The following interview forms part of a series where I invite a number of contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.
This week I talk to Alex McLeod, whose animations, prints, and sculptures are “concerned with simulation and transition”.
McLeod shares the personal influences which took him towards those themes, as well as artificial art more broadly, and describes his collaborations with curator Rhiannon Vogl.
It’s written that your art is “concerned with simulation and transition”. Which influences took you to those themes in particular?
I grew up near a cemetery and have spent a lot of time thinking and reading about life and death. The trees that grow from our bodies are the same ones filtering our air and that air that passes through countless generations of folks. Essentially it really nails down for me how connected we are, but unfortunately, it’s something we’re quick to forget.
What is it about artificial art that intrigues or inspires you?
I have “100% artificial” in my bio as a kind of tongue-in-cheek reflection of both products we consume but also signifying that what you see isn’t what it may look like. I think a more respectful term would be material simulacra, I don’t know, I think simulation is interesting. Simulated wood grain texture to make something look more valuable, simulating materials found in the real world for my art. I suppose it serves as a touchstone to reality, something that lets you ground yourself before getting lost.
Tell me about your collaboration with Rhiannon Vogl. What was your collective aim?
I got to work with Rhiannon a couple of times last year, both for Newest and on our own with Panqueque. Gurpreet Chana and I were working on a piece for the magazine and thought it would be great to have a written component from her.
This one was all about rupture, which was the issue’s theme. I took two songs that Gurpreet recorded and used them to affect the animation, so the song was driving most of the movement, “Bottoms up” and “Gratitude” were both reflective of where we were feeling after a few months of lockdown. Once it was done we thought it would be great for Rhiannon to come in and contribute her words in response.
The piece 333 was kind of like an exquisite corpse, I sent the last frame of a thirty-three-second animation to Panqueque, and she then made a score that was the equal length and sent I think the last three seconds to Rhiannon to write prose that was 333 words long. We did that three times! It’s a great creative exercise and excuse to work with other folks that you genuinely admire but may not have an opportunity to. The pandemic has slowed us down and has given us time to reflect and connect, and this work is a product of that.
At which point do you feel most alive during your creative process?
First thing in the morning, when everything is working and I feel free. That, and once all my to-do list items are crossed off!
If all your memories were erased, what kind of artist would you be?
Ooooh, I depend so much on nostalgia to drive me emotionally, but I’m not really creating works from memory, so perhaps they wouldn’t look all that different, so long as I could remember how to make art.
If you were to design a new artwork to depict your current experience of the world, what might it include?
Luckily every single thing I make reflects my experience in the world, so to someone that’s unfamiliar with my practice, I would say, transitional, dark yet optimistic, in precarious balance.