A "Interview Sesh" With Paul Mpagi Sepuya at Printed Matter

Johnny Misheff

Paul Mpagi Sepuya is a phohtographer/video maker/grant getter/friend of the highest sorts. He's all over the place right now. His new book, Beloved Object & Amorous Subject, Revisited is storming through New York and everyone wants to get their hands on a copy. You can get yours at St. Mark's Bookshop, McNally Robinson and the MoMA Bookstore, but hurry -- only 1,000 copies were made! It's SUCH a gorgeous book and I got my copy with an autograph which says "For naughty Johnny, Love, Paul!" What does he mean by that??? I'm not at all naughty. Johnny Mischief is only a nickname. Anyway, Paul was lovely enough to endure an interview sesh with yours truly, and what follows is from a conversation we had after his book signing at Printed Matter this past Saturday.

Paul! Your new book, Beloved Object & Amorous Subject, Revisited, is SO beautiful! Congratulations! Where did you put your copy? You better have a really nice coffee table, mister.
I put my copy in the kitchen. I like books in the kitchen -- is that strange? An omelette, NPR and a good book. Someone else's, really.

Those are three things that sadly don't fit in my kitchen. Not even radio waves fit. So no NPR either! I put your book on display in my weird closet along with all of MY Beloved Objects.
I love that you put it in the closet of curiosities. I did a thing early on in the project that got scrapped -- I was asking everyone to send me relics of themselves: gifts, locks of hair, rosaries even. I got so many things. They're high up on a bookshelf in my room now, but I think that the idea of the loved object is so great. It's beyond sex -- don't you just want to love everyone? What's in your closet, darling?

What is your favorite song right now?
Phylicia Allen aka Claire Huxtable of the Cosby Show made a concept disco album about the life of Josephine Baker. Have you ever heard it? It's amazing. My real favorite song right now is a classic by Sparks, "When I'm With You." So good I've been listening to it on repeat over and over. Also, "I Am Leaving You Because I Don't Love You" and "Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig" by Jens Lekman are SO GOOD. If I think about it I probably have a dozen favorite songs right now I can't stop listening to...

I know, I hate that question. I will never ask it again. But since all the songs you mentioned sound so good, I'm headed to the iTunes store right now.SOOOOO, you've been getting into videos, lately. What brought that on?
I am getting into videos. I'm editing one right now of this lovely guy Marques. He's a singer, and I took a portrait of him back in the winter at my friend's place in the East Village where we met. It's another extended portrait, but just a single-channel video, and is the follow-up to the Subject-Object Proof project that I was working on. It's going to be screened in September I think...

I'm putting that in my iCal right now. (I am crossing my fingers SO HARD for some free stuff from Apple for these plugs.)Here's a question: What do you think of this whole online photography phenomenon? How do you see yourself in that whole thing? DO you see yourself in it at all? How do you feel about tinyvices, i heartphotograph, etc.? Don't you just love them??? Oh, wait, if you don't, disregard that last question...SOOOOO, you've been getting into videos, lately. What brought that on?
I love iheartphotograph and tinyvices! I don't know what to say, though... There's that saying about authors, you can't write more than you read...

I haven't written anything in years. I guess that puts me in a great position to start my Great American Novel, eh? But c'mon, I bet you have more to say on the subject than that!!!
Well... making use of the Internet format is something that I totally used to get my projects seen when I just started out. I was a big computer nerd and I've had a website going since the late '90s. I started my blog more as a way to post random things I was working on, ideas, any works-in-progress. A compliment to the website. There are so many online photo blogs and websites and I think it's great. You can see the threads connecting artists, fans, people just picking up the camera. iheartphotograph is a fun collection of links. I sometimes spend an hour or so every few weeks looking at the new work. And tinyvices has been a favorite bookmark of mine for some years now. They both get me looking at work I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise. You know how incestuous queer artists blogs are? Just scroll down to the links sections it's like an orgy! It's easy to get caught in a loop. But that's community, right?

One of the best questions anyone has asked me recently is "Johnny, do you know any hot guys who don't know (or haven't made out with) everyone we know?" It's hilarious and wonderful and a little grotesque all at once. Now let's get serious... Give me a really elaborate description of your future self, five years from now. Where will Paul Mpagi Sepuya be then?
All I want is to be able to keep making work! I'd love to do a few more book projects, to wrap up the zines into a nice set. I want to travel, to apply to some residencies and get some grants. I want a museum show. Yes, in five years I want a museum show.

If in five years you don't have a museum show, I will cut off both my arms in protest. Deal?

Go to BOTH of Paul's sites, cause they're both equally awesome. www.paulsepuya.com
and www.paulsepuya.blogspot.com.

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