Interview with Sulaiman Majali

 
 

Sulaïman Majali (b. 1991, London, England) lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. His work strives to question the relationships between the sculptural object, the photographic image and film, whilst working towards a critical space of integrated references, where he plays in the mythologies of our imagined communities.

 

What inspires you?

Looking in from the outside people often assume that what informs my work would almost only be current affairs, politics and the media. These totally play into the work but infact what really gives birth to ideas and sparks the work are conversations and encounters. People inspire me massively, which sounds like an obvious thing to say. I've always enjoyed overhearing conversations on busses and trains, conversations about the world, what people have read in the paper, what they saw on the news or read on facebook etc. Encounters with strangers and the conversations that happen within them always leave lasting thoughts with me, for some reason these everyday things hit me hard, positive or negative. Conversations on busses are up there for me with books and essays on political philosophy and post-colonial theory; street philosophers and your everyday person have so many interesting opinions, sometimes terrifying and sometimes humorous, but somewhere in the middle is the absurd. Apart from that, histories, futures and the fictions and mythologies that we create around us interest me massively.

 

How would you describe your art?

Maybe it's one long investigation into how we negotiate in the world transculturally, beyond the logic of the state. It's hard to describe on my part because that's the reason why I make work, because I would find it hard to describe those abstract thought processes. It's also always changing and growing. I'd say it exists somewhere between absurdity and a really blunt realism. 

 
 

 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

The internet. It's 2015 and I can't quite remember life before it. It's my number one research tool and my go to for quick visual references, how to fix something, tutorials and lectures. The fact that I can watch an artist talk that's recorded half way across the world 3 months ago in my studio with a coffee is amazing and invaluable. People can be a little dismissive about the internet being my most important tool, but really if you use it as a tool and don't let it use you it has so much potential. 

 

 
Towards an Archive of an Impossible History (Architectural Fragments II)

Towards an Archive of an Impossible History (Architectural Fragments II)

 

What kinds of books do you read usually? 

I've always struggled to read fiction. My work has led me down all sorts of paths and i'm not sure I can draw such a clear line between fact and fiction in life, history etc. So I guess fiction never cuts it for me, my mind is already there. There are some exceptions (always) but I mostly get my kicks out of philosophy, political science and post-colonial theory though these never cut it, i'm always looking for people who breach those territories. It's more essays, less books (or books that are compilations of essays) My attention span can be short I think it's a symptom of my generation, but this isn't a bad thing. I just flutter from book to book essay to essay youtube video to youtube video, recorded lecture to recorded lecture. I'm interested in books that re-assess and re-examine, that blur boundaries and make me question the way I think about the world. Contemporary writers that I think contribute to future conversations on where we are at as humans and where we might be heading. 

 

 
The Chess Players, Film (23m39s looped) 2014

The Chess Players, Film (23m39s looped) 2014

 

Can you tell me about your relationship with your work?

It's a rocky one. A bit pastiche but I'm never happy with what I make. I don't really want to be either. It's something that keeps me working actually, the fact that I don't feel happy with what i've done. I can see something as being effective or expressing something effectively but being happy with my work is not something I want, if I was happy and felt resolved i'd lose interest. For one I don't make my work for myself necessarily so it's kind of irrelevant whether I'm happy with it or not. I become excited by things that happen in the studio and sometimes get very swept away with all the excitement which means there are massive ups and downs. I learn a lot from the work that I make, the processes involved in getting from A-B can be huge learning curves, technically but also philosophically. I nearly always give myself time to be with the work when it nears that point where it has to pause and be exhibited, to reflect on what i've done, because I'm never quite sure what I've done, it's important for me to respond to it and try and understand a little from different perspectives. On good days i have fun and recognise the work as something familiar, on not so good days I feel lost and have this overwhelming feeling of unfamiliarity - like i'm looking at someone else's work and I have no idea who I am or what I'm about. But it's all part of the process (I think). I always joke that my work is like my partner but it's kind of true in a way, I'm always prioritising my work/studio and that can be challenging but i'm persistent and love what I do. 

 

For more of Sulaiman Majali's work: http://www.smajali.co.uk/