, I am more comfortable and productive that way. Art, production and teaching get me out and into the city’s communities.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
For the past ten years a large part of my practice has been in collaboration with Express Yourself Milwaukee, Inc., a non-profit arts organization working with underserved and adjudicated youth in the area.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I work whenever I want to and can. Nights.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I’m working less and less on single-channel video works , more on work for projection, interaction and installation. My current work is much more akin to work I was making fifteen years ago, in some of the ways I am mixing mediums, trying to reconcile materials.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I’d like to be a teacher, I do like being a teacher.
Jamal Currie currently heads the Time Based Media program at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. He is a video, sound and installation artist who has been teaching film and video courses to students of all ages for over ten years and has been the recipient of several awards and fellowships in Wisconsin. Jamal received his MFA from the University of South Florida-Tampa in 1998.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.