Malcolm Mooney – Interview

Malcolm Mooney: „How does one improvise from the moment?“

Malcolm Mooney (second from left) with Montel Palmer and band (and promoter Jan Lankisch), just after arriving in Cologne for the first time since 1986!

On what was supposed to be the day before the opening of his exhibition „Can Yoo Doo Right“, Thomas Venker and Malcolm Mooney met in Düsseldorf for a long conversation, touching base with his current art works as well as past and present music collaborations with Can, Ava Mendoza and Steve Shelly to name just a few.

The exhibition had to be postponed sadly cause of custom problems. So the vibe of Malcolm Mooney was in the beginning a bit off beat; but who are we to blame him. In the end we talked like one and a half hours about the beauty and struggle of being an artist these days and many more topics.

This is a quick edit of the first fifteen minutes of the conversation to  point out  to the concert that Malcolm Mooney (alongside Montel Palmer and band) will perform tomorrow, Saturday, July 8, 2023 in Cologne at the Jaki.
The full transcript as well as a podcast will follow later in 2023 alongside the opening of the exhibit.


Malcolm Mooney: Are we okay? You’re gonna use this for what reason?

I run a magazine, called Kaput.

Kaput? Like destroy?!?

Malcolm, we are in North Rhine Westphalia, in Dusseldorf, very close to Cologne. It’s a region you’ve been connected with for a very, very long time, but you did not always lived here. So how does it feel to come back here?

I feel very disappointed. Just about what’s happened with the show. But I’ve just met some very wonderful musicians online. We had our first conversation about what we’re going to do on on Saturday. We might have a rehearsal Friday. And we’ll definitely have a rehearsal before the show.

What happened with your exhibition?

A hold up with the with the works at the customs has caused me a very bad feeling, and I’m trying to get over, get past that because it’s just not a good feeling.

Yeah, I totally hear you. You do everything you can – and then bureaucratic things stop you. It’s the worst of all feelings. It’s the opposite of the creative process, right?

Yes, I think so.

Especially for somebody like you whose art and and life was always about, like, reacting on situations.

I’m not sure about what has happened. That’s the problem. I was just telling my wife it has a bad taste. It’s just not what I had expected. Maybe I should have expected it. 
But I was very happy talking to the band members. I mean, something can go wrong there too…

Which band are we talking about?

It is Montel Palmer. And a number of his people.

Are you, are you still doing a lot of music stuff too these days?

Yeah, I have a band – or they have me. I’ve done two recordings that are on band camp with Ava Mendoza.
She’s also part of the group I have in called The Eleventh Planet, which is Ava Mendoza on guitar, Steve Shelley on drums, Alexis Marcelo on keyboard, Daniel Moreno on percussion.

Wow, how could I miss that band? I guess I was so concentrated on your paintings. Ava played the Monheim Triennale that I co-curate in 2021 and 2022.

Is that right? Yeah, she’s fantastic.

And super lovely as a person.

Yeah, that too. So, and Ava and I did a a bandcamp thing: Motherless Children.
And with the band that I just mentioned, we recorded two records in 2019 at the Sonic Youth Studios in New Jersey. We had to stop production cause of the pandemic — but we recorded about 16 tracks. I’ve mixed like three of the pieces so far … I have my teaching career, I teach at the Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary, Canada, and and my painting career, which just goes along with my teaching career.
You could say, things are going well – and then I travel 9, 000 miles or kilometers or whatever and something like this happen. It’s sort of well, I’ll leave it this way. I think if the upside of this will be the music…
Well, it was good to meet May Mayer (who runs the gallery the exhibition was scheduled at) and the curator Saim Demircan, who already curated my show at Aspen Art Museum.

Well, on a positive note. You never know what this will lead to, right? That’s the magic of life. One second of something can change the directions totally. So in a way, what you now think maybe is a very negative moment in your life, maybe leads to an absolute highlight.

That could be. That could be. Yeah.

Also, I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time in your life something like that happened. Like a big bummer instead of something you expect to be a highlight, right?

Well I didn’t expect it to be a highlight. To be honest with you, I believe more and more that I’m a working man and not a celebrity. I think all artists are – if they think correctly – working people. 
I assume in the band I have the role as the being the leader. But that doesn’t necessarily make any sense. It’s a cooperative effort most of the time that I work with bands or they work with me.This is a hard one to be open to. I hadn’t planned on doing a gig in Cologne. It just happened. Just like this art show not happening.

Your work was always about improvisation, about reacting on situations. But then again, there’s shows like this and trips like that and teaching and all that things in life, planning suddenly becomes also a part of life.

But I still do it. I still improvise. And I’m trying, at the present time, I’m trying to improvise from this particular moment. Yeah,
I’m trying to improvise from this moment. It’s just a matter of „How does one improvise from the moment?“

Well, maybe that leads to the next question coming to my mind: What are you searching in art? In general, in music, in paintings … what are you trying to, to bring in and what do you try yourself to get out of, of the process? That’s a lot of questions and, and in a big narrative…

I think all of my art is basically improvised. I have a series now that I’m doing called „the poured series“.
And I had thought about naming the art show „What!“
It’s W H A T exclamation point! 
I do these pours. And, and they become automatic in a way. They become what is old talk. For some European, I suppose an artistic reference. But I do these pours, and then from these pours, I have to invent. I can direct the pour just a little bit. But when the pours finish and dry, I then go back into them and find some elements that I think might be RAM. You know, access, memory. It might be that. In fact, I even believe that the whole idea, the concept of art and art history is a continuum….

to be continued soon


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