Shop |

SPBH Ten Questions

Joanna Cresswell

The editor of Unseen Magazine talks to us about Ana Mendieta’s death, ‘wit as a weapon for female artists’ and those Wolfgang Tillman’s moments.

1. Show us a sample of your work.

1. A gif showing some spreads from Unseen Magazine 2016.
2. My desktop giving form to how it looks inside my brain most of the time.
3. ‘Copies, Homages, Perversions’: an interview with Stephanie Syjuco for Elephant magazine.
4. Unseen magazine 2017 launch.
5. Lisa Simpson summing it up.
6. ‘Photography, Anxiety and the Colour Blue’: a slice of an interview with Juno Calypso for Photomonitor.

2. What research is currently most informing your practice?

The relationship between an author/artist and their character. fictional artists. forgeries. what is madness? second-wave feminism. wit as a weapon for female artists. rewriting sexuality. performance art.

3. Which photograph are you obsessed with right now and why?

I’ve been thinking about Ana Mendieta a lot lately. Earth, Spirit, Energy, Loss, Death and The Female Body (violated, pushed, pulled, moulded, broken, sacred) – these were her themes. This is her 1973 Imagen de Yagul from her Silueta series, and it’s been on my desktop for the past few months. I’ve got endless time for any and all of her work but this image haunts me a little bit. Perhaps it’s because of it’s corpse/grave-like appearance, with Mendieta’s body shrouded in tiny white flowers, which feels particularly poignant and affecting given the mystery shrouding her untimely death (read: Carl Andre almost definitely killed her and ultimately got away with it).

In the LA Review of Books, Maya Gurantz wrote a phenomenal piece on this very topic, after protesters arrived outside of MoCA Los Angeles to condemn the opening of a Carl Andre retrospective earlier this year. As told by Guratz, Philippe Vergne, director of MoCA and co-curator of the retrospective, said: “Carl broke something, and he was ostracized, and it’s part of the story. But the work is there. We are a museum, not a court of law, and he is one of the most important artists of our time.”

To that, Gurantz had to say: “Carl broke something. Something. Not someone, not a woman, or an artist on the verge of a major career who hasn’t been able to make work for 32 years because she’s dead. He broke something. Not just a thing, but some thing. Some thing over there. He broke it”.

I could not have said it better myself.

4. What video can you not stop watching?

5. Can you give us five links to things you think we should know about?

1. This piece from Rebecca Solnit, always:

2. This new book on artists who ‘raise hell, transform their bodies, anger their elders’:

3. This podcast on museums and nationalism from BBC Radio 4:

4. This by Anne Carson, ‘a profoundly moving portrait of an artist coming to terms with fantastic accident of who he is’, forever my favourite:

5. This thoughtful reflection on an issue I often wonder about, something close to my heart:

6. How many photos do you have right now on your phone? Please share one

…and feel free to give us some context if you feel like it.

I have 5,853 photos on my phone right now. Wow. I have a hard time deleting anything, clearly…

I took this image in Dorset at the beginning of the Summer. I went to stay with friends the week after sending the latest issue of Unseen Magazine to print, and felt like I was coming alive again. The clouds parted for the exact time we arrived at the beach, and we swam in the sea and ordered this ridiculous crab platter. It also just LOOKED SO GOOD – a Wolfgang Tillmans moment.

7. Can you send us a pic of your desk/workspace?

8. What is the most coveted photo book you own and why?

Annette Messager’s Les Tortures Volontaires (Voluntary Tortures). It opened up a whole new research rabbit hole for me – even the short statement she makes at the beginning of the book set my mind racing. In the 1970’s, Messager spoke of feeling like a devalued artist because she was female, and explained that that was why she sought out ‘devalued territory’, going on to say ‘hence my predilection with photography’. It was as if she felt a particular alignment with photography for its struggles. Isn’t that beautiful?

9. What concerns you?

How to carve out enough time each week to read everything I want to.
Also, how to get over the crippling fear of speaking in public.

10. What makes you happy?

Those brief, sweet moments after handing in a piece of writing you’re proud of, before the anxiety of the next commission begins!

About Joanna: I am a freelance writer based in London, and currently the editor of Unseen Amsterdam’s Unseen Magazine. I write about arts, culture and women’s issues for an array of magazines, journals and publications, previously including 1000 words, American Suburb X, Aperture (The PhotoBook Review), The British Journal of Photography, Elephant Magazine, Paper Journal, Photomonitor, This is Tomorrow, The Photographers’ Gallery and more. I’m currently working on a long essay encompassing some of the themes I’ve shared with you here, and preparing to apply for MA’s in something entirely non-art related.

← Back