Philip Košćak + Chelsea A. Flowers
Correspondence is a powerful force. It’s the reaching out to acknowledge someone. Even with the slightest form of communication, that action matters. You can be right next door, or thousands of miles away it makes a difference. It’s an act of acknowledging one’s humanity. In a series of conversations in the present, and revisiting old texts from the past, I present the work of Philip Košćak.—Chelsea
Chelsea: Long time no speak. In preparation for this conversation I looked back to the earliest text that I have from you in my phone. It’s from March 17th, 2017. I know I have earlier texts but my phone is dumb, and that is as far back as it goes. The text you sent is of a funny/stupid image. Looking back at this peculiar early text, I’m realizing that it really encapsulates you as a person and your art practice. Let’s get a working definition: How would you describe your work?
Philip: It doesn’t have to make sense. If it looks good, eat it. Please don’t leave me. Byeeeeeeeeee.
Chelsea: That’s a funny description, it’s like a Tweet. I think that’s super interesting because you’re conveying these themes in such delicate actions. And I feel like your use of materiality is super interesting. This is no shade, or criticism, it’s just an observation but, it feels like the use of fabric to create weird shit is the current trend in the Midwest. I’ve seen so many Midwestern, specifically fem-identifying artists, working within fabric and ideas of Camp, Kitsch, and Trumploy, which is a whole ’nother conversation in and of itself. But when I think about your work I don’t relate it to my opinion of the “current Midwestern aesthetic” And so I am curious about your choice of materials?
Philip: That is interesting to hear about this from a Midwesterner’s perspective because I always thought of the quick campy kitschy materials as a very LA thing but hearing that, maybe it’s more universal than I thought. In general, most of the materials I choose are readily available and can be manipulated fairly easy without shop tools. I’m domestic. It’s important for me to be able to edit and alter as I go. The recreation and labor involved with many of the installations and sculptures is a large part of the process too. I hope that my labor put into manipulating the familiar/readily available/cheap materials transforms into wonder when someone views the final work.
And yeah the fem and queer artists working in fibers is a whole other convo, but like many of those artists, I gravitate towards the soft material because they are bodily.
Chelsea: So speaking of the “A word” aesthetics, do you feel like there is an LA aesthetic?
Philip: Yes and no. I disagree when people assume LA is solely “Pop.” It’s usually hard to convince them since my work has a lot of pop culture references but there’s so much more. There’s a lot of experimental stuff going on right now especially in the digital, new media, and social practice realms so it’d be hard for me to describe an aesthetic for all that. I’ve also seen a lot of very formal objects recently too. But being from here and now based here, maybe I just don’t know how to describe it other than experimental and all over the place? From my experience, LA/Hollywood is definitely perceived as mysterious based on responses I get when I’ve had to introduce myself and where I’m from. I hope it’s actual curiosity and not people laughing at my aesthetic that I seem not to know how to even articulate…
Chelsea: I doubt people are laughing at your “aesthetic.” Thinking more about location, how did it feel to return to LA after being Detroit-adjacent for two years? Is LA recognizable? Does it feel foreign? Or do you even see any changes?
Philip: LA is home. And after being Detroit-adjacent for two years it never felt more like home. A lot of the schools I applied to were for practical reasons and mostly geographically farther east because I knew I wanted a cultural shift. I was only there for two years, but the Midwest and all my peers I met from the region have definitely influenced me for the better, and I returned with a fresh perspective of LA. When I returned it just seemed much more vast and fast moving than I remember and I’m very proud of how involved the LA community is on current sociopolitical issues.
Chelsea: Yea, I definitely get that feel of LA being very sociopolitical, especially when I hear about the numerous groups working to defend their homes and create awareness of displacement. So with that, what have you been working on lately?
Philip: Upon returning to LA I wanted to get back into my practice. After a few months, I started getting back into drawing. I’ve been working to find alternative outputs for my drawings and and how to get performative elements back into the work. I found zines as great output for the drawing and text works I’ve been making on paper.
I applied to some residencies like Vermont Studio Center. I ended up going to VSC and loved every minute of it. I was a bit hesitant applying to residencies because for some of my peers in grad school, it was more about application quantity instead of looking what each program actually had to offer. Also I was in grad school for four years, I didn’t have the urge to be in that type of environment straight out of school. I think the month I spent in the rural setting of Vermont helped jumpstart so many new ideas and really made me reflect on how much more aggressive and proactive I can be with my practice.
And I am currently working on a collaboration with another artist. My collaborator is handling the script and performance, while I work on props, set, and art direction. We are working on the piece that will be at PAM, a performance space/residency in Highland Park and will culminate at Torrance Art Museum.