Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Nichols and Mushi Wooseong James.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Alex and Mushi. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
We met on the streets. That unexpected meeting led to a full-time collaboration. ALEXANDMUSHI is our artistic name. We are two conceptual artists: Alex Nichols and Mushi Wooseong James. We ask a lot of questions about how we connect as people and how we perceive the world.
Alex is a San Francisco native. When we met she had recently been evicted from her art studio and was sitting at an Indian Restaurant’s outside table writing. Mushi, who is of Korean descent and grew up in the United Kingdom, was in Sausalito for an artist residency and wandered by, stopping to look at Japanese characters he recognized. That single Japanese sentence written on a page in Alex’s journal was the starting point.
An entire collaboration began from that pause. If you look at us, as collaborators, we span different generations, languages, cultures, and genders. We learn about the ‘other’ through intimate dialogue and use art to unravel what is inexplicable. We understand that there are many truths. Through transparency and clarity, we are able to share perspectives and expand our vision.
It can sound simple from the outside but there is a dynamic tension that exists in everything we do. We choose to collaborate and to make collaboration our practice. The question we ask is: What connects us? When we began we stated our primary rules: Transparency, openness, and commitment. But to be transparent and open takes work. It takes fearlessness to let go of individual egos and build a collaborative vision. As Meredith Monk wrote, “In a good collaboration, both people let go of their territory to make a third thing that neither one can make alone.” As a collaborative team, all our work examines communication and connection.
Has it been a smooth road?
The meeting of two minds is not an easy undertaking. As a collaborative team, all our work examines communication and connection. To conceptualize together is hard, yet this is our mission. Just like any relationship, a good one takes an enormous amount of work. It takes intentionality, commitment, openness, and inquiry. Transparency means that we can discuss anything, whenever it comes up, even in our most vulnerable moments. And this is truly hard, like someone peeling your skin off or opening up your wound over and over again.
We work towards trust every day, it takes years to build trust and only one incident to break it, this is how we feel about the depth of our collaboration. This is why we stay open and discuss no matter how difficult those conversations can be. No talking point or conversation is off-limits.
The more we discover and expand together, the more difficult it becomes as we deal with our own & each other’s insecurity, fear, and terror. It is an arduous process, deconstructing perspectives and constructing concepts mean we have to come to one sentence, one idea together as two people. This is not a mere collaboration as we often see the word lightly used around us, assigning roles or mutually beneficial relationships (or non-mutual). We live in times where we say ‘let’s collaborate’ as a replacement sentence to ‘can you help me? I need your skill’. They are not the same thing, this is not what we do. Our goal is to re-define ‘collaboration’ and become master collaborators.
What we do appreciate is that we work five days a week together in the same space talking 6-8 hours a day. This is what our practice really looks like. Constant conversation. We really enjoy each other’s company. We never think about how much we see or talk to each other, but it is crazy how much we do. “What do you see?” is our constant question. And what is revealed is totally enlightening, surprising, and strange. Our individual drive towards expanding our perspectives is what bridges us and transforms difference into an advantage.
Tell us more about your work.
ALEXANDMUSHI is a full-time artist collaboration. We merged our names as a way of committing to the idea of the collaboration. We are two artists: Alex Nichols and Mushi Wooseong James. We like to joke that we are ‘artists as anthropologists’ because we use various art systems to isolate ways in which we communicate. Sometimes verbal but mostly nonverbal. Our artwork uses photography, video, words, storytelling and performance. Many of our projects happen on the streets. One of our participatory street projects is called ‘Portable Studio’. We have taken this project around the world and involved many communities and cultures: i.e. Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Mexico, Germany, France and multiple states in America.
This is an ongoing project which we love to bring with us wherever we go to create dialogue around what communication means and what it can be. It’s a very playful and accessible project that reveals many possibilities around what it means to connect. It requires two participants to come inside our three-sided white box to play while observing two rules: No talking & No touching.
There are always two objects inside the box for the people to play with. In recent years we have been invited to do this project in art fairs, museums, galleries, and institutions as part of their programming & workshops. MOCA Taipei, MACO Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca, Zonamaco Contemporary Art Fair in Mexico City, AAA Anthropology Conference, USF, San Francisco Recology Program are examples of places we have brought the Portable Studio Project.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
What is required from artists now is that not only do they manage the content of their work but also their publicity, marketing, strategy, and their overall career which is both a difficult task but also an empowering task because they can control their narrative. The role of institutions such as galleries and museums are changing dramatically because how to get people to focus on art is an entirely different task than it used to be because institutions can’t move at the speed in which society is moving currently.
Because of the internet, there is an overwhelming amount of information that can be distracting and at the same time, new and unheard voices are finding a platform.
In 5-10 years, we believe that artists and institutions will need to move beyond the trends of the time and explore the core sustaining values of humanity and societies outside of time. That is why we are involved in communication and connection because ultimately life is person to person.
- Website: alexandmushi.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: alexandmushi
- Facebook: /alexandmushi
PROFILE IMAGE & ALEXANDMUSHI_CC Performance Chinatown-2: BENITO STRUMMER
REST OF THE IMAGES: ALEXANDMUSHI