The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2019 Judging Panel is a selection of highly respected and renowned individuals in the art world, who cover a wide range of viewpoints and varied tastes for all movements, mediums and types of contemporary art.
We are proud to have Josh McNorton, Head of Programmes at Rich Mix London, East London's independent arts centre, join this year’s Judging Panel and will lead the selection for the New Media Award 2019. In this blog we ask him your questions so that you can get to know him and his work, as well as gain some advice and tips on the art world.
About Josh McNorton
Josh is a creative producer, festival director, arts programmer and curator. Josh grew up in Canada and moved to the UK in 2012 to produce a large-scale, outdoor entertainment programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. From 2014 to 2016 Josh produced FutureFest, a festival in London about the future, for the UK innovation charity Nesta. Following FutureFest, Josh co-founded the world’s first festival of sensory arts and research, Open Senses, which debuted in London in May 2017. Since April 2018, Josh has been the Head of Programmes at Rich Mix, East London’s independent arts centre. Josh programmes and oversees the delivery of 400 shows and events per year across live music, theatre, dance, spoken word, comedy, festivals, family activities and exhibitions.
Q1: Tell us about your pathway into the Arts?
As a child I acted in community theatre productions and learned to play the piano. In the early 90s I was inspired by grunge music to pick up the electric guitar and write songs. In high school, out of necessity, I started organising gigs for my own and my friends’ bands, which lead me to doing the same at university, where I studied playwriting. Music and theatre have been integral parts of my life for as long as I can remember!
Q2: What are your values within the arts – why do what you do and what do you wish to champion and develop within the art world?
I’m obsessed with new, unexpected experiences and art is the best way to satisfy this obsession. Great art should shift my perspective, teach me something new, or showcase a world I haven’t been exposed to before. I’m in a job where I get to work with different artforms and established and emerging artists from all over the world and there are always new things to discover.
I want to champion artists who have been historically underrepresented and provide a stage for these artists to take risks, experiment, and progress their practices to unexpected places.
Q3: Tell us what you have been working on most recently
I’m the Head of Programmes at Rich Mix, an art centre in East London. My role involves programming and overseeing over 400 events per year across live music, theatre, dance, spoken word, comedy, festivals, family activities and exhibitions. This takes up the vast majority of my time!
Q4: Where does your interest in new media/digital art stem from?
Around the same time that I first became obsessed with music, I also discovered computers – coding, gaming, assembling hardware, recording software, etc. I’ve moved away from that level of interest, but I’m still fascinated with technology, particularly how it provides easy (and often free) access to creative tools. I’m always looking for artists who can utilise these tools to unearth something new.
Q5: Do you think your likes and dislikes, tastes in art, have changed over time? Do you have any examples?
Absolutely. My interests have broadened over time and I’m increasingly open-minded as to what constitutes art and which art affects me. For example, in the past few years I’ve become more interested in jazz and disco music; my teenaged self couldn’t stand either! Another example is audio storytelling -- radio plays, podcasts and audio books were not things I was exposed to growing up but, because of the internet, I can easily access those types of work, and I find it to be a really captivating medium.
Q6: As the judge who is leading our New Media Award selection process what are you looking forward to seeing?
Artists unafraid to take risks. Create something new, it doesn’t have to be polished!
Q7: If there is one piece of advice you would give those thinking of submitting work to the new media award what would it be?
My favourite piece of advice I’ve ever been given is: “options enslave, limitations liberate.” Work within the parameters set out for this award and use the constraints to your advantage.
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Interview by Caitlin Smyth
Oaktree & Tiger Team
Art experts giving advice to emerging artists to build their careers and find success. Organisers of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2020, artist agent and art consultants.