Today we’d like to introduce you to Joshua Dawson.
Joshua, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I received the S. Kenneth Johnson Memorial Scholarship to pursue my post-professional Master’s degree in Advanced Architectural Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
My practice began while I was still in school at USC and started from conversations with students at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. I ended up trading my design-build skills in exchange for food on set because I lived off a student budget. This exchange with people from a different discipline broadened my perspective, inspiring me to explore new ways to engage with architecture and design.
At USC, I also took a class titled World Building taught by the veteran Hollywood production designer Alex McDowell. This course had a significant impact on my work. The tools he empowered us with, in the class gave a diverse group of scientists, architects, engineers, and others the agency to tell their own stories through design. This heralded a new direction for my practice.
When you start out you never really know how your work is going to be received. But I’ve been more than fortunate to have had my work published, exhibited and screened around the world. I recently returned from the world premiere screening of my last project in Rotterdam, and I’m looking forward to seeing where my work takes me next.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My work uses speculative architecture as a form of activist practice. With this re-imagining of the built environment through interdisciplinary design thinking and cinematic visualization, I challenge accepted narratives and ask viewers to question their assumptions. By thinking through possible futures and alternative visions of society, I design and extrapolate fictional futures based on current trends as a form of critique. With the intent of leaving the audience with unsettling questions about what tomorrow will look like — and whether we are willing to bear the cost of that future — my practice helps illustrate the crises already facing humanity.
I belong to an emerging breed of architectural storytellers that use fiction to push the boundaries of the way we perceive the built environment. The cinematic frame then becomes a perfect medium to investigate, prototype, and evaluate the preconceptions of the built environment’s impact on humanity.
It also aims to forge a new architectural language through the medium of cinema, but rather than recreating a banal form of architectural representation, I’d like to use fiction to push the architectural image. I think this relationship, where narrative and built environment intermesh, has immense untapped potential. This also allows for my work to become a form of social critique.
What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
I grew up in Bangalore, India, a predominantly tech-driven city that was always a little skeptical of art and artists. Although we did have organizations and institutions that supported artists, it was hardly enough. We didn’t have as thriving of an arts and culture scene, since art was chronically underfunded and undervalued. So, living in Los Angeles now, I really appreciate the value that is placed on art in our society.
I think a global problem that faces cities today is the inability to understand the value of art in society. Historically, we have been able to evaluate and judge the economic and cultural prowess of any civilization not necessarily through its technological innovations but by its artistic contribution to the world at large. The importance of art and culture in a society marks its level of progress. Most technology becomes obsolete, but art can continue to resonate for centuries — or even millennia.
Irrespective of medium, I think as artists we have a real responsibility to use our voices to challenge the status quo, whether for the purpose of finding new forms of expression, political activism or investigation into technique.
A new project that I’ve been recently working on combines a little of all of the above. In many Los Angeles neighborhoods art has come to be seen as a gentrifying force since these art galleries have moved in from outside the community, and since most art and works of fiction that are set in these neighborhoods have historically excluded residents from their own community. I know it’s an ambitious project, but I want to help carve out a new canvas for local artists to reclaim their spaces and frame their own narratives — and, in the meantime, create a physical representation of the absence of their voices to show the impact of these barriers to participation.
My hope is to use new media as a way of amplifying voices and creating new storytelling techniques — methods that have the potential to reframe how we think of art not just in LA, but wherever artists need a platform to tell their story and the stories of their community.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I’ve just recently started to use Instagram as a platform to exhibit my work. So, you could follow me at @JoshuaADawson
I also try to update my website, joshua-dawson.com, regularly.
- Website: joshua-dawson.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joshuaadawson/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawson.josh