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Nightmares. Chaos. Exhibitionism.

Interview by Jana Astanov.

Josh Kil is best known for work that deals with the occult, sexuality and critiques of reality/perception. There are several mediums used to execute his ideas. His sculptures are created with various materials such as wood, mirror, aqua resin and acrylic, but he also does video, performance and 2-dimensional works. Kil moved to New York from New Mexico in 1996. He attended The School of Visual Arts where he was a painting major. Before gallery representation, Kil had been in many group shows and performances. In 2015 he became represented by Christopher Stout Gallery, now called ADO Project, where he has been in 6 group shows and has had two solo shows.

3:AM: How did it all start? What made you a performance artist? or How did you get involved in performance art?

Josh Kil: Before I even went to art school, I was in bands, including one where I was the front person and wore a dress. It wasn’t uncommon for me to lift my dress without underwear on stage. I was a pretty lad.
When I got to art school, I was typically put off by most performance art. I thought it demanded too much of the viewer and was basically weird.

Later I decided that I liked it because it demanded so much of the audience and was weird.
The directness of performance art, and the general open-mindedness from performance art audiences, of actions and sounds that don’t even make sense, gives it a lot of room to create meaning.

3:AM: Were there any people who influenced you in the choice of performance?

JK: Iggy Pop. Anton LaVey, a 90’s band called Crash Worship, Lux Interior from The Cramps… Bill Hicks. There was a weird dancing person in a Mike Kelley video that has stuck with me, though I don’t recall the title. I have also been interested in Magick Ritual as performance. “Female Trouble” by John Waters. The stuff that B.J. Dini is doing with The Purple Party has been inspiring me lately.

3:AM: What other mediums are part of your practice?

JK: The bulk of my time is spent on sculpture lately. I’m really into Aqua Resin and casting. I also do a daily ritual that goes with my Magick Diary. It involves dreams, synchronicity, desire and occulting that intentionally goes beyond my control (or what I think is beyond my control).

3:AM: What are the themes that you explore?

JK: The complications of investigating “reality”. The future and the past. Manifestation of the phenomenal. The supernatural. Group insecurity… Conspiracy Theories and paranoia. Nightmares. Chaos. Exhibitionism.

3:AM: How did you get involved in….the occult?

JK: I originally became aware of Aleister Crowley at a very early age. It was during what is now called the “Satanic Panic” era, where Evangelical Christians were freaking out thinking that Satanic cults were raping and sacrificing children by the thousands, without any actual physical evidence to support these claims. Even at my young age, I called bullshit on that, and wanted to investigate. I recently found my first Crowley book in my father’s basement. It was “Book Four”. I probably started reading it around the time that I was also watching the original Twin Peaks series. After this, my interest ebbed and flowed for years, but discovering Robert Anton Wilson sometime around 2007 was a real turning point for me. He is still one of my favorite thinkers. Reading “Cosmic Trigger” really set me on a trajectory, that by 2010, after the suicide of a girlfriend, I started performing daily rituals that I still perform and document to this day.

3:AM: What’s the relation between occult and sexuality?

JK: That’s quite a topic. The connection between the two seems to vary for different people. Some people are into a neo-pagan free-lovin’ kinda rapturous fuck-fest, where they burn candles and invoke spirits or something… There’s all kinds of sex magic, and probably people who are more into the sex than the magic… I rarely practice or even experiment with any kind of sex magic lately, actually.

I certainly acknowledge the potency of sexuality, as well as the creative forces involved. Some people perform rituals to conjure or attract sex partners, but I’ve found that going out and meeting people is a much more practical way to get laid…. for me, anyways. If you want to hit a bullseye, it makes more sense to throw a dart, than to coerce or invoke an elemental to magically place a dart on the bullseye. No judgement, of course…. Maybe some people are hyper-vigilant and want to cover all of their bases. Maybe in addition to an invocation, they can take performance enhancing drugs, watch a YouTube video on how to throw a dart, and on top of that, practice playing darts.

What’s more important to me, is the theatricality of sexuality and exhibitionism in the context of art performance and ritual. Some people still get stuck in this rut where they are like looking around the room at other people to see if it’s ok… like, “Is this cool?” or “is sex and the occult in fashion this season?” …but whatever… Those people are always one step behind anyways. I just do it if I feel like it, and that’s powerful.

3:AM: You often merge different mediums, for instance a month before your current exhibition you shared through social media images of two sculptures asking people to vote which of those should be destroyed then during the show two other performance artists smashed into pieces one of your sculptures. What are the boundaries between the mediums you use?

JK: The boundaries, if any, present themselves. I learn by doing. The literal and figurative structure holds together or it doesn’t. If the two-part Aqua Resin mixture has too much of one part, it might be too brittle to hold it’s own weight. I only find out how well it bonds to the wood when I’ve gone too far, and that’s part of the process. Likewise, with the project that you’ve mentioned, the equation seems to be: sculpture + public participation + performer + unpredictability + destroyed sculpture = finished piece. I’d like to add that although that particular sculpture is in pieces, it has a much more occulted presence. It is still technically a sculpture, but it is also a ghost and a memory of what it once was. In that way, it has become something that the other sculpture (the one that is still standing) can’t achieve.

3:AM: Your social media presence seems to go beyond what most creatives do, is this also part of performance art?

JK: I suppose that it has been part of the equation, thus far, but it’s a love/hate relationship.

3:AM: What are some of your notable past projects?

JK: “Neither Coincidence nor Destiny” a solo show in 2016 in which I visited my father via his dream in 1985 to influence him into doing what he was going to do anyways.

My current solo show “The Fictional Geometry of Self-Castration”, where viewers were encouraged to project a nightmare on to one of two sculptures and then vote to save the other from destruction. This derived from a meditation on Saturn. The destruction was executed in a ritual ceremony.

3:AM: Who are the most interesting artists nowadays?

JK: I really am not sure who I would want to mention… I think a lot of my friends are cool. I want to mention my friend Lauriston Avery. He and I go way back, and he’s someone to look out for. On another note, I think it would be amazing if JJ Brine and Roger Stone (the rightwing politics provocateur) did a collaboration.

3:AM: What are you working on currently?

JK: I have several sculptures in the works and also the beginnings of a few videos. I might revisit a movie idea about a sad lone-wolf character based on Ted Kaczynski, but in a more contemporary social media world. I’ve also been working on an audio project in which I’m adding sounds to radio transmissions that the Cassini Spacecraft recorded from Saturn. The sounds I’m adding are sort of Black Metal. I would like the recording to be sent via radio signals back to Saturn. Hopefully Saturn will add another track and send it back.

3:AM: As a character in art history, what impact do you think you’ve had? or How have you changed the ways in which people look at art?

JK: For a while I imagined that I would end up being a footnote in a lot of other artists biographies, but God willing, and with some hard work and a positive attitude, maybe I could host an after-school special on what to say to bullies.

On a serious note, my bigger project is in regards to changing the perceivable world by changing the way we perceive. I’m not sure if the writers of art history are going to be into that.


Jana Astanov is a multidisciplinary artist, poetess and Priestess of Impermanence at Red Temple. Her work includes photography, poetry, performance and new media. She published three collections of poetry: Antidivine, Grimoire and Sublunar. She can be found here: website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, June 25th, 2017.